Explore Different Careers in Education
When thinking about a career in education, becoming a teacher is the most obvious choice. Even within teaching, the subject areas and age groups are so varied that a range of options exist.
And while jobs in education typically lead to teaching in some fashion, roles in consulting, administration and as school board members also are an option. In fact, the field of education is so varied that there are hundreds of different educational careers that can be accomplished with a degree in education -- jobs based online, in a classroom, in other countries or even in centers or homes.
Below are several areas that can be utilized for employment and educator careers when entering the world of education.
Considering a Career in Education?
Teaching is a wonderful and exciting profession for you if you are passionate about nurturing and helping the leaders and thinkers of tomorrow.
A career in education does not only entail teaching in the classroom but can also mean providing psychological counseling to students, being responsible for a school's management, or even helping provide access to resources such as libraries and counseling.
Read on to hear about the various options available to someone interested in a career in education.
Why Should I Pursue a Career in Education?
- Job Security: The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth in almost all the educational careers. Jobs in teaching are readily available after graduation and teachers are in high demand across all disciplines. Put simply, there will always be a need for teachers and school administrators.
- Benefits: Teachers receive pensions and insurance coverage for themselves and their families. Additionally, teachers can avail of tenure and built-in salary increase plans as they gain experience. Teachers also often get paid holidays during winter and spring break, for example.
- Teaching What You Love: Teachers get to teach subjects that they are truly passionate about and inspire the next generation of leaders, thinkers and doers to change the world. Teachers get to discover and learn new facets of their subjects of interest every day by sharing it with young and curious minds.
Read more about a master's degree in education.
The Career Path for Teachers
With so many schools in need of teachers for all grade levels, it's easy to get started working in a classroom, whether through substitute teacher opportunities or degree programs that incorporate professional training at the outset.
While it's easy to hit the ground running as a teacher, it can be helpful to have a longer-term idea of your career path in mind before entering the field.
In fact, with such a wide range of career options ahead of you, it can be hard to decide where to focus your pursuits. But the good news is there's not just one best job in education - rather, it lies in the eye of the beholder, depending mainly on your personal interests, the work environment that most appeals to you, and where you'd like your engagement in the educational field to lie.
Below are a few of the different ways one might approach an education career. Take a look to see which one is right for you.
From Classroom Teacher to School Leader
Many teachers start their careers in the classroom with the long-term goal of growing their expertise to take on leadership positions within their schools. This can be an exciting and deeply rewarding opportunity for educators to run with what they've learned from their experiences and make a broader-scale impact on student life. These jobs can also offer improved pay, providing a valuable incentive that education professionals can work toward.
The path to becoming a school leader usually starts with classroom teaching, which provides the most insight possible into student needs within a given community. Classroom teachers of all grade levels typically start their careers as entry-level educators in public or private schools. As they gain experience and improve their skills, they can become eligible for leadership roles within their schools, such as department chairs or instructional coaches. These can give teachers a first taste of the larger organizational responsibilities of administrators and an acclimation to the macro-level perspective needed to make major academic decisions.
To become a full-fledged administrator, teachers may pursue advanced degrees, such as a master's or doctoral degree in education, to prepare for careers such as principal, superintendent, and other administrative roles.
Becoming a Specialized Teacher
Other teachers who do not choose to pursue the administrative path decide instead to continue careers in teaching, developing an area of specialty. These are often roles that focus on students with particular academic needs, such as English language learners (ELL students), special education students, and highly gifted students. These are some of the most important occupations in education: being able to support these students requires tremendous skill and training, and the payoff for students can be game-changing.
Some teachers pursue specialized training at the start of their careers, choosing certificate programs that emphasize this type of teaching work. Others begin as traditional classroom teachers but decide to concentrate their efforts on a particular arena, oftentimes after having taught students with academic needs and witnessed their educational struggles up close.
