Teaching as a Second Career
To anyone interested in teaching as a second career, educator Nathaniel Litchman says, “Teaching is one of the most rewarding and fun jobs you could ever hope for.”
Litchman earned his Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) degree from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education. Through the program, he learned how to be emotionally supportive of all students and developed skills in classroom management — a skillset that has proven useful in his career.
After earning his M.S.T. degree, Litchman became a special education teacher and loves every minute he spends with his students:
“As a learning disabled person myself, I can empathize with the daily struggles of my students,” he said. “As their teacher, I channel my own experiences to help them in school, and I enjoy being able to make a lasting impact on their lives.”
Why Become a Teacher?
To Litchman, teaching is fulfilling for many reasons, including:
- Being able to inspire students on a daily basis.
- Seeing joy and pride in students when they learn something new.
- Making a difference in students’ lives.
- Helping students understand academic content and feel confident in school.
But the most effective teachers don’t necessarily start out pursuing a career in education first. In fact, a 2017 Harris Poll indicates that one in three teachers started in different careers, with more than one in three of those coming from a business background.1
Why the change? One-third said they always wanted to pursue a career in teaching, while another one-third were simply looking for a change of pace.
The Job Market for Teachers
Teaching isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Employment of education, training, and library occupations is projected to grow 5% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. About 441,000 new jobs are projected to be added from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).2 And the pay is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations.
The BLS indicates that about 512,900 new jobs are projected to be added from 2018 to 2028. It’s estimated that enrollment will increase at the college and university level and among public elementary and secondary schools; therefore, postsecondary teachers and preschool, elementary, and secondary school teachers will be needed to meet the demand. Education, training, and library occupations, however, are affected by state and local budgets, and budgetary restrictions can limit employment growth.
High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market. The median salary for high school teachers in 2018 was $60,320.3 Local schools employed 84% of high school teachers, and private schools employed 13%, according to 2016 BLS data.4
Middle school teachers educate students typically in sixth through eighth grades. They help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school. The median salary for middle school teachers in 2018 was $58,600.5 Eighty-five percent of middle school teachers were employed by public schools.6
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling. The median salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers in 2018 was $57,980.7 Local elementary and secondary schools employed 85% of elementary school teachers, and private schools employed 12%. At the kindergarten level, local and secondary schools employed 80% of teachers, while private schools employed 14%, and child day care services employed 4%.8
What Makes a Great Teacher?
A great teacher could be described as being:
Patient and calm. Children have shorter attention spans than adults, and some may have anxiety or other special needs that keep their full attention from being on the teacher.
Adaptable and willing to learn. Children learn at different speeds. The best teaching practices change as educational standards evolve. Be prepared for a career that challenges you to change, grow, adapt and reflect. That means constantly taking strides to better yourself through continuing education and coming up with new and innovative ways to teach content. The best teachers take risks and aren’t afraid to fail, and they are willing to share their successes and failures with other educators.
A reliable team player. Teachers don’t work alone in a vacuum. They work all day alongside the many stakeholders in a child’s education: other teachers, the principal, school nurse, counselors, social workers, and parents. You have to be able to communicate with everyone in the system.
A communicative leader. Each student you teach must leave your class with a better comprehension of the subject matter and its application in the real world. You must be able to hold their attention and teach the lesson in a way they can understand and appreciate.
“It is also essential to identify the intent and purpose behind every lesson you teach, and every interaction you have with a child or a group of students. Effective teachers should also be consistently empathetic, understanding, and emotionally cognizant,” Litchman noted.
How Do I Change Careers if I Want to Become a Teacher?
If you decide you want to become a teacher, going after that dream may not be as difficult as you think. To get started, look into state teacher certification requirements where you live. Once you know the requirements you need to satisfy, look into specific education programs that suit your needs. It is important to identify the specific skills and information you would like to gain as you work toward your aspiration. If your goal is to become a teacher who can apply theory to practice in today’s modern classroom, a Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) can help you get there.
Alternative Teacher Certification
Many states also offer alternative teacher certification programs for people thinking about teaching as a second career. Perhaps you have a bachelor’s degree in the subject you want to teach, but you need the required teacher education courses for certification. Requirements may include an accelerated post-baccalaureate program, a student-teaching component, and the successful completion of certain tests or interviews.
If you have already graduated from college and have experience in the field you’d like to teach, pursuing alternative certification may be an attractive option to teaching as a second career.
Provisional Teacher Certification
There are cities and states that permit professionals to obtain a provisional teacher license, which allows them to begin teaching immediately. After completing required education courses and working under the supervision of experienced educators for one or two years, you can then receive a full teaching credential.
Emergency Teaching Credentials
Some states issue temporary emergency teaching permits for extended periods when a public school in their state makes a request because they cannot fill a teaching vacancy. The school can file for the permit through their state’s Department of Education. Candidates are typically required to have earned a bachelor’s degree from a state-approved college or university and they are often individuals with teaching-related degrees who have not yet become certified to teach full-time. This type of credential allows an individual to substitute teach for a month, for example, if another teacher suddenly goes on leave.9
Troops to Teachers
Sponsored by the Department of Defense, the Troops to Teachers10 program assists retired military or civilian military personnel in obtaining the education and credentials they need to teach kindergarten through 12th grade.
Teach for America
The Teach for America program places college graduates in two-year positions in high-need urban and rural communities. Teach for America is looking for prospective teachers in bilingual education, science, and mathematics and is especially interested in recruiting people of color.11
If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled in your current position, and you’re interested in becoming a teacher, there are plenty of options for those considering teaching as a second career.
1 University of Phoenix College of Education/Harris Poll, “A Look Inside the Classroom” survey of K-12 teachers in the US. May 2017 (visited July 5, 2019). ↑