Putting the Cost of Tutoring in Perspective

One of the myths about tutoring is that it is prohibitively expensive; something only the wealthy can afford. Having done 10 million hours of tutoring, we happen to have a lot of data about the price of tutoring. And I’m happy to tell you that, if you know where to look, tutoring is more affordable than you think.

In this article, I’ll share real data from Wyzant’s marketplace showing the range of tutoring costs by subject area and other factors. I’ll then give you some inside information on how to avoid paying too much for tutoring. But first, let’s start with tutoring in general.

How does tutoring work?

A tutor is basically a personal trainer for your brain. If you have a goal, and you’re not making the progress you want on your own, a tutor is a great option. Here’s why:

Tutors customize their instruction to your particular knowledge level, interests and learning style. They facilitate communication among students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders, which helps get everyone on the same page. They’re flexible, making themselves available when you need them, for as much or little time as you want. And with the proliferation of online tutoring, tutor availability is higher than ever.

Tutors are more than instructors; they are coaches, mentors and cheerleaders. They connect with students on a personal level, creating confidence and accountability in a way that parents, friends and teachers often cannot. For learners in pursuit of a career goal, such as becoming a nurse or an engineer, another huge benefit is the opportunity to work with a tutor who has real-world experience in a particular field.

The net result is that tutoring works. Students in classes report on average a full letter grade improvement with 8 hours of private tutoring. Satisfaction rates among students who hire a tutor on Wyzant are over 98%. While I believe that’s in part because Wyzant is a great platform, a bigger reason is because tutoring, in general, is so effective.

Putting costs in perspective

Consider this. If you’re a college student, you’re already paying on average $30,000 per year for your education. Having to retake a course could cost you roughly $1800 (and potentially set your graduation date back a full year). What would you pay for an insurance policy to ensure you successfully learn the material, pass the class and graduate?

Don’t forget the cost of your time. Think of how much time you save with personalized support from a private tutor versus hopelessly staring at the material when you’re stuck. You could spend that extra time with your family, at a part-time job earning money, or an internship gaining valuable experience.

Or, let’s say you need to learn SQL for your job. You could sign up for a bootcamp for $10K-20k. Or you could hire a tutor who won’t just teach you SQL, but also design a custom learning plan for you to practice on your own, using hand-picked, free online resources. Best of all, you can work with a tutor who has real world experience in your field and serve as a mentor.

What does tutoring cost?

Wyzant currently has over 60,000 active tutors, and they all set their own hourly rates. It’s an efficient marketplace, with supply and demand informing what a tutor can charge. I believe it’s therefore a good representation of the broader market for freelance tutors.

As of March 2020, the median hourly rate on Wyzant is $45. 25% of tutors charge $40 or less, and another 25% of tutors charge $53 or more. The full range is $10 to over $300 per hour. While we recognize $45/hr may sound expensive from a strictly dollars-and-cents perspective, consider what a few hours of tutoring can help you achieve:

  1. Improved grades, which can help you pass a course or improve your GPA
  2. Deeper understanding and subject mastery
  3. Increased confidence

It’s difficult to put a price on those, and they may be worth considerably more than whatever you’re paying for tutoring. Naturally, some subjects are more expensive than others, but not by as much as you might expect. For all of these subjects, our bottom quartile of hourly rates is $40:

Subjects Under 40 dollars.jpg

Where we notice slightly more expensive hourly rates is in specialized test prep, and technical subject areas such as LSAT, MCAT, CFA and Stata. Even for these subjects, you can find plenty of great tutors for $50/hr or less.

There are also significant differences based on geography. The median hourly rate for chemistry is $45 for a tutor in Austin, TX, but $75 for a tutor in New York, NY. The good news is that, with online tutoring, you can hire tutors from less expensive markets no matter where you are located.

Good news for price-sensitive students

For the 10 most-popular tutoring subjects on Wyzant, there are hundreds of great tutors available for $25/hr or less in every one. Many of these tutors have advanced degrees, are certified teachers, and have years of experience. They are all backed by Wyzant’s Good Fit Guarantee, so you can try them risk-free.

Tutors Under 25 dollars.jpg

Tips for getting the biggest bang for your buck

Here are some concrete, actionable ways you can be sure that you’re getting the most out of any tutoring experience:

Tip 1: Take advantage of school-sponsored tutoring programs. Most universities offer some form of tutoring support as part of your tuition (in fact, many are partnering with Wyzant). Start by trying these free resources. If they don’t meet your specific needs, no harm done.

Tip 2: Pay attention to how much overhead a tutoring company has. If they have brick & mortar locations, custom diagnostic exams, or sales reps, they’re also going to be more expensive, and likely pay tutors less, thus affecting quality. Even better, ask what portion goes to the tutor. In Wyzant’s case, it’s 75%, which is much higher than you’ll find elsewhere.

Tip 3: Find the right tutor for you. Fit is everything when it comes to maximizing the impact and enjoyability of your tutoring experience. That’s why Wyzant lets you choose your own tutor and provides a Good-Fit-Guarantee. You should ask to interview your tutor prior to making a commitment (here are some great questions to ask any potential tutor). If a tutor or tutoring company won’t allow you to do that, be wary.

Tip 4: Negotiate. In Wyzant’s case, all of the data in this article is based off tutors’ posted hourly rates. In practice, tutors are often willing to lower their rates if they feel it’s a good fit and a student really needs their help. Tutors are also keen to build long-term relationships with dedicated students, so the more committed you are, the more bargaining leverage you have.

Tip 5: Start small. Many tutoring companies will try to sell you on a big package, enticing you with discounts. This isn’t necessarily bad if you’re certain how much tutoring you’ll need and you trust the company to deliver a quality experience. In most cases, however, it’s hard to predict. You might be pleasantly surprised how much progress you’re able to make in just a few hours.

In summary

Tutoring gets a bad rap for being something only rich people can afford. This just isn’t true. As you’ve seen, Wyzant’s marketplace has hundreds of great tutors for $25 and under. When considering tutoring, know that the benefits are immense. Tutoring is for anyone who wants personalized learning on their own terms. But be smart and make sure you find the right tutor and avoid overpaying.

About Wyzant

Wyzant takes the guesswork out of finding a qualified tutor you can trust. Since 2005, students and professionals all over the globe have looked to Wyzant for help in more than 275 subjects like math, science, test prep, foreign languages, music, technology, and many more. It’s easy to browse profiles and reviews, message tutors, and book private lessons in-person, or using Wyzant’s powerful online learning platform. At Wyzant, there are no commitments or expensive pre-paid packages. Every lesson is pay-as-you-go, and if you don’t love your first hour with a new tutor, it’s free, guaranteed.

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