Teaching Careers Job Opportunities and Salary Potential to College Degrees and Certification

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

Whether instructing preschoolers in their ABC’s, teaching history to middle schoolers, or writing college recommendation letters for graduating seniors, today’s educators hold the key to unlocking potential in our future leaders, artists, businesspeople, scientists, and even the next generation of teachers. If you’re contemplating this career, there are many factors to consider, including who and where to teach, educational and licensing requirements, and salary. Get more information on teaching careers today so you can start making a difference tomorrow.

Career Opportunities in Teaching

Ninety eight percent of educators believe being a teacher is more than just a profession. In a survey conducted by Scholastic, the top reasons cited for joining the field included making a difference in children’s lives, sharing a love of learning and teaching, helping students reach their full potential, and being part of “aha” moments.

Aside from the gratification that comes from instilling knowledge, it’s also a fulfilling and stable career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers can all expect to see a six percent increase in jobs between 2014 and 2024. These teachers also have opportunities for advancement into higher pay categories or leadership roles. Below are more details on potential career paths for teachers.

Preschool Teacher

Over the past few decades the value of early childhood education has become widely apparent. The intellectual, social, and physical development that takes place during this time can be linked to both cognitive maturation and future academic success. Preschool teachers work to prepare students – usually ages 3-5 – for kindergarten by exposing them to ideas and concepts they’ll see again in future classes. These teachers also help students learn how to function in a classroom setting while also targeting language, motor, and social skills through various activities.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 7%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Some employers, such as childcare centers, may only require a high school diploma and certification in early childhood education, while other employers may require at least an associate degree in early childhood education, child development, or a related field

Elementary School Teacher

These teachers work closely with students across core academic disciplines to lay the foundation for future academic success. In this setting, teachers are responsible for nearly all facets of a school’s curriculum, from math to reading and arts and physical education. This allows teachers to play a lasting and personal role in their students’ development.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with some schools or districts mandating specialization in a particular area such as math, science, or English

Middle School Teacher

Middle school teachers build largely upon what was taught in elementary school. Possibly one of the most significant changes from elementary education is that teachers are mostly specialized, teaching one subject rather than the near entirety of the curricula. One specific hurdle for the middle school teacher is learning how to manage the physical and emotional changes students will inevitably experience. Handling these changes within an academic context may make for an especially challenging, but all the more rewarding career.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree in teaching or education, with emphasis in a particular academic area. Certification is also typically required for these roles.

High School Teacher

The four years of high school bring to fruition all the foundational work, culminating in a diploma that can go towards further education or the professional workforce. Apart from teaching their specialized area of study, high school educators play an important role in offering young adults guidance. Whether advising on college choices, career plans, or even the challenges that arise when grappling with the transition to adulthood, the opportunity to make a lasting impact on students during these formative years is substantial.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    At least a bachelor’s degree in teaching, education, or secondary education, with emphasis in a particular academic area. Some states may require a master’s degree in addition to a teaching certification.

Special Education Teacher

Elementary, middle, and high schools all provide special education for students with physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities. Teaching within special education is particularly notable because of the personal dedication the teacher has to the student. Rather than planning one lesson for an entire class, many times these teachers must create individual education plans for each student’s specific needs. Details of a student’s education plan can vary considerably – math and reading could be the focus for one student while speech and communication is prioritized for another.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree in special education and certification is required, though it is common for schools to require a master’s degree in special education

Guidance Counselor

From the burgeoning self-discovery of middle school to the college admission anxieties of high school, guidance counselors have the opportunity to help young adults through exciting, yet stressful, times. Counselors work to address the personal and interpersonal distractions that take away from a school’s academic mission. They also offer guidance in making decisions regarding college, careers, or choosing classes that will look best on a transcript. This career consistently requires a master’s degree along with state certification.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    A master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Most states also require a state-issued credential

Teacher Assistants
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Median Annual Salary: $24,430

  • Education and Training:

    Associate degree in teaching or passage of a state or local assessment

Elementary, Middle, or High School Principals
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Median Annual Salary: $89,540

  • Education and Training:

    Master’s degree in education administration or leadership; experience as a teacher

Instructional Coordinators
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 7%

  • Median Annual Salary: $61,550

  • Education and Training:

    Master’s degree in education or curriculum and instruction; state-issued license; experience as an instructor

Preschool and Childcare Center Directors
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 7%

  • Median Annual Salary: $45,260

  • Education and Training:

    Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education; nationally recognized credentials

School and Career Counselors
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

  • Median Annual Salary: $53,370

  • Education and Training:

    Master’s degree in school counseling or a related field; sometimes requires licensure

Adult Literacy and High School Equivalency Diploma Teachers
  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 7%

  • Median Annual Salary: $49,550

  • Education and Training:

    Bachelor’s or master’s degree and prior teaching experience; English as a Second Language certification

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Salary Numbers for Teachers

With careers spanning from teacher’s assistants to school district superintendents, the salary range for this field is as varied as the number of roles available. Whether just starting out or a seasoned professional, this table provides an idea of salaries you can expect to make.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015

Experience can also impact teacher salaries. Those with just a few years of experience earn less, and in some areas less than the national average, but as teachers put in more years in the classroom, salaries increase.

