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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

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Reader Comments (Page 4 of 87)

  • jj
    6-28-2009 @10:14PM
    jj said...
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    I agree with you. I just moved away from arizona and I find it almost comical that they have any mention at all for teachers, considering I have a family vested in teaching there, and they have cut back left and right and let go hundreds of teachers regardless of enrollment. It is just not the truth. The jobs are NOT available and with all the government cut backs on education I dont see any promise of it getting better or any opportunity for teachers. How sad that our future generations are getting less of an education than they should because of legislature and budgets. I think somewhere we lost sight of the future of our children and ourselves, as they are our future. Sad.

  • Eric
    6-28-2009 @10:58PM
    Eric said...
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    excellent point. I am a 15 year restaurant general manager with tons of business leadership experience, but here in Metro Atlanta and nearby Alabama, teachers are getting let go and not having their contracts renewed. Ga. even has a program for industry folks like me who want to become teachers, called Ga. TAPP program, but there is talk of not even having it next year. Everyone I've talked to said substitute teaching is THE best way to get in the door, but its such a random thing and cut in pay, and even then, unemployed certified teachers are taking those spots now subbing. Ive been finishing my B.S. in Finance this Spring, after ten years!!! (takes a while when you work 60-70 hr weeks, and now I'm afraid teaching opportunities won't be there...there's always banking!

  • low paid special education teacher
    6-28-2009 @10:53PM
    low paid special education teacher said...
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    I agree. The pay in my district with a master degree is $37,613. This is low considering you have to start paying back those loans as well as bill/family expenses.

  • Stephanie
    6-29-2009 @12:20AM
    Stephanie said...
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    You are absolutely correct. I have an MBA, MSHRDA and am part way through my M.Ed. in Special Ed. There is NO way in FL fresh out of any education major that you would be paid so highly.

  • Kim
    6-28-2009 @11:18PM
    Kim said...
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    Wow!!! I have been teaching in rural Iowa for over twelve years and only make in the mid 30's......I don't know where they are getting their information. The teaching field is also suffering from major cut backs, effects directly related to the No Child Left Behind legislation, and communities that are suffering due to the unemployment atmosphere in various areas. Please understand that teachers not only are not paid enough, they are also not respected enough in our society. Yes, we neeed good teachers and it is wonderful to recruit people in our field; but remember to be honest about what the benefits will be in education.

  • Robin, MS, MCJ, US Army (Retired)
    6-28-2009 @11:47PM
    Robin, MS, MCJ, US Army (Retired) said...
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    Why would you WANT to be a part time teacher? You must have SOME brains since you claim to have two Master's degrees. Oh! It must be because you have idiot liberal arts degrees, history and some other field that is only decent for academia. If even low paying districts don't want you, it must be because you are not the greatest teacher around. I recommend that you RUN AWAY from that field. You could make more as a Wal-Mart employee.

  • Robin Hauck
    6-28-2009 @11:34PM
    Robin Hauck said...
    vote upvote downReport Neutral

    Why would you WANT to be a part time teacher? You must have SOME
    brains since you claim to have two Master's degrees. Oh! It must be
    because you have idiot liberal arts degrees, history and some other
    field that is only decent for academia. If even low paying districts
    don't want you, it must be because you are not the greatest teacher
    around. I recommend that you RUN AWAY from that field. You could
    make more as a Wal-Mart employee.

  • starving teacher
    6-28-2009 @11:37PM
    starving teacher said...
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    Amen! Jobs are being cut right and left... :O(

  • RUKidding
    6-28-2009 @11:38PM
    RUKidding said...
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    You are absolutely right. I have an MA in English and can't even get a job subbing. And even if I did, the salary wouldn't match my pension as a retired cop, which, incidentally, I would have to forgo over regulations regarding "double-dipping."

  • geocas
    6-29-2009 @12:02AM
    geocas said...
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    Depends on where you are. The DC metro area is growing. A number of the highest paid districts are in my area. Integrating the Internet keeps a teacher in demand.