Alternative Careers for Teachers
While some educators wish to develop their careers purely within a school setting, there are other jobs for education majors and experienced teachers to put their knowledge and insight to use. These can be excellent opportunities for those looking for a change of pace from the busy day-to-day of working on campus with students.
There are many reasons why teachers decide to leave the classroom, but the good news is there are plenty of excellent job opportunities for teachers who don't want to teach.
Some teachers may choose to transition into teaching-related professions, such as curriculum development or educational consulting. These roles may involve developing educational materials and programs, conducting teacher training, or providing expert advice to schools and educational institutions. Drawing from observations from their time in the classroom, teachers can be amazingly resourceful in developing effective and engaging course materials. These are some of the most intellectually rigorous jobs in the field of education.
Other educators who wish to pursue work outside of the immediate school context go into advocacy work, using their expertise to advance important causes in education impacting teachers and students alike. This can involve receiving an advanced degree in educational policy or another legal field. Many have successfully started careers in educational policy through on-the-ground efforts such as volunteering, attending local government meetings, and more.
If you're looking for careers in education that aren't teaching, some of the following job titles may appeal to you:
- Curriculum developer or instructional designer
- Education consultant
- Education policy analyst
- Educational technology specialist
- Nonprofit education program manager
A Teacher's Perspective: Why I Left the Teaching Profession and Have Come Back
The following is written by a working teacher.
It's no secret that teaching is a job whose rewards are matched by its rigor. Unfortunately, many in the profession face burnout after years on the job, a problem exacerbated by the challenging conditions of many schools. Having taught high school for over ten years, I too eventually fell victim to burnout, pointing to the long hours and high pressure of the work, as well as the immense level of energy needed to run a classroom full of students.
Feeling fatigued, I decided to pursue a new career path, finding work as a writer for a large corporate retailer. (I hold a BA in English, which served me both as a Language Arts teacher and a professional copywriter.) While my work was nowhere near as demanding as the daily grind of teaching ninety students a day, it was also far less fulfilling. As I looked at other career options, it became clear to me that nothing else would allow me to make the meaningful contribution that is teaching, bringing my knowledge and wisdom to encourage the next generation of thinkers. After much deliberation - and more than a few much-needed naps - I decided to return to the teaching profession.
In order to return to teaching, I needed to approach the job with longevity in mind.
Now that I am teaching again, I am more mindful of my work/life balance, understanding that preventing burnout is an important part of my job. I have also been more mindful of channeling my professional efforts toward alternative careers in education, which can potentially offer themselves to me as viable career opportunities that are still close to the causes I care about if I ever need a change of pace yet again.
While much has been written about the difficulty of occupations in education, let my story be a reason to reconsider. There is simply no job that rivals the up-close impact you can make on the lives of young people, and if you're meant for the jobs, there's nothing else you'll find as rewarding.
Different Types of Teaching Jobs, Careers & Education Requirements
Below is listed the major career paths in education, ranging from preschool teaching to administration and library science. Detailed alongside are the primary responsibilities for each of these professions, corresponding education requirements and the median annual salary offered. Projected job growth within the next 10 years is also included below for each of these professions.
Learn more about a teaching degree online.
Salary Comparison Tool
Although most educators do not enter the profession just for the salary, it is something we all consider. This tool will allow you to easily search and compare the average salaries of various careers in education throughout the United States. You can search by city and state. All salary data is sourced from BLS.gov.
Select Career Type
An art teacher is one who educates students about the creation of art. Generally this means creating art in some type of classroom setting. Some art teachers will work within the school system, while others may teach students of various ages in a community center or other type of setting. Art teachers may also offer private lessons in some cases. If in the school system an art teacher may teach basic techniques, while at the higher levels art teachers are likely to focus in part on art history. Art teachers have the option to work anywhere in the world in which a need exists.
