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How to Find a Teaching Job That’s Right for You

A kindergarten teacher engages students in discussion at circle time in a classroom.

Educators are leaders both inside and outside of the classroom. Given the various professions within the field of education, understanding how to find a teaching job may be challenging. Furthermore, students working toward a degree in education can explore an array of jobs beyond elementary, middle, and high school teaching.

Teaching Specializations

Aspiring teachers should consider the student age range and subject matter when deciding on a specialization. Delving into the options can help them determine how to find a teaching job in their preferred area of instruction.

Pre-Primary School

Also known as preschools or nursery schools, pre-primary schools typically address the care and education of children aged three to five. Such early instruction largely focuses on developing social skills, but also includes introductions to language, science, and math concepts.

Storytelling and games play a large role in preschool curriculum, which is designed to prepare children for kindergarten or first grade. Observing children for signs of developmental or emotional issues also falls within their responsibilities. In addition to academic instruction, teachers at the pre-primary level typically oversee physical activities, meals, and rest periods.

Elementary School

Depending on the school district, elementary school spans kindergarten to fifth or sixth grade. Typically, elementary school teachers can expect to teach a single grade. However, a teacher may be required to take on combined grades (usually two successive ones).

Elementary teachers cover a range of subject matter; language arts, math, social studies, and science are traditionally part of the daily curriculum. They may also have to lead their classes in physical education.

In addition to writing lesson plans, elementary teachers attend department meetings and conduct parent-teacher conferences. In general, elementary school teaching requires flexibility and a well-rounded knowledge of a variety of subjects.

Middle School

Middle school generally spans sixth, seventh, and eighth grades (or seventh and eighth only, depending on the school district). Unlike elementary school teachers, middle school instructors typically teach one subject across all grade levels.

These teachers build upon concepts covered in elementary school and prepare students for the increased rigor of a high school curriculum. Much like elementary school teachers, middle school teachers also create lesson plans and hold meetings with their students and teams.

High School

Instructors at the high school level usually teach grades nine through 12. Teachers are typically responsible for instructing one subject across each grade level. In addition to teaching English, math, or science at the high school level, teachers have the opportunity to teach various electives, including the fine and applied arts. Additional subjects that high school instructors teach include foreign languages, computer science, dance, chorus, and band.

Along with planning lessons, attending department meetings, and proctoring standardized tests, high school teachers implement some advanced-level curriculum to prepare students for college and write recommendation letters for their college applications.

Teaching Environments: Differences Among Public, Private, and Charter Schools

When trying to find the right teaching job, the environment is also an important factor to consider. Public, private, and charter schools all have pros and cons, as they vary in required qualifications, student diversity, and curriculum.

Qualifications

Many public schools require similar credentials and certifications that must be attained through a teaching degree and credential program. A multiple-subject teaching credential is required for elementary school teachers, whereas middle and high school teachers may opt for a single-subject credential.

Less consistency exists in the requirements for private and charter school teaching, as these institutions typically create their own mandates. Charter schools are privately managed but publicly funded, often making their teacher credential requirements congruent with those of public schools.

Some charter schools require the same teacher certifications as the state, while others are more flexible depending on a candidate’s expertise or experience in a particular field. Private schools also tend to focus on a candidate’s knowledge in a specific subject area. While a master’s degree may not be required for a teaching job, a higher level of education may lead to more opportunities and greater earning potential.

Diversity

Diversity can highly influence a teacher’s experience in the classroom. Public schools enroll an array of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. School districts normally assign students to a public school based on home address, so enrollment discrimination is not a factor.

Private schools subjectively choose the students they admit. A charter school can be intentional in its diversity efforts, since parents, teachers, and administrators collectively wrote its charter (governing principles).

Teachers have much to gain from working in a diverse environment. With an increasingly diverse and multicultural society, teachers benefit from being comfortable instructing and interacting with students of all backgrounds. Regular cultural inclusion and awareness in the classroom can enrich daily teaching practices.

Curriculum

Researching how to find a teaching job may lead job seekers to an abundance of information about what they will be allowed to and expected to teach. State mandates determine public school curricula, indicating the subjects and topics to cover.

Furthermore, the government requires public schools to implement annual standardized testing. Curricula for private schools vary since these schools primarily choose their own lessons and testing methods. Governmental involvement is not a factor since private schools are not funded by taxes. Charter school curricula are outlined in a charter that includes all educational guidelines and the criteria by which student and teacher success is measured.

When looking at public, private, and charter teaching environments, an aspiring teacher should consider their similarities and differences. Their preferred teaching method and comfort level may shift depending on the environment they choose.

Education Careers Outside of the Classroom

Finding a job in education does not necessarily mean opting for a traditional teaching job in a school. Many professionals maintain a connection to the world of education while focusing their efforts in areas outside of the classroom.

Curriculum Writer

Curriculum writers are an integral part of ensuring teachers provide students with quality content. They create lessons, digital instructional videos, and other materials used for K-12 students across all subjects. In addition to writing and planning curricula, curriculum writers have the opportunity to review programs and ensure that they are effective and beneficial to students’ overall academic success. To achieve that objective, their responsibilities may include developing course outlines and directives based on guidelines provided by school boards or districts.

Administrator

Administration is a vital part of every school system. Conflict resolution, financial management, and event planning are necessary for a school’s ultimate success. Principal, college dean, budget coordinator, and daycare director are examples of administrative roles for which a degree in education is beneficial.

Guidance Counselor

Guidance counselors help students directly and assist with overall school improvements. This position exists in all levels of schooling, including higher education. Guidance counselors serve as advocates for their students, helping them make course choices and career decisions.

These professionals may also work with school districts and program coordinators to establish best practices for a student body. They may complete student evaluations and analyze results to provide feedback on educational programs. Additionally, they may facilitate student involvement in speaker presentations and workshops that increase knowledge and awareness in a particular subject or field.

Finding and Applying for a Teaching Job

Prospective teachers should begin their job search by identifying areas with high demand for teachers and preparing for the specific application processes of the school districts they target.

Location

A specific state or region may need teachers because its growing population is leading to higher classroom numbers. High-needs schools and urban areas may have difficulty attracting teachers, creating an increased demand for educators in these locations.

Some areas may also have a high demand for teachers specializing in specific subjects. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, most school districts face teacher shortages in special education and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Specializing in one of these areas can increase a teacher’s options in job location and salary.

Preparation

Once a teacher chooses a school district, they should be sure to gather all necessary documentation required for the application. This includes an updated, clearly written resume that details all teaching certifications and experience in the field. If a cover letter is required, it should be tailored to the district, school site, and job description.

Occasionally, a teaching statement may be required, which should detail the applicant’s teaching methodology, goals, and reasons for wanting to teach. Edjoin.org (the Education Job Opportunity Information Network) is a widely used education job site. Schoolspring.com is a resource for teachers that offers tools for centralized job search and career document management.

Application

When applying for a position, teachers should thoroughly read through the job post to be sure of deadlines and the preferred method of submission. Keeping an organized record of all the positions applied to, responses received, and follow-up requirements will facilitate the application process.

Take the Next Step Toward a Career in Education

People who are passionate about the importance of education and the need for qualified teachers should consider American University’s Online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) or Online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership (MEd). These advanced degree programs prepare students to become effective leaders of change in the classroom and in education as a whole. Equipped with the skills and knowledge to make a difference in students’ lives, graduates can pursue a variety of rewarding careers in education.

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