How to Get a Teaching Job
How to Get a Teaching Job
Teaching is a career that requires someone who is patient and humble and has a passion for working with children and teens. In order to get a teaching job, potential candidates will need a combination of the appropriate college coursework, teaching practice and a teaching credential. Although teachers work with children, teenagers and adults, the path to a teaching credential and job is similar for all levels and fields.
Thinking through Teaching as a Career
Decide if teaching is right for you.Before you jump into a degree program for teaching, think about the pros and cons and how your personality fits to the career. Do you enjoy working with children? Are you passionate about education? Do you feel you can maintain authority over a group of people? Are you patient? These are all questions to think about before beginning the pursuit to become a teacher.
- Some other things to think about before becoming a teacher is the salary, job perks, and lifestyle of a teacher. Teachers usually make a mediocre salary with the average pay for the nation between k and k. If you are looking for a job with a high income, teaching probably isn't for you. Some school districts may pay more than others, but keep in mind you may not make over k,.
- Also, it's good to think about the lifestyle of a teacher. A teacher works from early morning until the afternoon, but many teachers have to take their work home with them. They need to grade tests or papers, or create lesson plans for the coming week, so you'll likely be working more than just an 8 to 4 job. Also, many teachers are involved in their schools' extracurriculars. Some teachers lead organizations like National Honor Society or Student Council. Others help host events or work as coaches. This would require you to work even more hours, so be prepared to work longer hours than you may have planned.
Choose a subject.There are a wide range of subjects taught in schools, and each subject differs depending on the grade level. Before you pursue a teaching degree, think about the subject you want to teach. Are you interested in teaching advanced math like calculus or statistics? Do you have a passion for literature and writing? Are you really interested in government or history? Thinking about your own passions and what you would enjoy teaching is a good first step.
- You probably want to teach something that you enjoy. Part of your role as a teacher is to help your students become more interested in or passionate about the information they are learning. If you are teaching a subject you have no interest in, it may be hard for your students to take interest in it as well.
- Keep in mind that some subjects are in higher demand. A middle school or high school math or science teacher will be in much higher demand than an English or social studies teacher in most areas. If you already have a certain school district or city in mind, explore the job openings to see where the demand is.
Decide on an age.As a teacher you can work with children anywhere from age 5 to age 18. Before you pursue a degree, think about the type of students you want to work with. Most education programs and certifications are geared towards a specific subject and age range. You'll have to decide generally if you want to work with little kids, middle schoolers, or high schoolers before you begin your teaching career.
- Are you passionate about working with little kids and helping them learn to read, write, and do simple math? Do you enjoy having intellectual conversations with older students or are you excited about seeing students take what they have learned and apply it to the real world? There are many questions you must ask yourself before you become a teacher. If you feel working with older children is intimidating, then settling for elementary school might be the best path for you. If you want to work with students who have advanced skills, then you might think about working with high schoolers.
- Note that as you progress to older students, your knowledge of the subject you are teaching will probably need to advance as well. Teaching English to third graders will look a lot different than teaching English with seniors. You will likely need to be more knowledgeable in your subject area for higher grade levels, whereas a teacher in elementary school will need to have a well rounded knowledge of all subjects, but will probably not need to be a specialist in every subject.
Glean wisdom from your favorite teachers.Think about the teachers you had in your life that made an impact on you. Try to set up a time to meet with them so you can ask them for advice. Learn about why they wanted to teach, what challenges teaching brings, if they think you would be a good fit, etc. You can meet with newer teachers and retired teachers so you have different perspectives.
Work or volunteer with children.One of the best ways to know if teaching is right for you is by spending time with children. Volunteer to mentor a child through a local program, or get a job working at a day care, day camp, or babysitting. Spending time with children of different ages will give you the best idea if you should teach and what age group you should teach.
- There are several different organizations you can go through to volunteer with children. Communities in Schools allows you to mentor, read with, or tutor children from K through 12. Project Sunshine, Red Cross, and American Youth Literacy Foundation are some of the many organizations you can partner with to invest in a child's life.
Gaining Your Credentials
Earn a Bachelor's degree.Most schools will require you to have a bachelor's degree in your desired field of teaching in order to teach. Explore different schools you are interested in and check out their course catalogs and what they can offer you in regards to credentials for teachings. Some schools have programs that will place you in a student teaching position after you finish your courses.
- Your degree will vary on the age group you are teaching. Usually high school teachers obtain degrees in their subject like English, history, government, math, etc. and then go on to complete an educational program. A middle school or elementary teacher will often major in education with a focus on the area they want to teach in.
- Once you find a school with a good education or teaching program, sit down with a counselor to further discuss the courses and the benefits this program can bring you. Some schools will incorporate the teaching certification in their undergraduate classes, while others will require you to attend a teaching program post graduation.
Attend a teacher education program.If your undergraduate degree didn't build this into your coursework, you'll need to attend a teaching program so that you can learn the fundamentals of education and teaching. These programs are offered at many universities, some online, and take anywhere from 12 to 24 months. Some states require you to take the first Praxis exam before entering into these programs. You will then take the second Praxis exam once you have completed your program.
