Revised and updated January 5, 2021.
Parents have a variety of motives for paying for private tutors. Some are worried about the quality of local schools and want to improve their children’s chances. Some want to push a gifted youngster to achieve great things or support a child who’s struggling in the classroom. There might be a specific school or college they’re aiming for, meaning a need to pass tests or improve classroom evaluations.
Whatever their motives, they’re all looking for the same thing: someone who can reliably improve what’s being learned. And if there’s one thing that a recognized, franchised brand offers, it’s reliability.
Over the five years to the end of 2019, the tutoring industry saw regular growth ahead of the wider economy. A rise in per capita disposable income and in the number of K-12 students led to more demand for tutors and more money available to pay for them. Competition for spaces in prestigious educational establishments meant that parents with disposable income were willing to spend it on tutors for their children, to improve their life chances. Over 29,000 tutors were employed by over 3,000 businesses working in the franchised part of the sector. Increased access to credit helped the industry in its growth.
As a result, the tutoring franchise industry is worth an estimated $1 billion in the US. It’s a fractured industry with few heavyweights. This means that there’s plenty of space both for brands and individual franchised outlets to expand. In the tutoring industry, franchisees aren’t competing with big household names, as they would be with a fast food franchise.
Certain trends in education have contributed to the industry’s growth and shaped the private tutoring market. An increased emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects, both for their prestige and for their career prospects, means that educational institutions are working hard to bolster these subjects, and that parents are more willing to pay for support in these areas.
Recognition of the value of personalized learning, and of how hard this is to provide in a busy classroom, has also been important. Private tutors have more freedom to adapt their methods, incorporating games, one-on-one feedback, and student-tailored exercises, emphasizing areas where the student is struggling.
The impact of COVID-19 on tutoring has been mixed.
On the one hand, many schools and universities have waived mandatory tests, in recognition of disruption to education, and this means that tutors are less needed to prepare candidates for exams. Even the online tutoring industry saw its revenues fall by 1.7%, as the pressure of entrance exams declined.
On the other hand, the closure of schools and colleges led to parents and learners seeking alternatives. This helped to soften the blow and may lead to long-term growth for the tutoring industry, as parents are exposed to the benefits of using private tutors.
One approach that has gained traction during COVID is learning pods, where groups of pupils share sessions with a private tutor. This provides extra learning and some of the added attention that one-on-one tutoring gives, while spreading the economic cost. As a result, it has made private tutoring more financially accessible. It has been particularly popular at the elementary school level, where children are less capable of self-directed learning and parents have felt a need for extra support.
Some tutoring businesses have been shifting their focus, offering alternative models geared toward group learning. The sector is adapting and developing more diverse offerings, in a variety of ways.
Even before the arrival of COVID, there was a shift toward online tutoring. By reducing costs and making it easier to connect with tutors, the online option provided an appealing alternative to traditional in-person tutoring. Smartphones, tablets, educational software, and improved internet connectivity combined to make this an attractive and accessible option.
Online tutoring services, which are often measured and reported on separately from in-person or hybrid businesses, have a market share worth $1.3 billion in the US. Annualized growth in the five years to 2020 was 13.9%. Though this growth has slowed down in recent years, and even declined in 2020, it was not hit as hard as the rest of the education sector. The value of the online tutoring industry is expected to rise again in 2021, with a predicted 1.8% growth.
The post-COVID recovery period is likely to be a strong one for online tutoring, as people settle into new patterns of learning while trying to catch up on lessons missed during the chaos of the pandemic. The industry’s impressive growth in the pre-pandemic years is expected to return, with a predicted annual growth rate of 5.7% in the US in the years to 2027.
Low costs make it easy to enter this industry, and there is a steady supply of tutors. For anyone with the knowledge needed to teach, there’s an opportunity to build a business and help others to learn, backed up by structured and supportive franchises.
