Teaching & Education Careers

Learn what careers are available in education & explore job, salary, & career outlook information. See what skills and background are needed to pursue your dream career.

There are several careers in education other than teaching, though most non-teaching careers require some teaching experience. There are also options based on the type of degree you have or want to get, an online degree in education or teaching is an option for those who want more flexibility.You have many avenues to become a professional in the field of academia, including alternative licensure or deferred education. Let''s look at some job descriptions for teaching and non-teaching careers in education, including their common entry paths, salary and outlook, as well as helpful skills to develop.

Teaching Careers

From 2008 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Education reported the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs decreased by over 250,000. While schools are reporting fewer classroom vacancies for teachers since 2000, the student-to-teacher ratio has steadily increased during that time. Incentive programs, like loan forgiveness and the TEACH grant program, are designed to get more teachers in the classrooms, particularly for STEM subjects, special education, and inner-city and rural schools.

Educational Paraprofessional

Paraprofessionals, paraeducators, or teaching assistants help teachers in the classroom by providing individual or group aid to students, handling paperwork and administrative tasks, setting up classrooms, and supervising students, all under the direction of the teacher. Paraprofessionals require far less education to enter the field than teachers and don''t have any licensure or certification requirements, though those who work with special education students typically need to pass a competency test.

Elementary School Teacher

From an academic standpoint, elementary school teachers introduce younger kids to reading, writing, math, and sciences. However, they also help students develop social, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills. To become an elementary school teacher you''ll need a bachelor''s degree at a minimum. To work in a public school, you''ll also need to get licensed by your state, which means completing specific education, experience, and testing requirements.

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers are in high demand, and they need specialized training to work with students who have specific needs. In addition to teaching their students, they collaborate with parents, counselors and school administrators to develop curriculum specific to each student. Public school special education teachers need at least a bachelor''s degree with a teaching program specific to special education, classroom experience, and licensure.

Middle School Teacher

Middle school teachers could teach 4th through 9th grade. Some middle schools might have teachers cover all subjects in a single class, but typically teachers focus on one subject, like math, science, or language arts. A minimum of a bachelor''s degree, usually in education or the subject you want to teach, and a teacher education program are needed to qualify for a middle school teaching position. Public school teachers need state certification, though private school teachers don''t.

High School Teacher

High school teachers need a bachelor''s degree and classroom experience. To work in a public school, state licensure is necessary. In addition to a basic teacher certification exam, those who teach a specific subject usually need to pass a subject-matter exam to earn licensure. High schools look for teachers with expertise in the subject they teach, and the major shortages have historically fallen in the areas of math and science. High school teachers are also responsible for preparing students for college and the workforce.

College Professor

At the college level, instructors and professors encourage more individual and critical thinking. These positions require advanced education. With a master''s degree in education or in the subject you''re teaching, you might be able to get a teaching job at a community college; however, positions at the postsecondary level are more competitive than K-12 schools, and a doctoral degree is usually preferred, if not required. Universities require professors to have a doctoral degree, but certification or licensure isn''t necessary to teach at a college or university.

Teacher Salaries

According to the National Education Association, the average starting salary for teachers was $38,617 during the 2016-2017 school year. The top five states with the highest teacher salaries were New Jersey, Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Wyoming. The states where teachers were paid the lowest salaries were Montana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado, and South Carolina. In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provided the national median salaries for teaching careers:

Teacher Certification

Every state has specific standards and academic requirements for teachers and other education professionals in public K-12 schools. To obtain certification to become a teacher, you could earn a bachelor''s or master''s degree in any field of study, though you''ll have to complete a supplemental teaching program that includes classroom experience if you don''t get a degree in an educational field. Certification for non-teaching positions have specific education requirements as well, and they generally include a supervised internship.

After meeting education and experience requirements, you''ll need to take one or more state-approved exams to get a license, certification, or endorsement. Many states administer their own tests, but most also accept national exams, such as Praxis or NEA, which can also allow for state reciprocity if you move to another state that accepts the national exams.

Teaching Skills

While teaching is demanding work, educating the generations of the future can also make it very rewarding work. The following skills can make for highly effective teachers (and other education professionals) at any level:

  • Comfort with technology
  • Ability to relate to students
  • Adaptability and creativity
  • Time and priority management
  • Organization and collaboration
  • Communication and listening

Non-Teaching Careers in Education

If you''re a teacher looking to stay in education but wanting a career change, there are other options to keep you in school. Whether you move laterally, advance to leadership, or completely change direction, your classroom experience will serve you well, since many positions have teaching experience as a prerequisite qualification. Even if you haven''t taught in the classroom, the right experience and degree may still qualify you for a number of these jobs.

School Administrator

School administrators include principals, vice principals, college deans and department heads. Positions at the K-12 level require a master''s degree in programs like educational leadership, and many administrators have a few years of teaching experience. It''s common for colleges and universities to require a doctoral degree for administrator jobs. The job duties of an administrator depend on many factors, such as school size and district as well as the type of school they manage. The work of school administrators extends beyond the school year and are often year-round jobs.

School Counselor

School counselors help students with academic and social problems as well as college and career preparation, which can include teacher and parent collaboration. You''ll need a master''s degree for this type of work, and many school counseling programs include significant counseling experience under the supervision of a licensed counselor. Schools might also require teaching experience or licensure. Working in a public school requires passing an exam for state certification.

School Librarian

In K-12 schools, librarians help students and teachers with library resources and could also be involved in developing school curricula and programs that incorporate instructional technologies. Librarians at colleges and universities offer general library assistance and could help with student and faculty research. A master''s degree is the common requirement, and relevant fields include library science, information science, or library media education.

Non-Teacher Salaries

For those in leadership, support and other non-teaching positions, salaries jump substantially. Some of these positions require teaching experience and a degree specific to the job, such as educational leadership, library science, and school psychology. The BLS reported average salaries for these jobs as of 2017:

Education & Teaching Career Outlook

The U.S. Department of Education has been reporting teacher shortages for several years. The greatest need at the K-12 level is for special education, math and science teachers, as well as teachers in rural and inner-city schools. At the college level, the most growth is expected for teachers of health specialties and nurse educators. The following table outlines the expected job growth for several careers in education:

Education Career Expected Job Growth* Projected Number of New Jobs*
Paraprofessional 8% 109,500
Elementary school teacher 7% 104,100
Middle school teacher 8% 47,300
High school teacher 8% 76,800
Postsecondary teacher 15% 197,800
Special education teacher 8% 33,300
School administrator 8% 19,800
Postsecondary administrator 10% 18,200
School counselor 13% 36,700
Librarian (including school) 9% 12,400
* Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-2026 job outlook projections
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