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Find Your Teacher Career Path (Guide)
Learn how your decision to step into education sets you up to pursue varied and exciting career paths.
Find Your Teacher Career Path (Guide)
Learn how your decision to step into education sets you up to pursue varied and exciting career paths.

Many people don’t realize that becoming a teacher can be the first phase of a career with many options and opportunities. We break down the different jobs teachers can fill into five main categories with examples of each and what the position entails. Where will teaching take you?

5 Career Paths for Teachers in 2020

Educators have great careers in more roles than many people realize. Here are the diverse jobs you could get with a teaching degree or certification.

1

Master Teacher

2

School Leadership

3

Education Products

4

Policy & Advocacy

5

Higher Ed

Become a Master Teacher

“I would get to dance in a flash mob, attend Malala Yousafzai’s speaking tour, soar across fields on a zipline, scale a high-ropes course, write scripts for and perform in awareness-raising cabaret shows...Who knew that this was a part of teaching?”—Meghan Hatch-Geary, English teacher

Roles in the Classroom

Hone your skills, build expertise and help fellow educators in their journey. As you become a seasoned teacher with skills to share with others, you can grow professionally without having to fully give up the opportunity to remain in the classroom working with students directly.

Act as the liaison to the administration on behalf of the group; set up and facilitate regular meetings to collaborate on curriculum, assessment and policies; provide support to the other teachers and help to create a positive atmosphere.

  • Grade-level Chair

    Act as the liaison to the administration on behalf of the group; set up and facilitate regular meetings to collaborate on curriculum, assessment and policies; provide support to the other teachers and help to create a positive atmosphere.

  • Master Teacher

    Help create a professional community of support and growth; share and model best practices, provide coaching to new teachers, open your classroom for observations and advise school or district leaders.

  • Instructional Specialist

    Become a literacy or math specialist and support other teachers at your school by modeling great instruction, providing coaching, helping with instructional planning and facilitating skill-building sessions.

  • Advanced Certification

    Go back to school to earn another degree or join an elite network of expert teachers by earning National Board Certification.

Lead a School or District

“Because colleges value high school performance above all else in admissions criteria, I want to make sure minority and low-income students get the mathematics instruction that allows them to enter higher education, no matter their background.”—Amanda Guy, math teacher

Roles in School Leadership

Thrive in leadership roles at your school. The opportunity to grow beyond your classroom responsibilities are numerous. Your professional path may expand into positions where you oversee everything from the budget to the performance of the entire teaching staff.

Advocate for students in all areas, including academic achievement, social development, preparation for college and future careers.

  • Counselor

    Advocate for students in all areas, including academic achievement, social development, preparation for college and future careers.

  • Mentor Teacher

    Mentor a student teacher who is still in training or an early-career teacher, and help them with anything and everything by co-teaching, coordinating joint or reciprocal observations, providing feedback, co-planning and more.

     

  • Teacher Coach

    Through observation of classroom practices, provide evidence-based guidance to help fellow teachers achieve improvement in certain areas.

  • Principal

    Set an academic vision and supervise staff to reach it; build culture and establish relationships with students and parents; provide professional development plans for teacher growth.

    Some schools have assistant principals too who report to the principal and assist in realizing a shared vision for success.

  • Dean of Students

    Work with others, including counselors, nurses, parents and the principal on behalf of student interest while helping to create a positive school climate. Especially in today’s higher education world, the Dean of Students role may be “more central than ever” (1).

Develop Education Products and Services

“My teacher experience has helped me as an organizational leader, too. Teachers fundamentally care about developing their people—their students. I do that now, but it’s with my staff not students. You need to grow your people if you want to grow an organization.”—Ellen Moir, founder and executive director of New Teacher Center

Roles in Education Services

The skills you learn as a teacher can prepare you to develop products and services for teachers and schools. Whether you balance multiple ventures while teaching or decide to apply your skill elsewhere, teaching will prepare you to excel. Consider these few paths as a sampling of possible opportunities.

Create an organization that produces solutions and products to address an unmet need, like Patty Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Deep Space Sparkle, who sought to bring “beauty and ease into a teacher’s daily practice” (2).

  • Startup Founder

    Create an organization that produces solutions and products to address an unmet need, like Patty Palmer, co-founder and CEO of Deep Space Sparkle, who sought to bring “beauty and ease into a teacher’s daily practice” (2).

  • Social Entrepreneur

    See a societal issue that needs attention and lead an organization to help create movement and social change. 

