Artwork by: Sasha Serdyukova
Thinking about a teaching career as a profession? Read our guide with everything you need to get started as an educator and help shape the lives of the next generation.
We all remember that one teacher who made a great impression and inspired us to succeed. As Benjamin Franklin stated. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn.” If you’re thinking about a teaching career, you couldn’t choose a more rewarding profession that will make a positive impact on many people’s lives.
So how do you get started on a teaching career? What subject would you love to teach? What type of students can you inspire? Which teaching environment would allow you to excel? The opportunities within the teaching profession are diverse and plentiful. So, read our article with everything you need to know, including:
Is teaching a good career?
Teaching career truths
Teaching career pathways
Teaching job opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), location, grade level, and speciality/subject have the greatest impact on teacher salaries. In particular, many schools report shortages of teachers for math, science, ESL, and special education. Check out the recent BLS report for further details on geographic areas and expected salaries.
Other than parents, educators have arguably the second biggest influence on their students’ lives. Teachers enable students to be critical and creative thinkers, as well as life-long learners, so a career in this field can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
Added to that, there are several additional benefits that can mean a win-win in terms of high levels of job satisfaction and great perks. Here’s a selection of these benefits:
Teaching a subject that you are passionate about can be extremely fulfilling. Whether your personal passion is for math, science, languages, or art, this will enable you to to teach something you love as well as inspire, engage, and encourage your students. As an educator, you are shaping the next generation’s future leaders, thinkers, and creators, so the positive impact you can make in this career is huge.
Teaching offers a stable career, with a steady income, great benefits packages, including competitive healthcare and retirement benefits, and additional job security provided by teaching unions. Teachers are typically in demand as education remains a top priority for communities and governments, with additional demand following the recent national teacher shortage.
One major benefit of becoming a teacher is time off as your teaching schedule will broadly follow the school schedule. Most schools operate between August and May, meaning the months of June and July are summer holidays. Added to that, extended breaks are established around major holidays and spring break.
During the summer in particular, this can allow you to relax and recharge, spend time with family and friends, travel, or pursue your hobbies. Summers also offer the opportunity to complete any professional development hours required to maintain your certification or earn some additional income via summer jobs.
While a teaching career has many advantages and rates highly in the top dream career path, it’s good to be aware of the potential drawbacks before you forge ahead.
During the school year, expect to work over eight hours per day. Apart from teaching your students, responsibilities will include grading student papers and homework, liaising with parents, tutoring students, and completing administrative duties. As teachers receive a salary, any additional work completed in the evenings or weekends would not be paid as overtime.
While you may look at the summer vacation and think this will be a two-month holiday, it’s not always the case. Many districts require teachers to attend classes or workshops over the summer to stay current in their field. Some schools operate on a year-round schedule too, so teachers may be required to cover summer classes during June and/or July.
Additionally, preparations for the upcoming year often need to be started ahead of the return to school, such as planning the curriculum, learning new technologies, and decorating the classroom.
Before choosing a degree, it’s a good idea to consider which teaching is a career pathway you would enjoy and excel in. While each teaching role will involve lesson planning, classroom management, progress monitoring, and child safety, there are many differences in terms of the age range, education level, and setting in which you teach.
Here are some popular teaching career pathways for you to consider:
National average salary: $36,450 / yr
Preschool teachers provide education to young children (aged three to five years) to prepare them for attending kindergarten. Teachers create and deliver engaging and age-appropriate activities, with programs focusing on storytelling, art, music, educational play, and physical activities and encouragement in practicing math, reading, and phonics.
Qualifications: Associate’s degree is the minimum requirement for most preschools.
National average salary: $47,478 / yr
If you’re interested in teaching younger children across a variety of subjects, then a role as an elementary school teacher could be the one for you. Elementary teachers deliver education from kindergarten up to fifth grade across core subjects, including reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, and social studies.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree and student teaching experience are the minimum requirement, with public schools also requiring a state license or certification.
National average salary: $49,620 / yr
High school teachers instruct students across grade 9 to 12; they typically teach single grade levels and focus on one specific subject provided via classroom discussions and lectures. Coursework, exams, and projects are the usual methods of educating and assessing student performance. High school teachers can play a major role in a students’ academic success and, as such, this can be an extremely rewarding teaching role.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree, plus student teaching experience and certification are the minimum, with public schools also requiring a state license or certification.
When checking out suitable colleges for your bachelor’s degree, find out if a teacher preparation program can be completed as part of your studies. These are more common if you are majoring in elementary, secondary, or special education. These programs can provide many hours of classroom experience and internship opportunities.
National average salary: $52,177 / yr
An extremely satisfying teaching career to pursue is that of a Special Education Teacher, who works with children with various learning or cognitive disabilities, or emotional or physical impairments. Special education teachers focus on the ongoing growth of their students in conjunction with their special needs, modifying the general education curriculum for each individual student. If you’re a patient, understanding, and empathetic person, this in demand teaching role could be the one for you.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree, with state license or certificate for public schools.
National average salary: $54,079 / yr
School counselors play a vital role, providing assistance and guidance to students across academic, social, or behavioral issues in close collaboration with teachers, educators, staff, and parents. At the middle and high school level, counselors will assist with selecting class schedules, preparation for college, and career planning. In elementary or middle school, they may offer emotional support, complete one-to-one or group counseling sessions, and deliver special awareness events on topics such as bullying or abuse.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in a behavioral, social science, or education field and a master’s degree in school counseling. State license or certification for public schools.
National average salary: $50,554 / yr
Adult education is a unique field where you can play a transformative role in enabling older learners to expand their opportunities. Teaching roles could include instructing adults in core subjects (such as math, English, or history), helping students secure their general education development (GED) certificates, or teaching adult literacy. You can also work in diverse settings, from school districts and community colleges to correctional facilities and non-profits.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement, preferably in education, business, or English, with some schools requiring a Master’s degree.
National average salary: $48,588 / yr
Teaching English as a Second Language is booming and allows you to work with students of all ages and from diverse backgrounds. If you’re passionate about the English language and keen to help non-native speakers improve their lives, this could be a great career path. There are more ESL opportunities in cities with larger immigration populations, whether that is in middle- and high school setting or teaching adults in community colleges. Job opportunities may also arise overseas, with South Korea, Japan, and the Middle East offering good salary options.
Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement (ideally in education or a closely related field) and either TEFL or TESOL certification. TEFL is for teaching English to second-language speakers in an English-speaking country, whereas TEFL is for teaching ESL in a non-English speaking country.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment in teaching roles is projected to grow over the next 10 years. Here are some of the BLS findings in relation to employment growth:
Preschool Teacher - Expected growth of 15 percent from 2021 to 2031
Elementary - Expected growth of 4 percent from 2021 to 2031
Special Education - Predicted increase of 5 percent from 2021 to 2031
Teaching is an extremely rewarding career, where you can make a positive impact on future generations, share your passions, and enjoy variety in your career.
Weigh the pros and cons of a teaching career before taking the plunge. Personal fulfillment, job stability, benefits, and vacation time are all great perks, but they need to be measured against the level of commitment, time, and energy a teaching role requires.
Investigate which teaching career path you would enjoy and excel in. Consider age range, education level, and setting in which you would prefer to teach.
Complete your bachelor’s degree, gain teaching experience, and obtain any required teaching certifications or licenses relevant to get started on your teaching career.
Helen is an experienced freelance writer with a strong background in job search and career advice, in particular resume best practices, interviewing, and personal and professional development. Before Career.io, Helen worked for high-profile recruitment firms and in the field of HR management, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in a potential employee as well as experience in supporting career growth and development.