The Top Tutoring Franchises of 2021
1. Kumon Math and Reading Centers
Kumon Math and Reading Centers focuses solely on the two primary academic subjects: math and reading. Back in the 1950s, the company’s founder developed special worksheets to help his son do better at math, and it worked so well he started a business. The secret of the worksheets is that they’re short, incremental assignments that only take around half an hour to complete. Each sheet has the information needed to solve the problems, so kids are essentially teaching themselves and reinforcing the lessons learned. Tutors simply check the work for accuracy.
Founded by high school math teacher Toru Kumon in Moriguchi City, Osaka, Japan in 1955 and franchising since 1958, there are now 26,365 Kumon Centers scattered all over the world (up from the previously reported total of 26,278), with 1,565 in the US and only 27 that are company-owned.
2. Eye Level Learning Centers
Eye Level Learning Centers is all about making sure tutors see things from the student’s perspective, finding out where they’re at, what their learning needs are, and letting students go at their own pace. Subjects covered include math and English, where incremental learning and progress is encouraged. Besides basic knowledge in these subjects, additional goals include nurturing self-confidence, interest in learning, and developing analytical skills.
Founded in 1976 in Korea and franchising since then, the number of locations has expanded in recent years from 860 in 2010 to the current total of 1,638 (up from the previously reported total of 1,621), of which 799 are company-owned and 659 are located outside the US.
3. Mathnasium Learning Centers
Mathnasium Learning Centers focuses on only one subject: mathematics. Students begin with an initial assessment in order to accurately identify their learning needs. By finding out what each student already knows, they don’t have to waste any time on what they already know. Additional assessments at key intervals help make sure the material learned is retained. The methods are based on those developed by math educator Larry Martinek more than 40 years ago that were so successful they were adopted by many schools and student test scores skyrocketed.
Founded by Peter Markovitz and David Ullendorff in Westwood, California in 2002 and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has expanded steadily in recent years from 276 in 2010 to the current total of 1,074 (up from the previously reported total of 1,047), of which six are company-owned and 134 of which are located outside the US.
4. Tutor Doctor
Tutor Doctor sends its tutors into the homes of students of all grade levels to help them advance in any and all academic subjects. The one-on-one tutors first get to know the student so they can adjust their techniques to best address each student’s learning needs. The initial assessment and consultation is conducted free of charge and is also used to match the student up to the right tutor. The company’s X-skills program is a highly-customized approach that helps students develop the “executive” skills needed for sustained academic success.
Founded in Ontario, Canada in 2000 and franchising since 2003, the number of locations has increased rapidly in recent years from 176 locations in 2010 to the current total of 686 (up from the previously reported total of 662), of which none are company-owned and 332 of which are located outside the US.
5. Sylvan Learning
Sylvan Learning might be best known for its SAT and ACT test-prep services, but the chain also provides a variety of other college and career prep tutoring in advanced levels of various subjects, and K-12 tutoring in all the basic subjects (reading, math, writing, algebra, geometry, homework help, study skills, and more). It also has a new focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects including coding and robotics.
Founded in Portland, Oregon (now based in Baltimore, Maryland) in 1979 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations has steadily declined in recent years from 923 in 2010 to the current total of 571 (down from the previously reported total of 583), of which seven are company-owned and 88 are located outside the US.
6. JEI Learning Centers
JEI Learning Centers believes every student has infinite potential. Its methods were designed to help unlock each student’s creativity and natural abilities and to focus them with self-learning programs in an optimal educational environment. Subject focuses include math, English, reading, and writing. An initial diagnostic system reveals a student’s strengths and weaknesses, and then concepts are learned through weekly workbooks.
Founded in South Korea in 1977 and franchising since 1992, there are currently 517 locations (up from the previous year’s total of 545), of which 265 are company-owned and 170 are located outside the US.
7. Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services
Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services started out as an in-home tutoring service, but has since added online tutoring to its mix of services. It is focused on helping students learn in all the current subjects they are taking in school, and the tutors maintain close contact with the students’ classroom teachers to track progress and make adjustments along the way. This approach gets impressive results. Students improve, on average, by two letter-grades in a surprisingly short amount of time (a couple months).
