With the economy slowly improving and the job market looking up, many professionals are more willing to consider the possibility of changing careers. One popular option is to make the shift into a teaching career, using the experience, skills and knowledge gained in the working world to help shape young minds.
However, before you consider turning in your suits and ties for khakis and loafers, there are a few things to consider.
Higher Education Required
Even if you already have a degree and several years of work experience, chances are you do not have a background in the fundamentals of teaching. Knowing and understanding a subject isn’t enough to be a good teacher — you need to understand how students learn, how to manage a classroom and how to convey your knowledge in a way that your students will understand. Most states require anyone who wants to become a teacher to hold a degree in teaching. However, as an experienced career changer, you may be able to pursue “nontraditional” options for earning your teaching license, including a provisional license while you earn a master’s degree in teaching. You could look here for online teaching master’s degree programs to determine which path will meet your needs and goals.
Look Before You Leap
We’ve all spent time in classrooms, and have our own perceptions of what it’s really like to be a teacher. But until you are the one standing in front of the class, responsible for molding young minds, you really can’t get a true sense of what teaching is all about. Before you leap into a teaching career, it makes sense to try some short-term teaching roles to help determine whether it’s what you really want to do. Become certified as a substitute teacher in your city and job shadow an experienced teacher for a few days or weeks to get a taste of what life in the classroom is all about. You might find that you’re eager to move into this exciting career, or you may discover that another field is better suited to your unique talents and abilities.
Expect a Learning Curve
When you began your current career, did you know everything that you needed to know in order to be successful? Did everything go exactly as you planned, and did your colleagues and supervisors praise — or even respect — all of your contributions? There was probably a learning curve associated with your current career, and if you transition into a teaching career, you can expect a similar experience. Many experienced teachers note that it takes up to four or five years of full-time teaching to truly feel confident in the classroom, and many report that their first year of teaching was far more challenging than they expected. Other teachers or administrators may question your methods or ideas, or you may find that what you thought was a great idea isn’t the most effective means of reaching students. Even if you come to the classroom with a good deal of experience and preparation, there will be a learning curve, and that’s okay.
Your Real-Life Experience and Skills Are Valuable
Teachers who have worked in other industries are in demand because they bring a real-world perspective to the classroom. You know what it’s really like out there, and you can provide your students with the vital tools and skills they need to succeed after graduation.
However, it’s not just your practical skills that are valuable in teaching. Spending time in the working world helps you build other transferable skills, such as interpersonal relationship management, presentation skills, communication skills and time management. Don’t overlook those “soft skills” that you gain in the office, as they can be an important factor in your success as a teacher.
Your Expectations May Be Exceeded
When you enter any field, you have certain expectations in terms of job opportunities, salary, benefits, time off, working environment and advancement, and teaching is no different. However, you might hear more negative points about teaching — low salaries, unreasonable standards and difficult administrators — and go in with low expectations. But if you have a passion for teaching, the potential drawbacks will not deter you. Before taking the plunge, do your homework and talk with current teachers about their work and the realities of their day-to-day life. You might just find that a career as a teacher is an even better fit than you thought.
Above all, it’s important to recognize that teaching is not a backup career, and choosing to leave your current job for the classroom isn’t a path to guaranteed employment and summers off. Successful teachers are committed and passionate, and they are masters of their craft. If you fit that description, your experience in the public sector can only help you become an effective teacher.
About the Author: Cameron Andrews teaches junior high mathematics in a rural school district. He left his career in finance after five years to earn his teaching degree.