Finding the Sweet Spot Between your Dream Career and Job Market Realities
After several years of success in the classroom, many teachers consider expanding their horizons by pursuing the job they’ve always dreamed of.
Whether they want to move into special needs or gifted education, school counseling, teaching leadership or school administration, teachers need to make sure they are aligning their goals with the realities of the job market and the new careers they hope to pursue.
All of these fields offer their own challenges and rewards, and I encourage anyone who wants to jump into a new area to do so. But before you leap, there are several key factors to look at. Be sure you’re taking into account the expense of obtaining a new degree and the sometimes difficult work in obtaining the new position. And keep these points in mind:
Look at the data
The classroom teacher is the most common position in a school district — all other positions are out there, but never in the same numbers. If you have a new position in mind, it’s important to look at just how many of these positions exist in your district.
There’s usually a sweet spot between your current licensing and the need for the position either in or outside your district. Bear this in mind if you hope to obtain a highly specialized — but hard to find — position such as a school counselor or administrator.
Consider market demand
If you decide to expand your licensing and training beyond your classroom certification, be sure to look at the overall job market demand for your new qualifications. I remember that in the mid-1990s, schools needed lots of special education teachers and many teachers moved quickly into certification coursework for those jobs.
Market forces soon kicked into play, however, and within a few years we had a glut of special-ed teachers. Suddenly, schools would be flooded with applicants, positions were easily filled and many teachers had licenses for jobs they couldn’t find.
Weigh staying in-district or moving on
Earning an additional degree or certification may open doors for you, but perhaps only in other districts. Many teachers develop strong connections with their students and the entire school community, and the thought of having to uproot oneself (and perhaps need to re-earn tenure) to move into an entirely new district may not be worthwhile.
Obviously, the larger the district, the more in-district opportunities you’ll have, but there’s no guarantee that a new position will be waiting for you after you achieve a new license.
Prepare for a new colleague dynamic
Whether you remain in your current district or move to a new home, your new position will create a new dynamic with your colleagues. There is a strong connection between classroom teachers, and your new position may be a variation on that relationship.
For example, as a teacher of gifted and talented students, you will be responsible for the G&T offerings and you’ll have to navigate the scheduling that requires students to come out of their regular classes to attend those sessions. There is no greater example of this than when you move from classroom teacher to school administrator. There is a stark difference in the relationship between a colleague to a colleague and a colleague to a former colleague turning administrator.
Expect more distance from students
All of us (hopefully) chose to become teachers because we wanted to play a significant role in the lives of our students. Moving into a new position will enable you to broaden your professional horizons, but most likely it will significantly impact your day-to-day interactions with children. There is no replacement for being a classroom teacher when it comes to working with students. That being said, it’s still important to remember that great satisfaction comes from expanding beyond the classroom.