How Experience Affects Teaching Salaries

Median
Salary
  • Late-Career +34%
  • Experienced +14%
  • National Average $43,000
  • Mid-Career-2%
  • Entry-Level-13%

Source: PayScale.com

Should You Become a Teacher?

Teaching is not for the faint of heart, and it takes a special person to devote their lives to educating children and youth. While the majority of teachers love their jobs, it’s important to ensure you’re well suited to the profession before investing time and money. Here are a few questions to think about before embarking on this career.

Do you like people?

Individuals who enjoy solitary work: stop reading now. Teachers spend every moment of their professional day with people, from students to administrators to fellow teachers to parents.

Can you leave your work at work?

You’ll more than likely need to bring papers home to grade, but can you still maintain boundaries between the classroom and your personal life? Especially for teachers working in disadvantaged areas, finding a balance between caring for your students and caring for yourself is critical for mental health.

Do you enjoy sharing knowledge?

Teachers stand in front of classes for six to eight hours every day, so it’s imperative to find fulfillment in teaching others. Individuals who don’t like being in front of people are likely to burn out quickly.

Are you good at managing your time?

Educators must balance many responsibilities, ranging from organizing lessons and grading assignments to speaking with parents and attending faculty meetings. Individuals who struggle with efficiency will find themselves working far beyond their hours at school.

Are you able to show fairness?

Even if students sometimes seem like they aren’t paying attention, they’re usually very aware of group dynamics. It may be tempting to praise a star student, but it’s important to be inclusive and ensure all learners feel equal amongst their peers.

Required and Preferred Skills

Instruction

Teachers instruct students in how to do something. Whether solving a math equation or analyzing a piece of literature, teachers must be able to convey information in a way that students will understand.

Psychology

Whether working with preschoolers or middle school students, teachers are often responsible for 100 or more students each semester, and each classroom will have its own personality. Knowing how to serve different levels of ability, address problem students, work with different personality types, and encourage good behavior are all vital skills for a teacher.

Administration

In addition to instructing, teachers must be organized graders and planners while managing hundreds of documents.

Communication

Being a clear and confident communicator is important not only in the classroom, but also when speaking to parents about their child’s progress or areas where they may need more instruction.

Photocopiers & Scanners

Printing handouts, quizzes, or exams is a daily activity for teachers.

Monitors

Be they computers or televisions, teachers often use these devices to present educational materials to their classes.

Interactive blackboard

This technology allows teachers to project screens and add markings, or animate their notes.

Presentation software

PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets of class lists are both vital in teaching.

Degree Paths for Aspiring Teachers

Specific academic and certification requirements may vary from state to state but they usually include these steps:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in teaching or education
  • Complete a teacher preparation program – this could be in conjunction with an undergraduate program or a separate master’s in education
  • Complete a state or national certification

Here are some common degree programs in teaching:

Early Childhood or Elementary Education

These programs prepare aspiring teachers to mold the minds of young students. Basic skills like reading and arithmetic are coupled with academic theories and in-class experience to provide the necessary tools for instructing K-8 students. Coursework often includes:

  • Social, Historical, and Philosophical Foundations of Education

  • Literature for Young Children

  • Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction

  • Infant/Toddler Development and Education

  • Assessment of Young Children

  • Promoting Pro-Social Behavior

Secondary Education

A degree in secondary education prepares aspiring teachers for the middle or high school classroom. Students in this program are usually required to emphasize in a particular subject, such as English, history, math, or science. Required coursework may include:

  • Psychology in Teaching

  • Learning and Cognition

  • Adolescent Development

  • Philosophy of Education

  • Education and Social Issues

  • Sociology of Education

Policy, Organization, and Leadership

Colleges may have varying names for this type of degree, but in this program the focus is on the skills and knowledge necessary for effective leadership in a range of educational environments. Topics covered may include policy, leadership, teaching and learning, assessment, cultural diversity, learning theory, and school reform. This program is typically offered at the graduate level. Examples of courses include:

  • History of School Reform

  • Urban Education

  • Innovations in Education

  • School-Based Decision Making

  • Technology for Learners

  • Curriculum Construction

Learning, Design, and Technology

With technology transforming the classroom – as well as our personal lives – many colleges have begun offering technology-focused teaching programs. In these programs, aspiring teachers learn how to develop and evaluate new technology-based learning experiences. Examples of required courses in this degree may include:

