Our children are our most valuable asset. Educators perform the important task of shaping young minds and helping students realize their potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in the education sector—especially in early childhood education—are expected to grow in the coming years. Qualified and creative teachers are desperately needed in our schools. With a degree in education, you will be primed for one of the following rewarding careers:
- Preschool teachers work with children between ages 3 and 5 and provide rudimentary and introductory instruction in reading, writing, science and other subjects. Preschool teachers emotionally prepare students for kindergarten by helping children learn how to socialize with others and monitoring for signs of developmental impairment. Employers prefer to hire teachers with at least some postsecondary studies in early childhood education. Teachers in the Head Start Program are required to have at least an associate degree. In public schools, preschool teachers must typically have earned a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, some states require certification, such as a Child Development Associate (CDA) or Child Care Professional (CCP) designation. The median wage for preschool teachers is $25,700. Job growth in day care services is projected to be much higher than average, as a 25 percent increase is expected between 2010 and 2020.
- Kindergarten and elementary school teachers generally educate students grades K-6. Typically, these teachers spend the entire day in one classroom. They teach the basics in math, reading, social studies and science. Some may teach music, art or physical education. Teachers are also responsible for developing lesson plans and classroom materials, grading assessments and planning activities with other teachers. In all states, kindergarten and elementary teachers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and state license or certification. Some states require a master’s degree, as well. Alternative certification programs are available on a state-by-state basis for teachers who want to start working sooner. The median salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is $48,800. Between 2010 and 2020, employment for kindergarten and elementary school teachers is predicted to grow by 17 percent.
- Middle school teachers typically work with children in grades six to eight to help them build on their lessons from elementary school and prepare them for what’s to come in high school. Most middle school teachers teach only one or two subjects; students generally change classes for each subject. Middle school teachers plan lessons, assess student ability, communicate with parents and guardians, prepare students for standardized testing and supervise students outside the classroom (field trips, cafeteria, detention, etc.). A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required to work as a middle school teacher in the U.S. Many states also require middle school teachers to major in the content area they wish to teach. Additionally, some states require a master’s degree in education. All states mandate that teachers obtain a state license. Alternative certification programs are available on a state-by-state basis for teachers who want to start working sooner. The median annual pay for middle school teachers is $51,960. Employment for middle school teachers will vary by region, but the job is projected to experience 17 percent growth nationally.
- High school teachers teach students in the last four years of secondary education. They prepare their students for life after graduating by instilling skills and study habits that will aid students as they enter the workforce or higher education. High school teachers teach one or two subjects; students rotate classes throughout the day. High school classes may be divided by level of ability and not by grade, so teachers may work with mixed-aged classes. High school teachers have similar job responsibilities as middle school teachers, but explain more difficult and advanced concepts to their students. All states require a bachelor’s degree and most require that teachers major in the content area they wish to teach. While in school, aspiring teachers should enroll in teacher preparation programs, as well as education and child psychology classes. Some states require high school teachers to earn their master’s in education. It is mandatory in the U.S. for high school teachers to have a state teaching license. Alternative certification programs are available on a state-by-state basis for teachers who want to start working sooner. The median salary for high school teachers in $53,230. While the teacher-to-student ratio is declining (meaning more teachers for fewer students), the number of new students enrolled in high schools is also expected to decline. Job growth for high school teachers will experience slower than average growth over the next decade.
- Special education teachers work with students who display a vast range of learning, developmental, emotional, mental or physical disabilities. Special education teachers may work independently with students to teach basic literacy and independent living skills, or they may modify other teachers’ lesson plans to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are met. Special education teachers are responsible for developing individual education programs (IEPs) for students and ensuring that these plans are followed. Often, they develop transitional plans for graduating students. To work in the U.S., special education teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree and state license or certificate. Some teachers may minor in special education and major in their content area or education. The median salary for special education teachers is $53,220; employment is projected to grow at 17 percent by 2020.
- Adult literacy and GED teachers instruct young people and adults who are out of school in the basic skills of reading, writing and language. They also help students who wish to earn their GED. Adult literacy and GED teachers must tailor their lesson plans to make sure each student is meeting his or her goal. These teachers also emphasize practical skills that will aid in finding a job and functioning in the workplace. Adult literacy and GED teachers should have a strong knowledge of other resources in the community that may help their students, such as job placement or mental health services. Most adult literacy and GED teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree and teaching license or certificate. A master’s degree in adult education provides an opportunity to specialize in areas such as English as a second language (ESL). The median salary for adult literacy and GED teachers is $46,530. The job outlook suggests average growth in this field.
- School principals may work in elementary, middle or high schools. They are responsible for the daily operations and the big picture goals for the school in which they work. School principals supervise other staff, schedule professional development programs for teachers, manage resources, discipline students, monitor the school’s testing results and progress toward standards and manage budgetary concerns. Most schools require a principal to have a master’s degree in education administration or leadership; a bachelor’s degree in education is a prerequisite for this program. Typically, principals have experience teaching, as well. The median annual pay for school principals is $86,970. Employment is expected to grow at 10 percent by 2020, although this will vary by region.
- Instructional coordinators work with teachers and administrators to improve the overall quality of education at their institution by implementing new methodologies and technologies. Instructional coordinators are also responsible for developing and overseeing school curriculums and teaching standards, and assuring that individual schools within the district adhere to these protocols. Instructional coordinators need to obtain a master’s degree; many states also require these professionals to be licensed teachers or school administrators. The median salary for instructional coordinators is $58,830. Salary fluctuates by institution; instructional coordinators working in elementary and secondary schools have the highest earning potential. Job growth in this career is faster than average and employment is expected to rise by 20 percent by 2020. Growth will depend on state and local budgets and will vary by region.
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*Education requirements and salaries listed above are as reported by the BLS unless stated otherwise.