Learn more about how to become an Art Teacher >>>
Biology teachers are most often found at the high school or college levels. This type of teacher can work in a private, public, charter, or online school to develop curricula that meets current educational standards. This typically involves creating basic experiments, presenting lessons, and helping students carry out scientific investigations. In addition, biology teachers at the high school level may be required to give standardized testing, work with parents on student performance, and provide approved disciplinary actions if needed to modify student behavior. Many teachers also serve as advisors to clubs and other organizations before and after school hours.
Learn more about how to become a Biology Teacher >>>
A college professor is one that teaches mostly young adults in a given subject area at a private, public, or online school. A college professor is responsible for teaching the subject area in which they are trained, as well as guiding students in the right direction as far as completing a degree. Professors are also often responsible for writing recommendation letters for jobs, higher level educational programs, or even scholarships. A professor must create tests, assignments, and projects that allow students to demonstrate knowledge in the given subject area and provide grades for each. In addition, professors may serve as advisors to clubs or organizations.
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Elementary school teachers teach basic subjects such as science, basic math and English. Elementary school typically comprises of kindergarten and first through fifth or sixth grades, although it may also include seventh and eighth grades in some districts. They prepare students for later grades and encourage their students to persevere with challenging tasks.
- 2021 Yearly Salary (Median): $61,350 per year
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: 4% (60,200 jobs)
- Education Requirements: Usually requires a bachelor’s degree in education. Public school teachers must obtain a license.
Learn more about how to become an Elementary School Teacher >>>
As an English teacher you are required to instruct and inform students in written, verbal, and spoken language. A strong knowledge base in writing, grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and visual literacy is imperative. English teachers work at all levels, but are predominantly found from the sixth grade through college as teachers of solely English. An English teacher is required to hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher in most states. Duties are likely to include testing, grading, student supervision, parental and peer meetings, and possibly curriculum development tasks. Salaries vary greatly from state to state and with educational levels.
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ESL Teachers teach students to read, write and speak in English. They often focus on teaching practical words and phrases necessary for conversation in work and daily life. They may also help students to take citizenship and ESL exams. An ESL classroom typically contains students from many different countries and cultures. ESL teachers often have students at various levels of ability levels in their classes. Different strategies are used to meet the needs of an entire class or one-on-one.
- 2021 Yearly Salary (Median): $59,720
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: -6% (-2,800 jobs)
- Education Requirements: ESL teachers in public schools are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license.
Learn more about how to become an ESL Teacher >>>
High school teachers generally teach students from the 9th through 12th grades and help prepare students for life after graduation, whether at the workplace or in college. While some specialize in one subject, such as science or English, others specialize in electives such as physical education or music.
- 2021 Yearly Salary (Median): $61,820 per year
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: 5% (48,700 jobs)
- Education Requirements: High school teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Public school teachers must also have a state-issued certification or license to teach their chosen subject.
Learn more about how to become a High School Teacher >>>
History, or Social Studies, teachers are most likely at the middle school, high school, and college levels. A history teacher is required to teach on topics related to various historical events and periods. At some levels, specific histories are required, such as state history, foreign history, or specific time periods and eras. A history teacher is responsible for student performance, meeting with parents, peers, and administration, testing, and in some cases, extracurricular activities. A history teacher at the college level may be required to teach in a certain area as well while offering students guidance and supervision on a larger scale.
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A kindergarten teacher teaches very young students who are typically aged five or six. A kindergarten teacher is required to supervise, assess, test, and teach students the basic skills necessary to build all future education upon. A kindergarten teacher is required to teach basic math and literacy skills while also guiding students in emotional, physical, and mental development. Kindergarten teachers are often required to help with other activities that may include supervision duties, during lunch or recess, or activities that take place outside of normal school hours. Kindergarten teachers need to be active and engaging in order to work with this age group.