  • Foundations of Educational Technology

  • Introduction to E-Learning

  • Strategic Assessment and Evaluation

  • Advanced Practices in Learning Systems Design

  • Integration and Management of Computers in Education

  • Foundations of Distance Learning

Teacher Education and Curriculum

Typically offered as a PhD, this program cultivates a deeper understanding of teaching, curriculum, and instruction. Students in this program will likely analyze curriculum and methods of instruction, come up with ways to improve these processes, and gain a better understanding of teaching theories, practices, and policies. Graduates will be prepared to address pressing issues within P-12 education. Core curriculum may include:

  • Learning Theories

  • Advanced Curriculum Theories

  • Research and Policy in Teacher Education

  • Foundations of Research in Curriculum and Instruction

  • Critical Pedagogy

  • Issues in School Improvement

Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs

In most cases, people enter the teaching profession by completing at least an undergraduate degree program such as those discussed above. However, according to the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, alternative preparation programs are now offered in almost every state, through institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, state education agencies, and other partnership organizations. These programs are ideal for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in a different area and some work experience, such as career changers. In general, these programs focus more on pedagogy. This route allows you to begin an internship or probationary teaching position as long as you progress through the program and earn your initial teaching credential; in other words, can you start teaching almost immediately, provided you meet all program admission requirements. Other program requirements can include mentoring or supervision by a licensed teacher and/or fulfillment of a certain number of teaching hours, depending on the state.

Specializations

Individuals pursuing degrees in education have opportunities to specialize their knowledge at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, although the majority of specialization tracks are concentrated in advanced degree programs. The following list highlights some of the most popular concentrations available.

Special education

Nearly half a million special education teachers were employed in America in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it a significant niche for work opportunities. Students selecting this specialization learn about the range of disabilities and how to use alternative methods of teaching to present lessons effectively.

Music education

Aside from becoming more proficient in their instruments, students in these programs learn how to teach music to others via theory, group lessons, and individual sessions. Specializing in this area can be highly rewarding – studies found that schools with music programs – and teachers – see 90 percent of their students graduate, while those without have a 73 percent graduation rate.

Gifted/Talented education

Educators who want to work with the best and brightest often choose this path, which helps them develop a toolbox for creating engaging and advanced lesson plans. Aspiring educators also learn about assessments and strategies for bringing out a child’s talents. K-12 students in the gifted category currently make up six to ten percent, or three to five million, of all learners.

English as a second language

Immigrants comprised more than 14 percent of the American population in 2013, creating a wealth of job opportunities for teachers with this skill set. ESL programs help educators develop teaching skills in reading, writing and listening to serve a variety of students. This specialization is particularly valuable for teachers working in inner-city schools.

Other Requirements for Employment

Following the successful completion of a bachelor’s degree, nearly every state requires prospective teachers to pass a standardized test to obtain licensure. Each state has its own criteria for certification, which means examination requirements vary from state to state.

Apart from state-specific testing, more than 40 states use the Praxis I and Praxis II exams to evaluate the knowledge of prospective teachers. Praxis I is the more generally used assessment, assessing the basic reading, writing, and mathematical aptitude of the aspiring teacher. The Praxis II test can assess many different subject areas and states differ on the combination of disciplines tested for certification. Depending on the degree program or state, these tests can be used as a prerequisite for full teacher certification or successful passage can simply allow a student to progress into the student-teacher portion of their degree.

Where Teachers Work

It’s most common to think about teachers walking the halls of elementary, middle, and high schools, yet the roles available to them expand far wider than these settings. The following list highlights some of the common and not-so-common places a teacher may find employment.

Charter schools

Teachers working in these alternative education settings frequently have more autonomy when planning their lessons but have higher standards they must ultimately meet. Charter schools receive public funds but operate independently, meaning they must prove their mettle to continue receiving funding. Teachers who enjoy working outside the box are often drawn to these environments.

Preschools

These settings allow teachers to maintain a classroom environment but work with a younger population. Because little ones often require more hands on attention, class sizes tend to be smaller and an assistant is usually on hand.

HeadStart or daycare

While it’s less likely you’ll have an assistant, teachers in these early childhood roles care for and provide life lessons to young children, typically while mommy and daddy are at work. Although they may pay less than a K-12 position, it depends on the employer. Public school system roles offer similar salaries as grade school teachers, while private settings may offer lower pay.

Online teaching

Whether teaching the children of expats or students living in remote areas, online K-12 instruction is a growing industry that also allows teachers to work from home. Much like the traditional classroom environment, these roles require a lot of work outside teaching hours.