Founded in Tampa, Florida in 1995 and franchising since 1998, the number of locations has declined slightly in recent years from a high of 427 in 2010 to the current total of 382 (down from the previously reported total of 388), of which none are company owned and 17 are located outside the US.
8. Huntington Learning Centers
Huntington Learning Centers take a comprehensive approach to evaluating where each student is at academically so they can tailor learning plans to meet learning needs. The company took the bold step of submitting each learning center to the same accreditation organizations for schools, which you won’t find to be the case with most tutoring franchises. Student results often improve by 2+ grade levels, and SAT scores improve by an average of 200 points.
Founded by Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and his wife Eileen in 1977 and franchising since 1985, there are currently 302 locations (up from the previous year’s total of 298), of which 16 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
9. GradePower Learning
GradePower Learning serves students of all ages and abilities from preschool to college, creating a customized learning plan for each student. Service areas include English, enrichment, ESL, homework help, learning difficulties, math, science, study skills, summer learning, SAT prep, and ACT prep. It uses its Dynamic Diagnostic Assessment process to understand how each student learns best, then develops a tailored learning plan.
Founded in 1984 and franchising since 1991, the number of locations has grown in recent years from 119 in 2012 to the current total of 153 (down from the previously reported total of 157), of which none are company-owned and 128 are located outside the US.
10. The Tutoring Center
The Tutoring Center gives every potential customer the opportunity to undergo a free diagnostic assessment, which is how the company identifies a student’s strengths and areas where improvement is needed. One-on-one instruction is delivered in its unique Rotational Approach to Learning because students who learn in 30-minute and two 15-minute increments in different locations with different sets of materials and two instructors see dramatic improvements.
Founded by Dr. Edward Thalheimer in Ventura County, California in 1994 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has steadily climbed upward in recent years from 40 in 2010 to 100 in 2019 but dropped by two to the current total of 98, of which none are company-owned and two are located outside the US.
11. Best in Class Education Center
Best in Class Education Center gives students individual attention in small-group classes to boost their math, English, reading, and writing skills in weekly sessions lasting 60-75 minutes. One-on-one tutoring is also available for all subjects, as well as test-prep services. Even preschool kids can get a leg up on math and English. Other services include college prep, writing skills assessment, and TOEFL/IELTS instruction.
Founded by Hao and Lisa Lam in Seattle, Washington in 1988 but franchising only since 2011, the number of locations has grown from 12 in 2011 to the last reported total of 65 in 2019 (an increase of 10 from the previously reported total of 55), none of which were company-owned and all of which were located in the US.
12. Above Grade Level In-Home Tutoring
Above Grade Level In-Home Tutoring goes out on a limb and guarantees that students receiving their services who are diligent in completing their work (35 individualized tutoring sessions) will improve by a full grade level or 10 percentage points in math and English, and backs it up with an offer of an additional 15 free hours of tutoring if goals aren’t met.
Founded in 2009 and franchising since then, location data is hard to come by. The company website lists only one location in New Jersey, but there’s a Canadian website that lists 11 locations there for a total of 12.
13. Omega Learning Center
Omega Learning Center offers both tutoring and test-prep services to cover reading, math, SAT/ACT test prep, study skills, kindergarten success, specialized test prep, state test prep, and ESOL/ Spanish. It also offers a variety of K-12 online courses, and even an alternative private school. And it is unique in having achieved AdavncED accreditation.
Founded by Kimberly Smith, Kathy Keeton, and Joyce Smith in Acworth, Georgia in 2005 and franchising since 2007, the number of locations has declined from a recent high of 16 in 2016 to 10 as claimed on the company website.
14. Elite Tutoring Place
Elite Tutoring Place offers a wide range of tutoring and test-prep services for students of all grade levels, including preschool. Tests covered include ACT, SAT, CogAT, PSAT, AP tests, and PARCC. Subjects covered by tutoring include mathematics, algebra, geometry, algebra II, trigonometry, precalculus, calculus, statistics, science, chemistry, biology, physics, and foreign languages. Students begin with a free diagnostic and consultation.
Founded in 2014 and franchising since 2015, the number of locations currently stands at eight (one less than the previous year), one of which is company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.