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A mathematics teacher is responsible for teaching math skills to students at various levels. Teachers who solely teach math subjects will most likely be found in middle schools and high schools. This is one teaching area in which all grade levels can be taught depending on the type of mathematics a person desires to teach. Teaching at higher levels in specific math types, such as algebra, geometry, or statistics, will most likely require certification in that subject. Teachers are required to teach both basic and upper level concepts in a manner that is age appropriate and clear for the group in which they are assigned. Math teachers need to teach, plan, test, assess, and encourage on the daily basis to help students succeed.
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Middle school teachers specialize and teach in single subjects, as opposed to elementary school teachers. Middle school typically encompasses grades sixth through eighth and in some districts is called junior high and encompasses grades seven through nine. Non-teaching responsibilities include grading assignments, creating lesson plans and communicating with parents and colleagues.
- 2021 Yearly Salary (Median): $61,320 per year
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: 4% (25,000 jobs)
- Required Education: Middle school teachers typically must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Public school teachers must also have a state-issued certification or license.
Learn more about how to become a Middle School Teacher >>>
A Montessori teacher is unlike the traditional teachers that most people think of when educational environments come to mind. A Montessori teacher does not ‘teach’, but provides guidance to students in a prepared environment. This allows students to find their own knowledge over time. Montessori teachers use practical, hands-on forms of guidance to allow children of all ages to discover their own abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. This may mean preparing a meal by actually cooking, peeling, chopping, etc., as opposed to reading about how to prepare a meal in a book. Though Montessori teachers can be found at all levels, early childhood ages are the most likely groups to experience this type of teaching.
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A music teacher is a teacher who teaches the basics of music theory and ability in various age groups. Music teachers at the elementary level are most likely to teach multiple age groups and offer instruction in singing on key, reading music, and appreciating basic instruments. At the middle school level a music teacher may actually be a choir director or band leader, though some extra training or classes beyond a Bachelor’s degree may be required. The same is true at the high school level though more music theory may be introduced. At the college level a music teacher is likely to teach both general music appreciation classes as well as specific skill classes based on instruments or voice.
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A physical education teacher is an instructor that focuses on physical development and ability in students of all ages. A PE teacher is required to teach basic skills in a variety of sports based on the age level of the student, as well as keep the students safe during such activities. Gym teachers are also expected to encourage students to stay active and healthy as part of an overall lifestyle. Physical education teachers are also required to work with fellow teachers, administrators, parents, and students to improve grades and abilities throughout for all grade and age levels.
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Preschool teachers educate and provide care to children younger than 5 years old. They focus on language, motor and social skills to young children. Play, social interaction and other techniques are used.
- 2021 Yearly Salary (Median): $30,210
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: 15% (13,500 jobs)
- Educational Requirements: In public schools, preschool teachers are generally required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field. An associates degree is required at minimum almost everywhere.
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Principals oversee all school activities and staff. They develop and maintain curriculums, manage school budgets, supplies and maintenance. They are also the public representative of their school and listen to the concerns of parents and community groups. They report to a superintendent.
- 2021 Salary (Median): $98,420 per year
- Job Growth 2021–2031: 5% (14,200 jobs)
- Required Education: Most schools require a master’s degree in education leadership or education administration. A minimum number of years of classroom teaching, varying by state, is generally required.
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The title of school administrator can include roles such as principals, vice principals, instructional specialists, coordinators, and more. They lead teachers and other staff in the daily activities of a school. School administrators can be found at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. An administrator must continually evaluate a school’s progress toward goals that are often set forth by the district. This may include budgeting issues, curriculum issues, or hiring of teachers and staff. An administrator is often required to work longer hours and an extended year when compared to teaching staff. A Masters degree or higher is required for this type of position.
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School counselors help address the psychological and social needs of school students. They do this by administering and interpreting psychological tests, making diagnoses and cooperating with teachers and parents to help access resources that a student may require. They also maintain student records such as special education reports, behavioral data and confidential records.