- Praxis I is a basic test to determine if a teacher education program is a good fit for you. It will test you on your reading, math, and writing abilities. Praxis II is geared specifically towards your field of study and is what helps you gain your certification.
Gain certification.In order to become a teacher, you will need certification in your specific area. If you are teaching a high school subject, you'll need to be certified in that subject. If you are teaching elementary or middle school you'll likely need a certification in your age group and focus such as middle school math and science. Many states administer the Praxis II exam after you go through a teacher education program.
- The specific requirements for licensure vary state by state. Make sure you research the requirements for the specific state you plan to teach in before you seek certification. Also, keep in mind that some certifications only work in some states. If you are certified in one state, you may not be able to teach in another. However, some states allow you to use your certification from another state to teach in that state. It could be helpful to review all of these requirements even before you obtain your bachelor's.
- Check the dates available for the standardized tests required for certification early. The availability of these tests vary widely from state to state. Procrastination could mean waiting a year or more after graduation to secure a teaching job if one or more standardized tests is required to teach in the location of your choice. Most state certification commissions allow the completion of standardized test requirements at any point in a teaching candidate's academic career.
Student teach.Almost all states require you to spend time in the classroom as a student teacher before entering as a full time, paid teacher. If you know that you want to teach in a specific school district or city, try to obtain an internship in that school district or one similar so you'll have a better idea what teaching might be like. Your teaching program or undergraduate program will often help you locate a school to student teach in.
- Keep in mind that these internships are usually unpaid and you will be spending the same amount of time in a classroom as a teacher, meaning a full school day, five days a week. You will often student teach for one class and work with that teacher to prepare lesson plans and learn from the teacher.
Look into National Board Certification.This certification goes beyond your licensure and gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have exceptional knowledge in your specific subject field. Gaining this certification has its benefits in that you have greater opportunities for advancement, and many schools will pay you a higher salary and give you compensation for continuing your education.
- Certification is offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Gaining this certification can also make the ease to higher positions like counselors, administrators, and specialists easier.
Consider graduate school.Graduate school isn't usually necessary to become a teacher in a public school (although some schools may require it). However, it provides many benefits. A master's degree may help you stand out amongst other job applicants. It also allows you better mobility, meaning you can go on to become an administrator or reach a higher level at your school. Schools will often pay higher salaries to teachers with master's as well.
- Before you pursue a master's degree, think about your career ambitions. If you are content with your salary and teaching position you may decide a graduate program isn't worth the work. However, if you have a desire to move up in your school district, whether that is to become a counselor, work as an administrator or principal, or work in curriculum development, you may want to look into a master's degree.
- Some school districts will compensate their employees for pursuing further education. Talk with your school district and see what benefits they can offer you.
- A master's degree also allows teachers to work at community colleges or teach college level courses at their school in many states. Teaching dual credit courses can also increase your salary.
Finding a Job
Choose the school districts you'd like to work in.The type of school you work in can greatly determine if you have a positive or negative experience. Some school districts have exceptional ratings when it comes to test scores while other schools may be struggling. Figure out what type of school and what students you would be most passionate about, and apply to those schools.
- Inner city schools often have more lower income students that may be considered higher risk students. If you have a passion for working with at-risk students and helping them become passionate about education, then you may want to work at one of these schools. These schools are often in more need of teachers, so earning a teaching job may be easier if you go directly to these schools. If you are more interested in working with students that achieve higher test scores, then working in a suburb school may be the place for you. Do some research before applying for jobs and think about where your personality fits the best.
- Keep in mind that no matter where you work your job will require patience. You will almost always be working with some students who are apathetic about learning, so be prepared to practice patience and perseverance with these students.
Be prepared to have a challenging year.Often times the first year of teaching is a roller coaster ride. You will learn a lot, but you may often be stressed, overwhelmed, or discouraged. Don't feel alone if you experience these things -- many teachers have a hard year the first year that they teach. If you find that you do enjoy what you do, stick with it and as the years go by teaching will become easier for you.
- In your first few years of teaching you may not get the desired courses that you want to teach. That is because often times the more desired positions are already filled, so you may have to wait until another teacher leaves or is relocated. For example, if you want to teach advance placement classes you may have to teach regular classes for a few years before you get that promotion. However, if you work hard with the classes you are given, the administrators in your school will notice and will feel more confident that you are qualified to move up.
Boost your resume.Teaching is a competitive field, especially in the subjects that are more popular to teach like liberal arts. Because of this, you want your resume to stand out amongst other applicants. A few ways you can make employers take notice of you are:
- Show a passion for teaching. You can demonstrate this in your objective section of the resume, or in your career summary section. Use this section to communicate your teaching philosophy, your belief about education, and your desire to help students. Make sure you are communicating that you are teaching for the right reasons. Employers want to know that you care about the students at their school.
- Credentials: Your credentials should be the first thing employers see. You should list your degrees and any certifications you have at the top of your resume along with your GPA. Because this will be the first thing employers see, you want to present yourself well and show that you are accomplished and educated.
