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Career Changers Choose Teaching

By Cameron Caswell, Posted Apr 2nd 2009 @ 9:02AM

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by Marcella Wolfe, for AOL Find a Job

teacherHave you reached a point in your work life where you're asking: "how have I made a difference?" Teaching is a career that can put your desire to serve others into action.

by Marcella Wolfe, for AOL Find a Job

teacherFor a fulfilling career based on helping others you can't do much better than teaching. Have you reached a point in your work life where you're asking: "how have I made a difference?" Teaching is a career that can put your desire to serve others into action. Teachers who love their job say they go home most days knowing they're making a valuable contribution in terms of opening students' minds to the world around them.

But, talk to anyone who's spent any time in a classroom. It's not always easy. How can you tell if a career in teaching is right for you? What degrees and licensing will you need? If you decide to make the change, where are the jobs?

Career changers who consider teaching come from most any profession including business, the medical professions and communications. People who enter teaching cite their preference for face-to-face human interaction as high on the list of what they're looking for at work. Many felt stuck sitting in an office all day. They also say they like having a work environment in which each day is different. They thrive on using their own intelligence and creativity in new ways. They also cite a love of the subject matter and the desire to have a better schedule so that they can be there for their own children.

Why didn't they become teachers in the first place? Many cite money as the reason. Yet, in its most recent report surveying educators' pay levels, the American Federation of Teachers found that the average salary for traditional public school teachers increased 4.5 percent in 2006–07 to $51,009. This marks the first time since 2003 that teacher salaries surpassed the annual rate of inflation. Connecticut, California and New Jersey top the list for salaries.

Those Who Can, Do... Become a Teacher

Angelin Donohue always wanted to be a teacher, "But when I came to the Washington, DC area there were few openings, so I went into the corporate world," she said. She spent five years after college recruiting for law firms and then had a five-year career as a recruiting manager for the global professional services firm, KPMG. In 2001 she decided to get her teaching credential in English as a Second Language (ESOL) from the University of Maryland. She is now an ESOL teacher at Rosemary Hills Primary School, a public school in Silver Spring, Maryland. With experience as a high-school English teacher and also an elementary ESOL teacher, she has a kindergarten through 12th-grade perspective.

"If you're thinking of becoming a teacher after time in the business world, you need to consider the change you'll experience from spending your day with adults to spending it with kids of any age," Donohue noted. "I've taught young children who were eager to learn, magnet program kids who were very smart and already set for college and teenagers who could barely read. There are big differences in the demands from each group."

"Teaching brings less of the stress you'd face in the business world, the pressure to always contribute to the bottom line," she continued. "But the stress you'll face is a different kind-the kind that comes from within, from wanting to do your best."

Peter Kiok was a publicist at a well-known, New York-based celebrity entertainment/news magazine. He reached a point when he realized that the money wasn't enough to make up for the lack of substance; he wanted something more. His cousin, a teacher, knowing of his interest in children, advised him to look into graduate school. And the seed for becoming a teacher was planted.

After taking a child development class at Bank Street College of Education in New York, a graduate school for aspiring teachers, Peter knew he wanted to teach. He went on to graduate with a Master's degree in Elementary Education. He's taught kindergarten through fourth grades and now teaches third grade at a private school in New York.

"After I started, I felt a difference in my life. I enjoy getting up each day and going in to work in a way I never felt before." Kiok said. "That's good because teaching requires a lot of energy. With lesson planning, after-class meetings, grading assignments and speaking with parents, it feels like more than a 40-hour-a-week job." Kiok also warns former cubicle owners not to expect time for personal emails or phone calls. "You're much too busy being "on" for the students, to have time for yourself."

"A big benefit people don't often consider," he added, "is the opportunity to spend time living abroad. There are several placement programs for international teaching assignments," noted Kiok who taught in Rome, for four years. "Once you are hired, the school will often help you obtain the necessary visa and work papers and sometimes even help with things such as finding an apartment in your new country."

How Do I Get There from Here?

Well-trained teachers are what it takes to create well-educated students. Today's teachers are being held to increasing levels of accountability for their students' progress. This means that, in perhaps unlike any other field, the education you pursue will be critical to your success.

