Education

How to Jumpstart Your Career in Education

jumpstart-your-career-in-education
Written by Kate Lopaze

Maybe you’re looking for your career path in general, and think that you’d be well-suited to working in a classroom. Or maybe you already work in an educational role, and are feeling a little stagnant. Either way, it’s time for your next step, and we’ve got the tips and information you need to move on in your educational career.

What Do Educational Professionals Do?

You probably know that educators teach. They also plan, manage, coach, administer, organize, troubleshoot, advise, and assist. Whether working with the tiniest of preschoolers or the elderly woman going back to finish her degree, educators can be found in many different types and levels of schooling. Before you take your first (or next) step in the education world, it’s important to see what’s out there.

Primary/Elementary Level

At the early childhood education/elementary school level, there are many different kinds of roles available. There are classroom teachers, of course, but also different kinds of staff that contribute to the overall running of the school.

  • Preschool teacher—These are classroom educators who work with young children (pre-kindergarten).
  • Elementary school teacher—These teachers work with students from kindergarten through approximately grade 5 (depending on the school).
  • Paraprofessional/teaching assistant—These are classroom aides who work with teachers on classroom maintenance, lessons, and administrative tasks.
  • Administrator—Principal, vice principal, superintendent, or other administrative leadership position
  • Substitute teacher—This is a floating teacher who covers other teachers’ absences.
  • Reading/literacy specialist—This is an educator who works on reading comprehension and development directly with students.
  • Special education teacher—These educators work with students who have special physical or emotional education needs.
Secondary Level

At the secondary level, educators work with middle and high school students. Teachers are often subject-matter specific (math, science, history, language arts, etc.) and specialize in specific student areas.

  • Middle school teacher—These teachers work with students from approximately grades 6 through 8 (depending on the school). Rather than teach multiple disciplines in a single classroom, these teachers often specialize in subject matter (reading/language arts, history, math, science, etc.)
  • High school teacher—These teachers work with students from approximately grades 9 through 12 (depending on the school). Rather than teach multiple disciplines in a single classroom, these teachers often specialize in subject matter (reading/language arts, history, math, science, etc.)
  • Administrator—These are principals, vice principals, superintendents, or other administrative leadership positions.
  • Substitute teacher—This is a floating teacher who covers other teachers’ absences.
  • Foreign language teacher—These are teachers who specialize in teaching languages other than English.
  • Reading/literacy specialist—This is an educator who works on reading comprehension and development directly with students.
  • Special education teacher—These educators work with students who have special physical or emotional education needs.
Educational Support

Not all educators or educational staff are found in the classroom. These professionals work at schools in support roles.

  • Counselor—These are professionals who can advise students on personal matters, or help them with academic plans and progress.
  • School librarian—These professionals manage a school’s library (also sometimes known as media centers), and work with students on reading and research.
  • ESL teacher—These are classroom teachers who work with students who speak a language other than English as their primary language
College/Postsecondary Level

There are many educational career opportunities at the college level as well. Educators can work at community colleges, colleges and universities, allied health schools, professional colleges, and online schools/programs.

  • Adjunct professor—These are teachers and lecturers who may teach classes and work for the school on a part-time or non-tenure basis.
  • Associate Professor/Professor—These are educators who teach in specific disciplines as full employees of a college or university. They are often subject matter experts with experience in advanced academics or real-world applications of the field.
  • Administrator— Colleges and universities are often large bodies, with many different departments and programs. Administrators work in education, but are often more behind the scenes to make sure programs are developed, budgeted, maintained, and running smoothly.

How Much Do Educators Get Paid?

Salary and benefits for educational jobs depend on many different factors: what the role is, where you’re located, the level of education needed at an entry level, and how much experience the person already has. It can vary, but here are some example median salaries for jobs in the field, per PayScale:

  • Elementary School Teacher: $43,697
  • Middle School Teacher: $45,879
  • High School Teacher: $48,072
  • Preschool Teacher: $29,592
  • Special Education Teacher: $45,011
  • ESL Teacher: $40,658
  • School Counselor: $48,217
  • Administrator, Elementary and Secondary School: $67,202
  • Paraprofessional: $18,339
  • Adjunct Professor, College: $30,313
  • Professor, College: $85,697
  • School Librarian/Media Center Specialist: $45,388

How Do I Become an Educator?

Just about all of the roles outlined above require specialized education before you can start a job. In some cases, you can finish your degree after you start working (for example, you can finish a Master’s while teaching in some states), but in most cases a four-year degree or a program-specific certificate is a baseline necessity to become a teacher or an administrator at any education level.

Each state also has its own requirements for certifying educators, particularly teachers and paraprofessionals. Many states require teachers to pass exams like the Praxis before they are fully certified. Some states, like New York and Texas, have their own state-specific exams as well. So once you’ve decided to go into the educational field, it’s important to check with your state’s Department of Education to see what kind of certification will be required for the role you want.

How Do I Get the Education Job I Want?

Once you’ve got your degree, maybe done an internship, and passed your certification with flying colors, you still have a very important hurdle: the job hunt. The educational job hunt isn’t too different from the application processes you’ve seen before, although you can expect to face extra-thorough background checks, particularly if you’re looking for a job on the elementary or secondary school level.

Get Your Resume In Shape

As with any job hunt, you want your resume to be stellar and attention-catching for all the right reasons. If you’re already in the field, you’ll want to emphasize your experience. If you’re just starting out, don’t hesitate to include any volunteer experience. For examples of teaching resumes for reference as you craft your own, click here.

Write Your Cover Letter

Although education has gone as digital as many other industries, you can really make your application package stand out with a great cover letter. It’s your chance to add context to your resume, and give the reader a stronger sense of who you are, and what you’d bring to your job in education. For examples of educator cover letters, click here.

The Bottom Line

If you’re considering a career in education, it could be a great option because it’s a field where you can build skills and take them with you to the next step. And there are always paths for moving up. Say you start as a paraprofessional, and decide you want to pursue life in the classroom, so you become a teacher. A few years later, you decide you want to work in a more administrative role, so you start looking at vice principal jobs. The skills and experience you’ve built along the way make you a seasoned professional with valuable expertise.

Similarly, there are plenty of outlets if you decide that a certain segment of education just isn’t for you. If teaching third graders isn’t what you thought it would be, maybe you can take your science whiz skills to a middle school Earth Science classroom, or teach chemistry at the local community college. There are so many options available that you can make a varied, satisfying career in education that works best for your skills and your goals.

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