Beyond the Classroom: Career Options for Teachers

Beyond the Classroom: Career Options for Teachers
Margaret Steen April 3, 2017

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Earning a teaching credential can help prepare you as a classroom teacher. But sometimes we’re in need of a career change. Although it can be scary to navigate the unknown, there’s good news: your training, on-the-job experience, and subject matter expertise all amount to an array of transferable skills that are highly sought after in other arenas.  Here are some tips to help you approach a possible career change.

Assess your skills

Many of the skills teachers use every day are in demand outside of traditional classrooms. Teacher training — not to mention working as a teacher — offers plenty of opportunities to gain skills that many professions need.

  • Interpersonal skills: Think of the range of personalities you’ve encountered from working with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators. Chances are you’ve collaborated, strategized, supported, and worked through conflicts.
  • Project management: Teachers might not call it project management, but you have experience as a project manager if you’ve: kept track of students’ work, progress, and records, designed and executed a variety of projects and lesson plans, and made time for long-term planning and analysis.
  • Goal setting and evaluating: Much of teaching revolves around setting goals, analyzing data, determining how those goals were achieved, and creating a data-driven action plan.
  • Advising and counseling: Your work in this area may have been informal, but you could use it as a starting point to explore a similar position.
  • Presentation and communication skills: Teaching is, at its heart, learning to engage, inspire, and effectively communicate all day long — with students, parents, and colleagues.
  • Writing and research: If you’re in a field that’s writing and/or research-intensive, you can transfer those skills to other jobs. Explore other options that utilize your expertise. Here are a few examples: editor, lab technician, curriculum specialist, museum educator, or corporate trainer.
  • Problem solving: Teachers constantly have to think on their feet, dealing with students’ academic, social, emotional, and physical needs and struggles. Issues involving parents and staff are common occurrences as well. Many employers look for professionals who are quick to implement preventative measures, follow protocol, document situations, and handle problems with care and attention to detail. Many teachers do all of that naturally because you’re so accustomed to it. Now is the time to step back and recognize those natural abilities.

Consider jobs related to education

Pursuing an education related job would provide the smoothest career change, carrying over much of your experience. Some of these jobs may be in school districts; others may be in organizations that support education, or in educational roles in other industries. Here are some career shifts worth considering.

  • Educational leadership: One way to leave the classroom is to climb the ladder — even within your own district. A first step may be becoming an assistant principal, for example.
  • Online teaching: For teachers who are tired of the classroom but still want to engage with students, online teaching represents a real opportunity, said Candace Alstad-Davies, founder and owner of A+ Resumes for Teachers and a career coach for teachers.
  • Instructional coach: Many school districts have teachers who coach or mentor other teachers. They often specialize in a particular subject, such as math or English. Some districts also have teachers who work with other teachers to bring technology into the classroom.
  • Educational publishing and curriculum development: Textbook publishers are branching out from just printed books, offering opportunities in interactive media and other areas. They need curriculum and subject matter experts to help create these materials.
  • Data analysis: As more detailed data on each student’s performance becomes available, more schools are slicing and dicing the information. If you enjoy numbers, this could be an interesting career shift.
  • Consulting: your teaching experience might be useful as an education consultant by offering advice to individuals and firms based on your experience in teaching.
  • Organizational development, child psychology, or counseling: These fields may require additional education and are not as directly connected to teaching. But they still draw on skills many teachers have developed.

Shift your mindset

Getting into the right mindset for a career change can require a change in thinking. If you do decide to make a big change, be prepared to ask for help — and be patient. Know that it may take longer than you think and there might be a steeper learning curve than you expected. Consider job shadowing, conducting an informational interview, doing an internship, or going back to school to earn an advanced degree that will help you explore other career paths and expand your skillset.

There are many different ways to parlay your experiences, interests, and strengths into a new position that excites you, and now you’re one step closer to figuring out what that is.

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