The traditional route to becoming a public school teacher involves completing a bachelor's degree, finishing an approved teacher education program and then obtaining a license. Each state and the District of Columbia has its own licensing requirements for public school teachers. While private school teachers do not always have to be licensed, increasingly, applicants for private school jobs have one or more graduate degrees as well as a bachelor's degree.

Many career changers may want to consider the large number of alternatives to traditional university programs. A variety of online degrees are now available and may be of interest to mature students whose lives may be more structured and may also have the discipline needed to complete coursework. Evening and part-time programs are also available at many traditional universities offering teaching degrees.

Many states offer alternative licensing programs to attract people into teaching, especially for hard-to-fill positions. Some school districts are offering bonuses to attract teachers.

Making Up Your Mind

Before you seek your credentials, it's important to be sure you know that you can make it as a teacher. Dr. Robert J. Kizlik, whose long career in education includes being a classroom teacher, curriculum writer and university acting dean, reports that "around forty percent of new teachers leave teaching within the first five years. It is obviously not what they thought it would be. One thing for sure, it's about more than loving kids."

How will you know if you can handle this very demanding, yet rewarding career? Consider the following tips from the Teacher Center

  • Do your homework.

    Talk to existing teachers. Read widely. Use the Web and learn about online forums for career changers.

    Those who can teach computer and other vocational skills are increasingly in demand in our in our high-tech world. As the population ages, the need for health education teachers increases as they will help launch the careers of the nation's future health care work force.

  • Get into the classroom.

    Consider substitute teaching or "shadow" an experienced teacher. By observing a teacher and their students over a period you'll learn much more than you could from isolated experiences as a substitute teacher.

  • Get educated about your job prospects in teaching.

    Learn what educational programs best meet your career goals. For example, if you are a businessperson and want teach, specialized alternative certification programs are now available. A course, series of courses, a certificate program and possibly a non-credit course might open the door for you.

Get the Job That's Right for You

Job opportunities for teachers are projected to vary from good to excellent over the next 10 years, depending on the locality, grade level and the subject you plan to teach. Employment of preschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle and secondary school teachers is projected to grow about as fast as average for other fields. Job prospects are expected to be favorable, with particularly good opportunities for teachers in high-demand fields like math, science and bilingual education or in urban or rural school districts.

Fast-growing States in the South and West-led by Arizona, Texas and -will experience the largest enrollment increases, a key factor in determining the need for teachers. Enrollments in the Midwest are expected to hold relatively steady, while those in the Northeast are expected to decline. Teachers who are geographically mobile and who obtain licensure in more than one subject should have a distinct advantage in finding a job.

Are you considering a career change? Think you have what it takes to teach? First, get to work studying yourself. Find out what you need to make the right decision. Let your desire to help others and make a difference guide you. Then go forth and teach!

It's never too late to increase your opportunities
Learn more at University of Phoenix

Next: Boomers in the Classroom >>

Reader Comments (Page 2 of 87)

  • jimmy
    7-29-2009 @10:41AM
    jimmy said...
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    Everyone has ads on here. When you realize you will not make 7,000 a week LOL and lose all your money , email me for therapy at Wouldn't someone making 350,000 a year from their home be doing something exciting instead of putting ads on free boards LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

  • Denise
    7-29-2009 @10:56AM
    Denise said...
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    Your comments were of interest especially during the economically distressing time. I do something somewhat similar to what you are speaking about but I wondered if you could consider being more specific. I suppose you are a consultant or are operating your own business.

  • lisa nicolari
    7-29-2009 @12:44PM
    lisa nicolari said...
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    and what would that be??

  • shannon
    7-29-2009 @12:40PM
    shannon said...
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    this is wrong! so many people are chooseing to go into education now that the submarket is flooded. so you cant even find a subing postion anymore. i get done with my student teaching in Dec and i am scared to death i wont be able to find a teaching job cause some out of work 40 something couldnt find a job in their field so decided teaching was easy

  • augonit
    7-29-2009 @1:11PM
    augonit said...
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    Why don't you stop adding these retarded comments on EVERY topic online? It's obvious your comments are akin to a form letter.

  • Jolene
    7-29-2009 @1:18PM
    Jolene said...
    vote upvote downReport Highest Rank

    Yeah... no.

