4 Tips if You’re Considering Teaching as a Second Career
If you are considering a career change to pursue teaching, you deserve to be congratulated! Changing careers is always a monumental decision, and if teaching is at the top of your list of career choices, odds are good that you are passionate about education and about changing the lives of young people.
Even better, you’re in good company. According to MetLife’s 2009 Survey of the American Teacher, 35 percent of all teachers report they came to classroom teaching after having another career outside education. That’s a significant percentage of educators who have chosen to bring their wide range of skills and expertise into the classroom to benefit their students.
As you weigh your passions alongside the practical considerations of a career change, here are some helpful tips to make the decision and transition smoother.
Education is no different from any other line of work in that networking is a necessary and important part of connecting yourself to the greater community. Taking the time to reach out to talk with educators and administrators will not only help you understand the profession well enough to decide if it’s the right fit for you, it will also begin to establish your support network should you decide to pursue a career change.
As with any other kind of professional networking, fostering strong relationships within the field can also ultimately help you get a job.
If you haven’t already, use your existing network to gain an introduction to an administrator or teacher who can help connect you to teachers working in the grade or subject matter you’re most interested in pursuing.
The real-world insight you’ll gain from these conversations will be an invaluable resource as you consider your options.
2. Find a mentor
Even if you are an experienced professional with trusted advisors who have been with you for many years, look for a talented educator to mentor you.
Although mentor/mentee relationships typically happen in an organic and natural way, if you’re networking in the field, it’s quite likely that you’ll eventually forge a strong connection with one or more educators who will help guide you as you make your decision.
Ideally, you’ll be able to find someone who, like you, changed careers to pursue a passion for education. These teachers will be able to help you navigate the particular challenges you’ll face as someone coming into education as a second career.
3. Know your market, and do your research
Teaching licensure requirements vary widely from state to state, and even within a state. Charter and private schools can set their own standards for the teachers they hire.
Before deciding to pursue coursework to become licensed, take the time to understand the requirements for the schools where you think you might want to work.
Beyond knowing what you’ll be required to do to obtain your licensure, you’ll want to gain a keen understanding of your local market.
- Is your community saturated with qualified teachers without enough jobs to support them?
- Is your community lacking in teachers in a particular field, for instance STEM?
- Is the community supportive of education and willing to fund its schools?
- How will these specifics affect your ability to find a teaching position?
The market shouldn’t dictate your passion for the field, but before moving ahead with a career change, you should have a realistic expectation of the community and the job market you want to enter.
4. Consider ways to do more than you think is necessary
Although there are bare minimum requirements you’ll need to meet to become a teacher, it’s always helpful to consider ways you can easily and realistically pursue more than those requirements to make yourself a strong candidate.
Perhaps your background lends itself to being certified in more than one area, or perhaps you have the option to pursue certification across all elementary grades even though you know you want to teach the very youngest students.
Taking the time to find ways to expand your certifications will make you an attractive candidate to administrators who will notice and appreciate the flexibility those certifications will offer.
Even if you’re fairly confident of what you’d like to teach, your market may dictate that you need to be flexible to be competitive. Knowing this before you move forward with your new career could save you considerable time, energy, and grief when it comes time to find a job.
D. Steele is a freelance writer and editor whose work focuses on education, parenting and healthcare.