Is Teaching a Dead-end Job?

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People thrive when they continue to have new, higher goals to strive for. Monotony is bad for mental, emotional and physical health, so most people are eager to enter careers that promise opportunities for consistent improvement, both personally and professionally.

However, one of the most important jobs to social stability and success — teaching — is notorious for offering professionals a career dead end. According to popular belief, teachers have no path onward and upward past the beginning of their careers; they enter the field as teachers, and they will retire as teachers. For this reason, many professionals tend to be hesitant to commit to a teaching career, fearing that year after year of unchanging responsibilities will eventually drag on their mental and financial wellbeing.

Yet, is teaching really a dead-end job? Maybe — it depends on how prospective and current teachers commit to professional development through their careers.

Why Teaching Seems to Have a Dead End

To enter the teaching profession, prospective teachers should pursue a BA in Education Studies from an accredited college and pass the certification exam for the state in which they hope to work. Training to become a teacher often involves months or years of functioning as an aide in a real classroom, so wannabe teachers can get a sense of the pace and practices for maintaining control and engagement of students. After graduation and certification, a teacher is fully qualified to lead their own classroom, and most find available positions with ease.

However, the positions available to entry-level teachers are the same positions available to teachers with decades of experience. Whether it is a teacher’s first day on the job or their one-thousand-and-first, they will likely be organizing their classroom, preparing lesson plans, grading papers and working to keep their students interested and on track. Rarely do school systems have formal structures for differentiating between junior teachers and senior teachers, and there is no obvious next career step for a teacher with experience to gain more prestige. For these reasons, teaching is often considered a dead-end job.

What Teachers Can Do to Progress

While it does take a little ingenuity, there are plenty of ways that teachers can advance their careers through their years of teaching experience. Through concerted effort and savvy career maneuvering, it is possible for teachers to have meaningful effects on their pay, responsibilities and positions within the education system.

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First, many education institutions offer tiers of pay, rewarding teachers who remain loyal to a single school with regular pay increases. Before committing to a position within a school, teachers can research the institution’s pay structure to determine how long they must remain in the same position to access the highest level of pay. Teachers might compare pay structures amongst different institutions in their area — or in different districts, counties or states, if they are willing to relocate for better wage opportunities.

Next, after becoming comfortable with the duties of managing a classroom, teachers can continue to challenge themselves by asking their school administrators for more responsibilities within the institution. For example, a teacher might offer services as an athletic coach, guidance counselor or club supervisor. Teachers might also take on administrative duties at smaller schools suffering from office staff shortages. In addition to providing teachers with new and exciting tasks, these responsibilities should come with bonuses to pay.

Finally, teachers who crave a completely new experience within the education system can take steps up the education career track in various ways. Teachers might migrate from primary to secondary education, or from one subject to another. Generally, high school math and science classrooms are the most in-need of educators, and teachers can earn higher wages by filling these positions. Additionally, teachers can pursue advanced education, like master’s degrees and PhDs, to qualify for positions in prestigious institutions. Teachers looking to give the school system in general a better direction might move permanently into administration or campaign for election onto their local school board or city or state legislature.

The teaching career path is not as clear-cut as careers paths in other industries, but it is certainly not a dead end. With some creativity and motivation, teachers can continue to grow and improve — personally and professionally — while contributing to one of the noblest pursuits in society today.

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