Surprising findings from a new Wyzant survey of older tutors

I’m a big fan of people over 50 tutoring young people and adults. As best as I can tell, quite a few 50+ people are interested in tutoring and many already do it. But I’ve wondered for a while why people in midlife choose to tutor. A new survey, from the Wyzant online-based company of paid tutors, has some fascinating answers.

Perhaps most interesting of all: Although 59 percent of Wyzant’s 50+ tutors said they tutor for money, which was the second biggest motivation cited, the most common reason they do this: “to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years” (73 percent). Other popular motivations: “Because I can control my rate and hours” (50 percent) and “To stay intellectually connected to my area of study” (49 percent).

Becoming a Tutor to Make an Impact

“If you can combine incremental income with someone you enjoy that provides value and lets you make an impact, that’s a unique, powerful combination,” said Andrew Geant, CEO and co-founder of Wyzant. “Especially versus other options in the Gig Economy.”

Wyzant, which tutors people in more than 200 subjects online and in person, surveyed 1,254 of its 50+ instructors. Their average age: 62; the oldest was 90. (Roughly a third of its tutors are 50 and older.)

Who 50+ Tutors Prefer to Help

The tutors surveyed also expressed a strong preference for working with kids: 45 percent said K-12 was the age they most preferred to tutor. The age group they’d least prefer to work with: their peers (!) – 50 percent said that.

“I’ve heard comments from people saying they want to stay connected and have interactions with a younger audience,” said Geant.

In fact, one tutor put it this way: “It has been my pleasure to work with students who have a real thirst and drive for knowledge. Other students struggle in their learning processes. That keeps me on my toes. Many times, I have to dig for solutions to help them overcome their own learning hurdles. This inspires me to keep learning myself.”

Moving Kids Forward One-on-One

Christine Snyder, 64, a former public school speech and language pathologist in Boulder, Colo., told Wyzant that when she retired she was looking for something to do in the education field without working full-time. She now tutors (kids mostly) 10 to 12 hours a week during the school year; less during summer months. “I get to take them from where they are and move them forward, which was a whole lot harder to do in a group setting in schools,” she said.

Asked about the 50+ tutors’ responses, Jacqueline James, co-director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, told Wyzant: “This generation is the most educated generation in history to retire. They’ve usually had jobs that they enjoy and want to keep doing.”

The Summer Challenge to Help Youth

That feeling, I suspect, is also what’s drawing so many people over 50 to’s Generation to Generation initiative. It’s specifically about getting older people to make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth, largely through volunteering. Right now, through its Gen2Gen Summer Challenge, is urging people 50+ to take a single action, in as little as just a few minutes, to “help keep young people in your area learning, safe, healthy and employed.”

I was also a little surprised and cheered to see that 75 percent of Wyzant’s tutors say they plan to keep tutoring until they can’t. In other words, this isn’t just something to pass the time right now or to bring in a little pocket change in a pinch. Some 61 percent of the 50+ tutors surveyed have other jobs.

Tutor Income: Up to $100,000 a Year

Wyzant won’t say exactly how much its 50+ tutors earn — the tutors set their own fees — but did tell me this: “Surveyed tutors’ hourly rates cover a wide range. Some charge as little as $15 per hour for their services, while others charge as much as $160 per hour. Some 50+ tutors make nearly $100,000 per year on Wyzant alone.”

Who Can Tutor

Most of Wyzant’s 50+ tutors surveyed are, or have been, teachers and more than two-thirds of them have advanced degrees. But if you have a skill you can pass along and the time to offer up your services, you may be able to tutor, too. “You’d be surprised how many skills translate,” said Geant.

Wyzant’s older tutors teach subjects ranging from Algebra 1 to drawing to writing to accounting to English as a second language. It requires prospective tutors to complete a brief proficiency exam for certain subjects. For others, you have to submit your written qualifications for tutoring in that subject.

“Having done a lot of tutoring myself, my experience is you can’t overstate the satisfaction you get whether you’re helping a child get into college or helping someone progress in their career,” said Geant. “It’s a life-changing impact.”