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What To Consider Before Hiring a Computer Science Tutor

Computer science tutor: A female student fixing a computer hard drive

Computer science is a growing and high-paying field. But before you can start working as a software engineer or web developer, you'll have to jump through a few hurdles. First and foremost is completing your computer science education. And to get the most out of your classes, you may need to work with a computer science tutor.

Whether you're just learning the fundamentals of computer science or are studying for your third professional certification, a computer science tutor can help. In fact, computer science tutoring can be an invaluable asset — helping students learn to love this in-demand field and overcome the educational inequality prevalent within it. (Less than half of elementary schools and only 56% of high schools offer computer science courses.)

But, if you expect your computer science tutor to help you understand your coursework, make up for any gaps in your foundational knowledge, and ignite your passion for the subject, then you're going to need a really good tutor. Here's how to find one.

What To Consider Before Hiring a Computer Science Tutor

Computer science tutor: Male student building a robot car

Finding the right tutor is kind of like finding the right college major — sometimes you have a perfectly good major, but it's just not right for you.

If you hire a tutor with all the computer science knowledge in the world but you don't connect with their teaching style, you won't learn as much as you would from a tutor who is a better fit for you.

To avoid this frustration (for both you and your tutor), ask yourself a few questions.

What's Your Level?

If you're trying to encourage your middle school-aged daughter to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects, you'll need a very different tutor than if you're a grad student trying to master applied data science.

Your tutor should have more years of experience with computer science than you do. If you need help with an elementary, middle school, or high school computer science course, you can hire a tutor who is a college student or has a bachelor's degree in the field. But if you're working on your master's degree, you'll need a tutor who has already completed their master's or is working on a PhD.

If you or your student has just started studying computer science and one of your goals is to inspire a love of the subject, you'll need a tutor who has experience using fun and games to teach.

What Are Your Learning Goals?

Beyond learning to love computer science, it helps keep your tutoring sessions on track if you have SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

An example of a SMART goal for computer science tutoring might be: to get a 5 on the AP Computer Science A Exam, to improve your grade in your computer programming course by a full letter before the end of the semester, or to learn Python in three months.

Setting SMART goals will help you measure the value of your tutoring sessions and set you up to excel in your computer science courses.

What's Your Learning Style?

There are three primary learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinetic. Visual learners learn by seeing, auditory learners learn by hearing, and kinetic learners learn by doing. If you're not sure which type of learner you are, take a learning style test to find out.

Once you know your learning style, you'll be better able to decide which tutor is right for you. Ask potential tutors about the experience they have working with students who share your learning style.

If you're a visual learner, look for a computer science tutor who teaches with demonstrations, images, charts, and graphics. If you're an auditory learner, look for a tutor who is a strong verbal communicator. And if you're a kinetic learner, look for a tutor who asks you to work on hands-on projects.

What's Your Schedule?

Compared to your level, goals, and learning style, your schedule may seem like a minor consideration, but this may actually be the most important factor in sticking with your tutoring sessions.

If it's hard to schedule your lessons, you won't have them as frequently. If you choose a tutor who's only available in the morning and you're not a morning person, you won't enjoy your sessions as much or perform at your best.

Look for a tutor whose availability matches your own, or find an online tutoring service that's available 24/7.

Weighing Your Tutoring Options

Computer science tutor: Male student studying code on computer

Now that you understand your own needs, learn about the computer science tutoring market so you understand your options.

Generalist vs. Specialist Tutors

A computer science generalist will have a broad understanding of the field. They can teach you about a wide range of computer science subjects from operating systems to data structures to computer engineering. But, they'll be better at teaching those subjects at an introductory level than an advanced level.

Someone with broad computer science knowledge makes an ideal tutor for elementary, middle, and high school students, or for undergraduate students who would prefer to stick with the same tutor for all their coursework.

A computer science specialist will have deep knowledge of one or a few computer science subjects. They might know everything there is to know about CSS, HTML, and JavaScript, but not know anything about Microsoft Access and MySQL. A specialist will often have real-world experience, working as a software developer or computer programmer.

Specialists make ideal computer science tutors for grad students or undergrad students working on more advanced coursework. Specialists are also great for professionals preparing for their next certification.

In-Person vs. Online Tutoring

In-person private tutoring is the analog option in the tutoring world. Getting in-person lessons can help students who have trouble staying on task when no one is looking over their shoulder. But, because of COVID-19, in-person tutoring can be hard to find. (More and more tutors are going online to promote social distancing.)

Your market may also make it hard to find a qualified computer science tutor. Larger markets like New York and Los Angeles will have more in-person tutors, but your options may be limited in a smaller town. With in-person tutoring, you'll also have to plan your lessons to fit within a smaller scheduling window.

With online computer science tutoring, you'll find more flexibility and more tutors. When you opt for online tutoring, you can get last-minute homework help, schedule your tutoring sessions when it's convenient for you (with tutors available 24/7), and easily find different tutors with different specializations (work with one tutor for Java programming and a different tutor for PHP programming).

The Algorithm for Finding the Best Computer Science Tutor

Students in the classroom using computers to study

If finding and hiring a tutor sounds harder than mastering C++ (and getting a better grade than that in class), you might be wishing for an algorithm that can find your tutor for you. Well, we've got one.

TutorMe will match you with a qualified computer science tutor who has the expertise you're looking for. With hundreds of online tutors, you can get help with programming languages, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, machine learning, databases, web development, and more than 40 other computer science specialties.

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