What Is the Difference Between Online Tutoring and Online Teaching?

Online teaching via teleconference

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Online teaching and online tutoring are similar educational jobs that people do from home. Both involve instructing students in a particular subject, but there are a few key differences between the two jobs that employers, clients, and the teachers and tutors themselves recognize.

Extra Help vs. Main Instructor

The biggest difference between tutoring and teaching is that typically—both online and in the real world—tutoring is meant to provide a student with extra help in a subject that the student is being taught by someone else. Though some online tutors can provide extensive instruction, they are generally seen as offering clarification on specific skills that the student is falling behind on.

Teachers, on the other hand, are required by their school to present an entire portion of a curriculum over a semester or year of classes. They can't just focus on bits and pieces of the required material that the student has requested help on.

That means teachers must find a way to reach all of the students in the class, with their varying abilities and motivations. Tutors have what might be considered the comparative luxury of dealing with students who are motivated to learn. They can also use the best method for tutoring an individual student based on how the student is most easily able to learn new material.

All of the preceding is not intended to suggest that online teachers don't or won't help students one-one-one on specific topics. That's something teachers can do, but for online tutors, it's their key job responsibility.

Test Preparation

Online tutors may offer test preparation help for the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, and other college-entrance tests either on their own or through a test prep company. In fact, a lot of tutors make their living this way. Teachers are less likely to offer this service.


Another difference is in the requirements employers establish or clients expect for the jobs. Those applying for online teaching jobs usually need the same qualifications as in-classroom teachers, meaning they must have teaching certification. A bachelor's degree is a bare minimum, but many will also need a master's degree or even a doctorate if they are teaching at the college level.

Requirements for online tutoring jobs vary. Sometimes only a four-year college degree in the subject you tutor is required, so long as you have experience in tutoring. Some employers look for a master's degree in your subject area, and may also look for certification as a tutor.

A tutor may be able to get away with fewer qualifications if they are really good at what they do and can gain new clients through word of mouth.


Online teaching is generally a more lucrative occupation if you are a full-time faculty member of the school; many online teachers, however, work as adjuncts at multiple schools.

Some tutoring positions are part-time. And while some companies pay online tutors by the hour, many only offer a platform to connect students and tutors and then collect from the tutor a percentage of the fees charged.

Tutors may also advertise their services and obtain their own students without the help of a company's platform. These tutors will probably have to spend money on marketing themselves, but they'll be able to keep all the money their students pay them.

Type of Connection

Tutors typically connect with students “face-to-face” via teleconferencing. Online teachers, particularly those at the college level, may teach an asynchronous course, meaning that the teacher and the students work at different times and do not meet face-to-face. They interact via email and discussion boards and through feedback on assignments.

Because both online teachers and tutors work with students remotely, their students may not feel as close a personal connection as they would if they were being taught or tutored in person.

Type of Students

Finally, one similarity between online teachers and tutors is that they both tend to focus on one age group. Like teachers, tutors may work with children as young as kindergarten or even preschool age. Many more, however, work with students attending a high school or college.