    I'm a teacher, and it's what I've ALWAYS wanted to do. I went to school for it. I didn't change careers. In fact, I've seen way too many people change careers to become teachers and HATE IT. People really have no idea what it takes to do my job. Yes. I love my job. I love the kids, I love the rewards. There's nothing in the world I'd rather do - nothing in the world better than watch a child finally "get it."


    Teachers go 50,000 dollars in debt for their undergraduate degree to make about $30,000 a year. For the same education, starting salaries in other fields are usually double what teachers make. In MA, teachers are required to get their master's within five years or they're fired. No reimbursement. Teachers must take a dreadful test to prove their mastery - something that isn't done in (most)other fields.

    Now imagine: you're a first year teacher, making $30,000 a year. You spend your entire summer prepping your classroom, coming up with lesson plans. You get to your first day, and you realize that none of your lesson plans are going to work because your tenth grade students CANT READ. You need to work on basic reading skills with them before you can read Hamlet!

    Your kids are so fed up with the beaurocratic system that they take it out on you. In fact, perhaps you have students that throw chairs and desks at you! There's nothing you can do about it, either. This is a public school, all children must be taught.

    You're thrown into a classroom of thirty kids who think they know better than you. You need to establish your authority in the first thirty seconds or you're toast.

    Your administration doesn't support you. It's sink or swim. That's how they weed out the keepers.

    25% of your student population have Individual Education Plans (IEPs - special Ed). If you do not cater to these individual plans... well, you'd just better. Nobody to help you there, either, to tell you if you're doing it right. There's one SpEd teacher and her caseload is too big as it is.

    You need to stay up every night until midnight correcting 100 papers (when else do you think this happens?) So there goes your social life. Oh, and don't forget to write out those lesson plans, make sure your standards, instruction and assessment align to the curriculum, get those grades in weekly, send out biweekly progress reports (or daily progress reports to those students whose parents request them), answer those emails in a timely fashion, curriculum mapping, that new program your school is trying to implement, posting the daily homework onto the websites, researching the websites you use in class to make sure they're appropriate...

    Stay after school to tutor those children that need help in your class

    Come early to work to get the photocopier

    Buy your own materials - you think the school provides those markers?

    15 minutes (if you're lucky) for lunch

    Don't forget your duties - hall duty, bathroom duty, lunch duty, study hall, bus duty - they take up one prep a day. Those arent paid.

    Your other prep - those are spent in meetings with your principal, department head, SpEd team, parents, DSS... Absolutely no time to actually prep for tomorrow. That's done tonight at home.

    None of this is paid of course. You get paid from 7:30 to 2:30. Any other time is your time. Not paid.

    MAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYBE you'll get weekends off - but probably you need a part time job - because, honesetly, thirty gs just don't quite cover your mortgage, nevermind feed your kids.

    Oh then there are the parents. YOU think your kid is the best and brightest and deserves the teacher's sole attention, don't you? Yeah? Now there are 100 of those calling you every week. What's Jonny's grade? Why'd he get an 80 on this? Well can't he stay after school and do his homework with you? Why did Sally get a detention? Well she can't stay after school for a detention, I don't care that she walked out of the room without permission and you're responsible for her and if anything happened to her when she walked out of the room you'd be in trouble. She can't stay absolutely no, it wasn't her fault anyways she really needed to get a drink. Well sometimes it takes twenty minutes to get a drink.

    God forbid you get a helicopter parent that corners you during parent conferences and screams at you in front of everyone because little Matthew just could NOT have done what you said he did, I should know I'm his father and I raised him better than that so clearly you're lying OR it's your fault he did it.

    Yeah... switch careers. Become a teacher. That'll be really good for the kids, I'm sure they'll learn a lot from people who aren't trained for years to deal with the things we deal with.

    I've never seen a career switcher last for more than two years. Never even heard of one.

  • Mike
    7-29-2009 @1:38PM
    Mike said...
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    Kids are assholes

  • Mr. Miagi
    9-27-2009 @11:35PM
    Mr. Miagi said...
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    Obviously none of you complaining about teacher pay live in southeast Michigan. While you may have to start at only 38-50K depending on the district - you will soon earn much more. Poor paying districts pay a master's over 80k and several pay over 90K.