Youth detention centers

Teachers with a heart for at-risk teens may want to consider teaching GED, SAT/ACT or life skills courses to youth who have made mistakes but want to turn their lives around.

Tutoring

Many parents seek additional instruction in subjects where children are struggling, or in a topic that isn’t offered at their school. Whether leading an after-school math tutoring session or providing private violin lessons, these roles allow teachers to tailor their schedules and choose working hours suited to their lifestyles.

Teaching Job Hunting Resources

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, of the nearly 3.5 million teachers working in public and private schools, more than 25 percent changed jobs from one school year to the next. Whether already in the field or looking for your first job, the job boards below provide information about countless teaching opportunities throughout the country.

  • EDJOIN.org

    Because teaching jobs are filled at the district and school levels, many openings are listed on individual district or school sites. The California Department of Education, for instance, points users to EDJOIN.org for current openings.

  • Education Week – TopSchoolJobs

    A part of Education Week, TopSchoolJobs features posts for various teaching roles and administrative positions. Applicants can also find teaching, resume, and interview tips.

  • Go Overseas

    Finding reliable information about going – and working – abroad is challenging. Go Overseas’s mission is to help travelers find the right resources to create meaningful experience abroad, whether studying, working, or volunteering. The site features a database of teaching job opportunities in various countries around the world.

  • HigherEdJobs

    HigherEdJobs connects education professionals with jobs at colleges, from small liberal arts schools to large public universities.

  • National Association of Special Education Teachers

    NASET is a membership organization dedicated to teachers in the field of special education. Find resources and the latest job listings in under the Career Center tab.

  • NYC Department of Education

    NYC is in need of great and passionate teachers. Applicants can find more information on teaching in New York as well as access the Department of Education’s online teacher application to apply for a position.

  • SFUSD

    Those looking to teach in the San Francisco, can find plenty of opportunities. Find teaching and administrative openings as well as more information on SF school districts.

  • Teachers-Teachers.com

    Over 2,000 employers across the U.S. post teaching job openings on this free job hunting site.

  • TeachingJobs.com

    This is the only K-12 teaching job site that is dedicated to place educators in science, technology, engineering, and math jobs.

Internships for Aspiring Teachers

Often called the backbone of society, teachers are on the front lines of educating future generations and teaching them both basic and advanced skills. The first day a new teacher steps into their classroom they are responsible for classroom management, lesson planning, establishing rules, grading papers, meeting with parents, and interacting with other educators. Internships help ease student-teachers into these demanding roles and provide a toolbox for addressing the many duties they’ll take on when they walk into their first class.

Breakthrough Collaborative Teaching Internship

Location: 33 locations throughout the U.S.A.

College students have the opportunity to teach middle school students in underserved areas while learning how to plan lessons, develop effective teaching techniques, and motivate their classrooms.

CollegeSpring

Location: California and New York

Undergraduate education students serve as mentors to high school students from low-income areas preparing to take the SAT/ACT.

Noyce Mathematics Internship

Location: Virginia

VT offers this spring break internship, allowing students who plan on teaching math to spend a few weeks in the local county school system and gain experience.

Phillips Exeter Academy Teaching Internship

Location: New Hampshire

Every year this private high school takes applications from juniors, seniors, and graduate students who aspire to teach. Six to eight are chosen for a summer school teaching internship.

Practice Makes Perfect Internship

Location: New York City

PMP selects 50 college students for an eight-week summer intensive working with minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Those selected also learn about the challenges and triumphs of working in an inner-city classroom.

Professional Associations & Organizations

Professional teacher organizations not only give educators a place to come together to discuss common topics, they also serve as advocates at the state and federal levels to enact change and progress. Many teachers take advantage of professional development opportunities and annual conferences to sharpen their skillsets. Some of the top teacher groups are highlighted below.

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Association of American Educators

AAE is the larger non-unionized teacher’s group in the country, offering nonpartisan representation and advocacy while also encouraging collaboration amongst educators.

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Massachusetts Teachers Association

While the MTA is just one example, states often have local chapters of national associations or their own professional bodies.

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National Association of Special Education Teachers

NASET recognizes that teachers of special education often encounter a unique set of challenges and provides resources and support tailored to their needs. The association also has an exhaustive library of research and publications.

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National Council of Teachers of English

In addition to overarching bodies, numerous professional teaching associations connected to a particular topic are also available. NCTE is open to elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary teachers of English and offers access to professional learning opportunities and conferences.

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National Education Association

NEA is a teacher’s union with more than three million members instructing at every level of education.

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National Science Teachers Association

The NSTA brings together science teachers from across the country to learn about new curricula, discuss teaching methods, and undertake professional training.

Updated: July 27, 2017