Teaching Careers and Professional Development

Instructional Coach: Education, Salary, and Outlook

By The Editorial Team

Instructional coaches work with teachers in elementary, middle school, high school, and secondary school settings. They bring years of teaching experience and professional expertise to the table to help teachers learn and implement new strategies and technologies. They also offer support, insight, collaboration, and empowerment based on their own experience and research. Instructional coaches promote the “teachers teaching teachers” model of lifelong learning.

Take a look at this noble and rewarding profession, including what kind of education and experience it requires, how much it pays, and what you can expect to do each day as an instructional coach.

At a glance: instructional coach

The most important aspect of instructional coaching is working with teachers to help them improve their skills and better engage their students. Instructional coaches work with teachers one-on-one and in small groups to address issues they face in the classroom each day.

The varied duties of an instructional coach

Instructional coaches spend most of their time engaged with teachers, but this multifaceted position entails a variety of other duties as well, including:

  • Arranging professional development activities for all teachers in the school
  • Staying on top of changes in state standards and assessments and communicating these to teachers
  • Modeling classroom lessons for teachers
  • Building strong relationships with teachers and administrators
  • Researching new resources and evidence-based strategies for instruction, assessment, classroom management, and student engagement
  • Testing and promoting the latest tools and technologies for teaching
  • Supporting teachers in using student-level data to improve instruction
  • Assisting teachers with developing differentiated lessons, planning and pacing lessons, and implementing best practices to meet all students’ needs
  • Informally observing lessons and providing feedback for teacher growth
  • Assisting with the development of systems and structures to improve school-wide teacher practice and student engagement
  • Attending professional development seminars and workshops for instructional coaches

Instructional coaches help teachers identify their strengths and improve in areas that challenge them. They reach out to all of the teachers in a school, although some teachers may be more receptive than others to being coached. Coaches should have high emotional intelligence so that they don’t take any rejection personally.

Qualities of a successful instructional coach

Not everyone is cut out to be an instructional coach. In addition to the required certifications and qualifications, here’s what a school or district typically looks for in a successful candidate:

  • A proven ability to collaborate and cooperate effectively with colleagues
  • A record of improving student achievement and working successfully with students who have special needs
  • Demonstrated leadership qualities
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • A proven ability to give and receive constructive feedback
  • Demonstrated experience and success in using student data to drive instructional decisions
  • Expert oral and written communication skills
  • Demonstrated evidence of lifelong learning, professional growth, and continued improvement

A successful instructional coach nurtures relationships with teachers and can discern what kind of support a teacher needs without having to be told. Coaches work with both experienced teachers and new ones, all of whom have different needs and challenges in the classroom. The ability to multitask is an essential trait for an instructional coach.

A closer look at instructional coaching: education requirements, salary, and projections

Education requirements for instructional coaches

A master’s degree is required to be an instructional coach. Programs specializing in administration, career and technical education, curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, and educational technology and learning design are best suited for instructional coaches.

Certification requirements for instructional coaches

An instructional coach is a certified and licensed educator, typically with a minimum of five years’ experience teaching in the classroom. A Master of Education degree doesn’t include state certification or licensing. Different states have different certification requirements for teachers.

How much do instructional coaches make?

The salary range for instructional coaching varies widely, depending on the state, type of school, specialty area, and the coach’s education and experience. An instructional coach can make anywhere from $35,000 to $106,500 per year, according to ZipRecruiter. The national average salary for instructional coaching is $64,679, with the majority of coaches making between $52,000 and $72,500 per year. ZipRecruiter points out that the fact that the average pay range varies by just $20,500 could indicate limited opportunities for increased pay or advancement.

Here’s a snapshot of the average salary for an instructional coach:

Job outlook projections for instructional coaches

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, instructional coaching jobs are expected to increase by 6 percent, or 11,500 jobs, between 2018 and 2028, which is about average for all occupations.

One important factor that may affect the job outlook for instructional coaches is that of state and local government education budgets, which are increasingly being slashed. But as schools continue to be held accountable for test scores, they are likely to find the funds they need to hire instructional coaches to help teachers improve student learning and engagement.

Challenges and opportunities for instructional coaches

Instructional coaching is a challenging career, but it comes with a wide range of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Here are some of the pros and cons of being an instructional coach.

Pros:

  • Help teachers improve their skills and effectiveness
  • Improve student learning and achievement
  • Collaborate with others on interesting projects
  • Use your creativity to develop lessons and professional development activities
  • Develop lifelong relationships with other educators
  • Improve your own teaching skills and build on your expertise

Cons:

  • Working with teachers who don’t want to be coached
  • Frustration when others don’t agree with your recommendations
  • Having numerous roles and responsibilities, which may feel overwhelming to some
  • The pressures of being largely responsible for student achievement

Professional development opportunities for instructional coaches

Like teachers, instructional coaches are typically required to participate in professional development and ongoing learning. However, professional development opportunities for coaches vary, depending on budgets and available opportunities. Professional development workshops focus on helping coaches improve their communication skills, build relationships, manage change, and learn new strategies. They also help coaches build a network of supportive colleagues to help reduce feelings of isolation and to serve as a sounding board for ideas.

Professional associations for instructional coaches

While professional associations specifically for instructional coaches are limited, a few organizations can serve as solid resources for coaches, including:

  • The National Association of Extension Program & Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)

Best of the web

The Web is rife with resources for instructional coaches and people who want to become an instructional coach. Here are some relevant blogs and twitter handles that may interest you.

Blogs to read

  • Ms. Houser, written by instructional coach Kristin Houser, is packed with resources and information.
  • Diane Sweeney offers a blog for coaches that focuses on student-centered coaching.
  • Steve Barkley is an educational consultant who offers numerous blog posts and podcasts covering a wide range of topics of interest to coaches.

Twitter handles to follow

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