  • Robin Hauck
    6-28-2009 @11:47PM
    Robin Hauck said...
    vote upvote downReport Neutral

    Why would you WANT to be a part time teacher? You must have SOME
    brains since you claim to have two Master's degrees. Oh! It must be
    because you have idiot liberal arts degrees, history and some other
    field that is only decent for academia. If even low paying districts
    don't want you, it must be because you are not the greatest teacher
    around. I recommend that you RUN AWAY from that field. You could
    make more as a Wal-Mart employee.

  • Lydia
    6-29-2009 @12:02AM
    Lydia said...
    vote upvote downReport Neutral

    You are absolutely correct!!!!!

  • mark
    7-19-2009 @12:01PM
    mark said...
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    Thank you, salaries for teachers are horrible and maybe 3 states pay well but not in the other states! This is why teachers are leaving and young students are not going into education. To get a masters you have to pay approx $10,000 of your own money and will not be reimbursed. Do not mislead people on this, teaching is noble but not profiable and will face a crisis soon.

    6-29-2009 @12:35AM
    FLILGUY said...
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    I think you are correct. Teaching is secure if you are already teaching. There will be more retire in the next few years. But the income and availability will vary from state to state.

  • dee
    6-29-2009 @12:53AM
    dee said...
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    This article is BS. I can tell you for a fact. My daughter just graduated with a 3.79 7yr gpa, taught the last two years at her college to help pay the bills while in school. She won teacher of the year this past semester and now has a fine arts degree. All of the people that graduated with her have not been able to find a job. My daughter did get a job in a university in Miami but it is by the class. She gets 12 hours a week. No medical NO benefits and is on a class by class basis. Who knows what will happen? She feels lucky being she got something even tho it's not much its better than her classmates. In south Florida, they just dumped over 340 teachers. 5000 students have been turned away from starting college this year because the colleges dont have the money to pay the teachers. NO money came from the gov that was promised. Nothing is fair out there and this story really burns me up. There are few jobs out there and for everyone that turns up there are 1000s trying to get it.

  • Another Unemployed Teacher
    6-29-2009 @1:00AM
    Another Unemployed Teacher said...
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    You are so right about this article being bogus. I am certified to teach secondary social studies, elementary, and students with disabilities. I have three certifications and have been trying to find a teaching job since 2003. I have applied to 44 districts. People who want to change careers should look elsewhere. I would suggest nursing. It is much easier to find employment.

  • Lorraine
    6-29-2009 @1:58AM
    Lorraine said...
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    You are so right!!! I just retired from Law Enforcement, went back to school to finish my teaching degree and found that you only make 31000.00 here in Hawaii, and they want you to stay until 5 or 6 at night. It is hardly worth it. Parents don't really have much concern anymore.

  • Ltpar
    6-29-2009 @2:00AM
    Ltpar said...
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    To Unemployed History Teacher - You didn't say where you are. My suggestion is to get out of Podunk, USA (if that's where you are) and get to a large city in your region. Inner City Schools are always looking for qualified teachers and some areas don't pay too badly. Do some research and find areas of the country that are growing in population. They also need good teachers.

  • Van
    7-01-2009 @3:42PM
    Van said...
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    I am a teacher in L.A. and we have not had a raise in seven years. I have been been with LAUSD for sixteen years and have never had a cost of living raise. Beverly hills school district may have higher salaries but not this district. If you hold a degree in Math, Science or Special education you can find a job.

  • Marcia
    6-29-2009 @2:14AM
    Marcia said...
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    I have a master's degree and was teaching last year part time jobs at two local colleges and unable to support myself.
    NOW I am teaching in India and this is the place to be. I have motivated students even though I make only $400 USD per month I pay for nothing else.

    This is a wonderful experience I wouldn't trade for the world~!

  • 1728 comment(s) / 87 page(s)

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