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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 7 of 87)

  • Tom
    7-29-2009 @9:54AM
    Tom said...
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    You need to be nuts to teach in Texas!

    I retired from a corporation to teach, only to find out that I would have to join the TX Teacher Retirement System and lose SS benefits. I was told that there would be a "critical shortage" of teachers due to retirements resulting from the change in SS rules disallowing TX Teachers to collect both from the TRS and SS. There was a mass retirement just prior to the rules taking effect (guess why) and then a mass rehireing of the same teachers obliterating the "critical shortage". Those teachers still collect from both systems eventhough they don't pay into SS (sounds like the deal our Fed. Legisaltors have).

    Also, try asking a recent Texas High School Graduate to add two fractions without a calculator. They'll ask if they can have the question in "multiple choice" format. Try asking them to write the number twelve thousand four hundred and six and be ready for a good laugh. Ask them to read or write something in script!

    The State's standard test, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), is nothing more than a proces comparing the relavent intelligence of Curly, Larry and Moe.

    The National average score on the SAT was for one particular year, around 1050. Texas average score on the SAT was around 980.

    Try teaching to this level of intelligence.

  • Romey
    7-29-2009 @10:25AM
    Romey said...
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    Hi! I read your comment about getting hired in Houston, that's awesome Congratulations! Are you a first time teacher? I will be graduating in Decemeber so I am starting to look into any available mid year positions. I was just curious what district you found hiring? What school will you be teaching at? Thanks, and congratulations again.

  • V
    7-29-2009 @10:41AM
    V said...
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    Florida is laying off people too! They haven't even given us a step increase in 2 years and backed off on a negotiated pay raise that was negotiated with our last contract. (That is in Dade County)

  • Sean
    7-29-2009 @10:50AM
    Sean said...
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    I hope you are not a teacher because you cannot even spell correctly...

  • Jim Ulishney
    7-29-2009 @11:02AM
    Jim Ulishney said...
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    Where can I apply.Going into my 2nd year of being laid off.I live in Michigan and am certified 6-12 Social Studies.Thanks

  • Sophie
    7-29-2009 @11:17AM
    Sophie said...
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    I agree NJ is getting rid of teachers like never before. Salaries a low and benefits are shrinking. Not the best place to be right now.

  • Sam
    7-29-2009 @11:21AM
    Sam said...
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    We just moved to another state and it is the same thing in both. Hiring freezes and layoffs are huge! I totally agree with your statement. 51,000 part? Maybe in a few states but as a seasoned teacher, I am not even close. Take care.

  • goldblattc1217
    7-29-2009 @12:27PM
    goldblattc1217 said...
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    I agree this is the worst article. Denver Public schools is on a hiring freeze it is next to impossible to find a job in Colorado. I am thankful I have a teaching position that I love but know many teachers that don't. Getting paid 51,00 HAHAHAHAHAh. That is the funniest thing I have heard all year. Most teacher I know bareley make over 30,000. Then take taxes off that. This article makes it seem like a dream job. Teaching is hard and you ned to go into it knowing that. Most people teaching for a long time do it because it is their passion. I worked 70 hour weeks my first year.

  • kb
    7-29-2009 @12:49PM
    kb said...
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    I moved down here to NC just in time. They are now laying off 6000 teachers.

  • Michael
    7-29-2009 @1:31PM
    Michael said...
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    YOU are RIGHT. I'm in Arizona and they laid off over a thousand teachers and tney were NOT called back. As usual the "SUITS and SKIRTS' who do not teach classes did not lose their positions. If you really want to get frustrated with everyone telling you how to do your job and what is wrong=TEACHING & Education is the answer...

  • Jannette
    7-29-2009 @1:35PM
    Jannette said...
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    The article did not rank California at the top for job openings, just for highest salary.

  • jose rios
    7-29-2009 @1:47PM
    jose rios said...
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    Laying out THOUSANDS (of teachers)... Yes... for now... but everybody knows that when it comes to making fiscal cuts, education is about the last one to suffer. The truth is that young people keep popping out... year after year, and more and more teachers are needed to fulfill the educational necessities here and troughout the world. Yes, we don't make all the money in the world, but the physical, mental and spiritual level of satisfaction has no equal... plus the medical, dental and vision coverage... and have a mentioned the ultimate joy of summer vacation? No doubt that come every first day of classes in the fall... we are more than ready to go back, rejuvenated and with MANY MORE ideas and resources to continue making a difference, hour after hour, in the young lives of our students... their families... and the world!

  • Rebecca
    7-29-2009 @1:40PM
    Rebecca said...
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    I just graduated with degree in Early Childhood in May. Many of the schools in a 60 mile radius from me are starting back in a week and I have only heard of 16 from my graduating class of around 150 that have a confirmed job. Many schools cannot afford to hire as many teachers as they need right now. One of my friends recieved a job and is only getting $100.00 for her clasroom; that only bought her pencils and a pencil sharpener. She has spent over $2,000 of her own money to get the materials NEEDED for her classroom. Teachers are feeling this economy too. As for me I start graduate school in the fall and I am going continue to hope for a job after I graduate with a masters.

  • CalTeacher
    7-29-2009 @1:53PM
    CalTeacher said...
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    California is making a huge deal about laying off thousands of teachers, but it is just a scare tactic to get more money. most if not all of the "pink slips" were resended and I got hired as did many others uring the "firing scare"

  • Allan
    7-29-2009 @1:50PM
    Allan said...
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    Another teacher that cannot write, " California is laying out", I am interested as to what they are laying out. Please let me know.
    Also, one of "them" what? Do you mean one of them thar teachers ? Lets start our educational reform with teachers that possess solid math and English skills. A person can only teach as much as they know.

  • Dennis
    7-29-2009 @7:01PM
    Dennis said...
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    both of my children are teachers and they are lucky to have daughter worries every year even ater 9 of them

  • Liz
    6-28-2009 @8:12PM
    Liz said...
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    Bull, if you had the passion when you graduated HIgh School, you'd make a great teacher! WHat's up no job in business, tough, ride it out. Kids do not need teachers with a "oh well I'll teach instead". get real folks!

  • D. O.
    7-29-2009 @6:39AM
    D. O. said...
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    I agree. Ministers, too. Seems like all the late-career changers in that field don't really have what it takes. OK...not all, I'm sure. It's just been my experience. Someone with a passion for teaching probably did it a lot earlier than later in life.

  • suhnshyne
    7-29-2009 @7:13AM
    suhnshyne said...
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    I many of them in the field already

  • Caulli
    7-29-2009 @7:34AM
    Caulli said...
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    I agree! I love how they throw teaching around like its a backup job! I teach elem. and I am here to say...IT IS NOT A JOB FOR EVERYONE! It is very hard. First you have to love children!! Second you have to want to come home and work you butt of too. It is not a 8 to 3 job, I am grading, calling parents, Lesson planning for the days ahead. Half the time I am still at school doing all this until 6. I love what I do, but it is frustrating to hear AOL, TIME, whoever describes this job to the rest of the world. Yeah you get summers off, but if you didnt you would go out of your mind!! I live in Florida and we are on a hiring freeze in Duval county and I know most of the state is as well. I don't think whoever wrote this article did their research, or talked to other teachers!

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