     

  • Account Manager

    Use the relationship management skills you hone in teaching to build relationships and manage portfolios of work in a variety of sectors.

  • Analyst

    Use your analytical skills and problem-solving capabilities to tackle and make sense of hard problems.

  • Sales Lead

    Take the persuasive skills necessary in teaching and apply them to any sales job.

Work in Policy or Advocacy

“I'm optimistic that, as a country, there is a realization that the success of our public education system is so central to our long-term future that we cannot afford to slide backwards.”—Dr. John B. King Jr., former teacher, principal and U.S. Secretary of Education

Roles in Advocacy

Further your commitment to education by sharing what you know with new audiences. Your career may naturally lead to a role where you are advocating for an issue, pursuing policy positions and/or moving into academic research. Here are a few opportunities that you may consider.

There are a number of policy positions that you might consider at a mayor’s office, a County Office of Education, a State Education Agency, U.S. Department of Education or the legislative branches at the state or federal level. In these roles, you may help research and inform educational policy decisions.

  • Policy Staff

    There are a number of policy positions that you might consider at a mayor’s office, a County Office of Education, a State Education Agency, U.S. Department of Education or the legislative branches at the state or federal level. In these roles, you may help research and inform educational policy decisions.

  • Teacher Advocate

    Many organizations exist to ensure educator's voices are heard and considered as decisions are made about education—one example is Educators for Excellence (E4E).

  • Union Leader

    Sometimes full-time or sometimes alongside your teaching responsibilities, serve with your union in leadership roles (typically elected) to address teacher complaints, negotiate contracts and serve as a liaison between your school and the union.

  • Research Analyst

    Develop research in support of education research, evaluation and statistics. As a research, you’ll provide technical assistance and evaluation services to support student success.

  • Policy Fellow

    Fellowship positions allow you to deepen your knowledge in a particular area, such as educational policy or practice, and serve for a fixed period. Some fellowships you may be qualified for as a teacher include TeachPlus and US Department of Education fellowships

Become an Education Leader

“I knew I wanted to dive into activism, but I didn't necessarily look at education and teaching as activism. Now, I know better. It is the best way to demonstrate activism in a sustained way in a pervasive way.”—Sharif El-Mekki, Founder and CEO, Center for Black Educator Development

Roles in Higher Education

Many teachers move on from K-12 classes to teach higher ed courses at colleges and universities.

As an experienced educator, you can transition into a teaching role at a college or university. You might train new teachers or administrators in classroom best practices or teach in your content area with a focus on how to plan engaging lessons. 

Most professor positions require a PhD, so you may choose to work towards your advanced degree while you're teaching, or apply to your school district for a sabbatical to begin your doctorate.

  • College Professor

    As an experienced educator, you can transition into a teaching role at a college or university. You might train new teachers or administrators in classroom best practices or teach in your content area with a focus on how to plan engaging lessons. 

    Most professor positions require a PhD, so you may choose to work towards your advanced degree while you're teaching, or apply to your school district for a sabbatical to begin your doctorate.

  • Researcher

    With an advanced degree, you may begin a career in education research. What does a researcher do? Study the big questions that help improve education for all. 

    What is the best class size for learning? How do young children respond to digital learning tools? Which programs support English language learning? What is the best learning environment for students with disabilities? 

    Develop research plans, conduct a study and publish your results to help educators and students. 

  • Teacher Training Administrator

    To become a teacher, you'll need to attend a teacher training program. Of course, these programs need dedicated staff and leaders. If you enjoy teaching other teachers, you may want explore the different models of teacher training and work towards a career in teacher leadership at the college level.

    Some training and support programs work with teachers in a specific field, subject area or location to improve education in high needs areas. 

Job Prospects

Teachers are always in high demand, regardless where the job market stands. Education Corner states overall teacher employment is expected to increase by 5% across the U.S. in 2018-2018 (3). Post-secondary teachers are expected to see the highest growth in job opportunities, with a projected 11% increase during the same time period.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, public schools are especially in need of teachers to fill “shortage areas” like math, special education, science, foreign language and English as a Second Language (ESL).

All of this means you’ll have countless job opportunities throughout your career. Learn more about the competitive salary and benefits that come with teaching by clicking below.

Learn More

References

  1. Higher Ed Live, Keep Calm and Let the Dean of Students Handle It
  2. Forbes, How This Former Elementary School Art Teacher Launched A Multimillion-Dollar Startup
  3. Education Corner, Job Outlook for Teachers through 2020