    Coach a sport, tutor, yearbook, etc and you can easily make over 100K. Of course we still also give the best healthcare coverage (while teaching and through retirement), pension, etc.

  • valley
    9-26-2009 @4:12PM
    valley said...
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    well i do agree that blogging here for jobs is pretty tacky try it in another froum , as for Teaching The classroom is pretty scary to me but try being s BUS Driver in a Gang Related area of the town you work in NOW thats a JOB trust me..BUT its what i do.....I do enjoy my job but i am starting to rethink after 23 years of driving kids around ....

  • Ms. Smith
    9-30-2009 @6:29AM
    Ms. Smith said...
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    I am interested in getting info on your occupation . Please email me.

    Ms. Smith

  • DawnAshley
    9-30-2009 @8:27AM
    DawnAshley said...
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    Yeah id love that gravy job. Work half the year ( 182 days)
    Summers off, all holidays off. spring break. christmas break,less than 5 hours a day. Full paid medical, Retirement, Tenured so you cannot be fired. Where eles can you get that and then graduate kids that cannot spell or add. ?

  • Crystal
    9-30-2009 @8:52AM
    Crystal said...
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    I'm a teacher and I am sure that they've somehow managed to skew the median teacher wage... there's no way that's the average!!

  • pablophil
    9-30-2009 @9:36AM
    pablophil said...
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    If you start teaching late, BE AWARE if you are in one of the 13 or so NON-SOCIAL-SECURITY states. If you are, and get vested in a teacher pension plan(usually after ten years) YOU WILL LOSE YOUR RIGHTS TO SOCIAL SECURITY that you earned in the private sector. Know what you are gettting into!

  • barblam1
    10-10-2009 @9:18AM
    barblam1 said...
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    I taught in New York for 10 years and in New York I was treated like a professional. I now live in North Carolina and got my first teaching job 2 months ago and I HATE IT!!! Not only am I paid 1/2 what I made 8 years ago in NY, but I work ALL DAY without a lunch break (true- we must spend our lunch break in the cafeteria with our classes), and what SHOULD be my prep-period most days has a meeting of some sort. We MUST cover after school detention for 1 1/2 hours with NO compensation and I got chewed out twice this week for having the audacity of getting the flu and being new- using the online sub-service wrong. AND not 1 person, administrator or fellow slave- uh, I mean teacher, has as much as called or E-mailed to see how I am. I get paid nothing (with a Masters Degree), am sick as a dog and have NO SUPPORT. NONE!!!

    However, NY HAS A TEACHER'S UNION and I would work there anyday.

  • LuLu
    10-10-2009 @10:21AM
    LuLu said...
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    Get your tacky, crappy ad off this site. No one cares!

  • Narda
    10-10-2009 @11:19AM
    Narda said...
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    yes, money in business is enormous. However, the inner joy that a teacher feels after a day's work is priceless because when you reach home to sleep,you are truly rested because you made a difference even for just a day!

  • Spaz
    10-10-2009 @3:08PM
    Spaz said...
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    this comment forum is to comment about the story NOT to advertise your own shit! pay for the ads elsewhere!

  • Susan S..
    10-13-2009 @8:51AM
    Susan S.. said...
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    I changed careers by deciding to work at home to be with my children. I have worked from home for more than 10 years. It was the best decision that I ever made. Big companies such as Hilton and AT&T are cutting costs by hiring home workers. Cable/phone and hotel companies usually hire home workers for customer service. Also, the TV shopping shows hire homeworkers to take calls. You just know how to find these jobs. ( ) has a FREE list of hundreds of LEGITIMATE work at home jobs offered by well known companies. These jobs do NOT cost you money. They are employment positions. You will need to cut and paste the above link for it to work. Good luck to all that are looking for employment.

  • Sarabeth
    10-13-2009 @3:49PM
    Sarabeth said...
    vote upvote downReport Neutral

    Find a GREAT Work from Home Job without having to deal with all the scams and gimmicks by using the Scam and Gimmick Free Work from Home Jobs Database! Real Work from home jobs available right now! Start applying by going to

  • Ralph
    10-13-2009 @5:53PM
    Ralph said...
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    Like Major Pete said: How about not using these blog sites for your commercial advertising? That's pretty tacky.

    I agree with the Major! Go spam like everybody else!

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