How to Become a Chess Instructor
People with a passion for chess tend to let the game take over their world. True chess fanatics are a sight to see — concentrating on little else for most of the day. Often, chess lovers start out with the game at a young age, learning the basics as a young child and growing up with the game. These students of chess often need special instruction if they want to take their chess game to the next level. That’s where a chess instructor comes in.
A chess instructor works closely with individuals or groups of people who want to learn chess, everything from the basics to expert level training. Chess instructors work with people of all ages; it is not uncommon to see chess instructors setting up classes for elementary, middle school, high school, and adult chess students. Sometimes a school will hire a chess instructor to start a school chess program — these instructors are not just the coaches of the chess squad, they’re often called upon to teach the game to beginners as well. There are also community centers, after school programs, adult education courses, and private groups of chess enthusiasts looking to hire chess instructors to teach people how to play this beautiful and challenging game. Last but not least, private lessons in chess are sought out by people looking to get personalized training.
What skills should a good chess instructor have?
The most important part of a chess instructor’s resume is his experience and any rank he’s achieved in chess. You don’t need to be a grand master to be a chess instructor, but the amount you can charge for your lessons goes up with any chess rank achieved.
As for experience in chess, any courses you’ve completed with chess masters will look good on your resume, as will any victories at the championship level or a high international rank in chess. The number of years you’ve been perfecting your craft will count as well, so start your chess instruction young if you look forward to a career in chess instruction.
The best chess instructors are self-motivated people with good communication skills and lots of chess experience. Experts at chess are not always the most communicative and open-minded types, so a good chess instructor is something of a rarity. Most of the time, a top notch chess instructor is a chess champion or master with a proven record, with a ranking of 1800 or more in tournament chess. The higher that ranking, the more advanced a chess instructor is, and the more money they can charge for their lessons. The chess instructor should be able to work with kids and adults of different ages and abilities to teach the game of chess, as well as help the learners understand the various strategies used in competitions.
What do chess instructors do?
- Build a customer base of people interested in chess, especially those who want to work with a chess instructor
- Meet with local schools and community groups to promote chess education and develop community-wide interest in the game
- Teach group and individual chess lessons
- Organize chess tournaments in their community and promote participation in national events
- Try to get chess added to local school curriculum and promote chess education by teaching at public and private schools
How much money will I make as a chess instructor?
Because your salary as a private chess instructor will depend entirely on how much business you get, it is hard to give a good “salary range” average. Top chess instructors (those who have attained the rank of International Master or Grand Master) regularly charge between $40 and $50 an hour, the same rate of pay as a clinical psychologist or a nurse with an advanced degree, though a chess instructor may not have enough students to work the same hours as those professions. Chess lessons require tons of training, rote memorization of tactics, and philosophical instruction — a true bond between chess student and chess instructor is the only way to ensure the instructor has a real impact on the student. Thus, chess lessons are often quite long, and for a true student of chess these lessons could be repeated multiple times a week. Even the bare minimum of chess students should net a chess instructor about $30,000 a year, nothing to get rich on but plenty of money to pay the rent and keep the fridge stocked.
If you haven’t reached one of these top levels in chess but consider yourself talented enough to give lessons, the amount you charge per hour (or per lesson) will naturally be less. A local chess fanatic charges a flat rate of $20 per lesson, provided the chess student signs up for an entire “term” of courses, and then fills the classroom with ten or a dozen students. At $200 a lesson, given five days a week, he’s making a pretty penny without having reached the upper echelon of the chess world. I suppose you can earn as much cash as you’re willing to work for, but you should also expect some “dry” times as well.
Bottom line — you’re not going to buy an Aston Martin as a chess instructor. The more students you have, and the more instruction they get, the larger your checking account.
Where does a chess instructor work?
Though some chess instructors have offices or specific meeting spaces in which to meet with chess students, they most often travel directly to a school or to a student’s home to teach chess lessons. Much of your time as a chess instructor will be spent on the road and in stranger’s homes, so those of us who need a static environment to work may not have as much success. If you’re very active in your community, and plan to organize a local tournament or other chess event, you’ll be spending plenty of time in meetings and on the phone with local bureaucrats. Your life as a chess instructor is what you make it — you could spend your career teaching chess out of your living room, or spend most days on the road, struggling to get the community college to allow you to use their cafeteria for a chess event.
If you have a passion for chess education, have tournament chess experience, and think you have the communication skills required, a lifetime teaching chess lessons will be really rewarding. Not only will you teach the game you love to others, but you’ll spend your days talking chess. For those of us obsessed with the game, there could be no greater pursuit.