Teaching, in any capacity, is a noble profession.
Whether you decide to become a teacher or a tutor, you'll impart knowledge and values that help students inch closer to achieving their academic goals.
Both roles require patience, perseverance, and passion to meet students’ needs. But understanding the differences in responsibilities, career paths, and working environments will help you choose the path that suits you best.
What is a tutor?
Tutoring is a personalized educational approach for individuals and small groups. Tutors don’t require pedagogical teaching qualifications to offer sessions.
They usually specialize in specific subjects, but their expertise branches out to similar topics, such as history and geography or biology and chemistry. Tutors also generally teach grade-level students.
Parents seek tutors for their children who need extra help in school. Tutors use multiple teaching techniques and methods to help students understand concepts in a way that best suits students’ learning styles. This personalized, flexible, and informal approach accompanies traditional teaching methods and complements formal learning.
Regarding income, tutors receive hourly payments and are generally self-employed or work at tutoring agencies.
What is the role of a teacher?
A teacher supports a student’s learning journey, most often in a classroom. Teachers, like tutors, specialize in certain subjects, but their expertise and qualifications are much higher.
Classrooms generally hold 20–30 students, depending on the subject and school. Since teachers work with many individual students, they employ a different teaching approach than a tutor, who can work with students one on one. In a packed classroom, teachers recognize children’s varying abilities. They possess the interpersonal skills and qualities to help each child grow.
Teachers have limited time to complete a curriculum during an academic year. However, they don’t play the role of a “sage on the stage” through one-sided lessons. Instead, teachers are more of a “guide on the side,” supporting and encouraging students through holistic teaching.
Whether it’s through group discussions, icebreakers, or activities, teachers help students come out of their shells and fulfill their true potential. They create an environment allowing students to learn from their educator and peers.
If you want to become a teacher, you must have pedagogical qualifications and at minimum, a bachelor's degree. Once you start practicing as a teacher, a school employs you, and you work during school hours, generally between early mornings and late afternoons. The school also pays a fixed salary.
The characteristics of a good teacher
Since teachers have to manage a class full of students, giving each child individual attention is challenging. However, teachers possess many strengths that allow them to educate a larger group of students effectively. Here are some of their characteristics:
- Actively listen and communicate: A good teacher imparts knowledge clearly and concisely. They must also find a teaching method that caters to each child's learning style. They're great listeners when they need to be and address a student's concerns until they’re up to speed.
- Engage students: A skilled teacher tailors their approach to fit the needs of all learners, ensuring no one feels alienated. By fostering a learning environment that stimulates interaction, independent thinking, and problem-solving, teachers make students feel comfortable and eager to learn.
- Foster a positive environment: Besides creating an environment that promotes participation, a good teacher also builds a positive atmosphere that encourages mutual respect among students. This helps students freely share their thoughts and opinions without fearing being judged or criticized — something that goes beyond the curriculum and helps with character building and confidence.
- Manage a large group of students: An excellent teacher ensures each child has an equal opportunity to learn and participate, even in large classes. Plus, they have an open-door policy while maintaining clear boundaries.
- Grade students fairly and objectively: Teachers regularly evaluate tests, exams, quizzes, and more. Good teachers grade work fairly and offer constructive criticism and feedback. Their input helps students improve and serves as a personal benchmark for each child to build on.
The 7 main differences between a tutor and a teacher
Tutors and teachers play important roles for students hoping to achieve their academic goals, but with a few key differences. Let’s recap everything we’ve learned so far.
Which is a better career?
Both professions have their pros and cons. But which one is best for you? Here are a few defining points:
Assess your educational qualifications
Do you possess any academic qualifications or in-depth expertise on a particular subject? If you have the former, you may be eligible to start practicing as a teacher immediately. You could study further or take up tutoring if you lack the credentials.
Evaluate your career trajectory
Consider how you want to spend the next few years of your career. Studying for a teaching degree and passing the state's licensing exam could take 4–5 years. Tutors can start sooner as they don't require formal qualifications. You don’t need to learn how to be a tutor –– as long as you have the subject matter expertise and delivery, you can take on multiple clients.
However, assessing other factors that may impact your future and individual needs is important. For example, teaching provides higher compensation and job security, while tutoring jobs offer greater flexibility and could be ideal if you're looking for a part-time gig.
Identify your preferred work environment
Do you prefer teaching a small group of students in a personalized setting? If so, tutoring would suit you better than teaching. You can also offer online classes alongside in-person sessions.
As a teacher, you'd manage a large group of students in a classroom environment. Plus, you may have other responsibilities, such as coordinating extracurricular activities, chaperoning field trips, and more.
Grow your career with Practice
We hope this guide helps you take the next step in your career. If you decide to take the tutoring route, we recommend using a few essential tools to streamline your workflow.
Practice’s customer relationship management (CRM) tool allows you to communicate with students, schedule classes, and manage payments — all in one place.
Let us do the heavy lifting so you can focus on your tutoring services. Try it today.