- Use key words: Employers may be looking for certain words throughout your resume that are industry specific. Because employers usually get a lot of resumes, they will be scanning many of them and these key words will help your resume grab their attention. Some key words to use in the education field are: teaching and learning, curriculum planning, peer tutoring, peer mentoring, teacher-parent relations, special needs students, ESL/ESOL students, technology integration, classroom management, student involvement, interdisciplinary teaching approaches, K-12, etc.
- Accomplishments and related jobs: This is really what will make you stand out from other resumes, because everyone will likely be applying with a similar bachelor's degree, but not everyone will have job related experience. Think about the accomplishments you have made throughout college that are related to teaching, leading, working with students, etc. and find a way to incorporate those into your resume through the related experience section or in your activities section. Think about the qualities that would make someone a good teacher, or the experience that could help them in teaching. Then, think about what things you have done that you can include in your resume to make you well equipped to become a teacher.
- Look up sample resumes. If you are still stumped as to how to boost your resume, there are always tons of resources online that give example resumes in specific subject matters. You can use these as references or a guideline for how to boost your resume.
Look for teaching jobs.You can often find teaching jobs listed on a school's website on their job's or career's page. There are also websites online that allow you to search the entire nation for teaching positions. You can also visit career fairs at universities to learn about the schools hiring in your area. This gives you an opportunity to meet some of the employers, which may give you an advantage when you send in your resume.
- Be flexible when applying for jobs. As previously stated, often times in your first year or two of teaching you won't get your dream teaching job. If you are willing to take a job that may not be exactly what you are looking for, though, you'll have a better time at finding a job. At the very least you'll be able to gain more teaching experience that will boost your resume so that when you apply for later jobs you have something to show them than just the education you obtained.
- If you are called in for an interview, be prepared to ask questions and show your knowledge. Do research on the specific school district and school before going into the interview. You want to show the employer that you know your stuff and that you really want to work at their school. Have some questions on hand to ask about the work atmosphere at the school as well as personal questions you may ask your employer about why they enjoy working at their school. Avoid asking questions that you could have found the answers to online.
Compile a list of references.Many times employers will ask for references from previous employers, professors, and then someone else that is not related to you. Before you apply for jobs, think about the people in your life who know you well enough to put in a good word for you. Choose a professor who made an impact in your specific subject area and an employer that worked with you closely and knows your work ethic. Then, compile this list so that you have it available if a school asks for it.
- Some people choose to put their references on their resume, but this can take up needed space. Often times employers will ask separately for references, so it's better to have a separate document with your references instead of adding them to the end of your resume.
Consider subbing while you are applying.If the job hunt is proving difficult for you and you haven't been able to find a full time teaching position, apply to be a sub at different school districts. It's good to apply to several schools because you'll have a better chance of gaining work.
- Although it may not be your ideal job, subbing will give you the opportunity to earn some teaching experience, is flexible, and will help you get to know the school or schools you are interested in working at as well as the administration.
- You also have an advantage over many people who are substitutes because you have your teaching certification. While some schools require certification, others don't, but may be more willing to hire a substitute who has an educational background.
Apply for Teach for America.Teach for America is an option that is an alternative to directly applying for positions in a school. TFA is an organization that places students passionate about learning in a low income school district and gives them the opportunity to teach for a year. To apply for this program you won't need a teaching certification, but you will need a bachelor's degree.
- You will apply to the program through the TFA website, and will be taken through a several part interview process. At the final stage of the interview you will prepare a fake lesson to give in front of some of the staff for Teach for America. You will also have the opportunity to choose the top cities you would like to teach in as well as your preferred subjects and grades you would like to teach. If hired, you will then be placed in one of those cities to begin teaching.
- While TFA is a great way to gain teaching experience, it is not for everyone because often times you won't receive much training beforehand, and for someone who didn't go through the teacher education program, you might be a little lost. Depending on the school district, you may receive adequate help from other faculty, or you may have to navigate most things yourself.
Explore options like the Peace Corps.The Peace Corps gives you the opportunity to teach in another country, usually in areas where you will be very immersed in the culture. This organization allows you to enter as a "Volunteer," which means you aren't making a salary, but you will be given a housing and living stipend as well as paid transportation.
- Peace Corps openings can be found on their website, in a number of different fields, and a minimum of a bachelor's degree with some teaching or tutoring experience is usually required.
- With the Peace Corps you will be placed with a host family or in a dwelling determined by the local host organization. You will be asked to adhere to cultural norms, as the Peace Corps is also an opportunity for your to learn about different cultures and respect the differences between your country and the one you visit.
- The benefit of the Peace Corps is it gives you teaching experience, but also offers entry into unique graduate school opportunities as well as the option to forgive or defer certain public loans.
Pursue training or continuing education.As a teacher, it's important to stay up to date on the new technologies or techniques used in the class room. You can attend different training or workshops to learn more about your specific field or new advancements in teaching. Different states also require you to participate in professional development to maintain or renew your license. Visit or contact your state's agency to learn about the education requirements for your state. After teaching for a while you may also decide a master's and/or PhD is something that can help advance your career.
Video: HOW TO GET YOUR FIRST TEACHING JOB! | Teacher Interview Tips
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