- 2021 Annual Median Salary: $60,510
- Projected job growth (2021-2031): 10% (32,400 jobs)
- Education Requirements: Depending on state, school counselors/psychologists usually require a master’s or doctoral degree and a license.
Learn more about how to become a School Counselor >>>
School librarians help students find information and conduct research. They are also responsible for organizing and maintaining databases as well as physical library materials. They may also help plan programs such as story time for children or literacy efforts.
- 2021 Salary (Median): $61,190
- Job Growth 2021–2031: 6% (8,000)
- Education Requirements: Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science (MLS). School librarians and library media specialists typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field, along with a teaching certificate; requirements vary by state.
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A school secretary can often be the heartbeat of a school. A school secretary is often required to compile attendance, deal with students that are coming or going within the school, handling parent volunteers, and answering phones. This is in addition to keeping lunch counts, monitoring teacher attendance and substitute needs, keeping school accounting straight, and distributing important information school wide. The school secretary is often very busy from the beginning of the day to the end and tends to keep hours similar to teachers. Though a degree is not necessarily required, most secretaries hold a minimum of a Bachelors degree.
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A science teacher is most often found at the middle, high school, or college level. Science teachers are responsible for sharing information about science in general or in a specific area such as biology, chemistry, or life sciences. Science teachers are often required to guide and conduct experiments that are age appropriate for the given classroom. Some science teachers may teach advanced placement classes in which a more intense course of study is required. College level science teachers are often much more specialized. Some science teachers at the middle and high school levels are not educated as teachers first, but in a science field, later being trained as educators.
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Special education teachers work with students who have learning, mental, emotional and/or physical disabilities. They may adapt general lessons to meet special needs. Special education teachers must plan activities and lessons specific to individual students’ abilities and needs. Special education teachers’ duties vary by students’ disabilities, as well as their own specializations. As a result of these multiple specializations and possible, special education teachers are employed on every level of schooling, from preschool to high-school.
- 2019 Yearly Salary (Median): $61,820
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: 4% (20,600 jobs)
- Required Education: Special education teachers in public schools are required to have a bachelor’s degree and a state-issued certification or license.
Learn more about how to become a Special Education Teacher >>>
Substitute teachers act as temporary replacements when regular classroom teachers have to call in sick or take personal days. They typically use the lesson plans established by the schoolteacher, although some may have a say in the classes or grade levels they agree to cover in some schools and districts. They are typically paid an hourly rate.
- 2022 Yearly Salary (Median): $42,680
- Career Growth Average and Estimates for 2021–2031: 8% (15,900 jobs)
- Education Requirements: Employers typically require a bachelor’s degree.
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Superintendents are responsible for the management and administration of a number of public schools or of a school district. School principals in a district report to the superintendent, who takes their direction from the school board and must address the interests of the students, parents, teachers and community groups.
- 2021 Salary (Median): Not available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Job Growth 2021–2031: Not available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Education Requirements: varies by state, but a minimum of a master’s degree is generally required. Some districts require classroom experience, while others do not.
Learn more about how to become a Superintendent >>>
Teachers’ assistants, also called teacher aides, instructional aides, or paraprofessionals, work with or under the guidance of a licensed teacher. They provide support and feedback to teachers and help monitor progress. Some teacher assistants only work with special education students.
- 2021 Yearly Salary (Median): $29,360
- Career Growth Rate for 2021–2031: 5% (62,100 jobs)
- Required Education: Teacher assistants in public schools need at least 2 years of college coursework or an associate’s degree, or pass a state or local assessment.
Learn more about how to become a Teaching Assistant >>>
Vice Principals act as interim principals if the principal is on leave. They support the principal in administrative work and are involved with matters of student discipline, inventory, supervision of logistics such as lunch and bus schedules.
- 2021 Salary and Growth: Bureau of Labor Statistics does not separate this data from that of principals: $98,420.
- Job Growth 2021–2031: 5% (14,200 jobs) (BLS does not separate this data from that of school principals)
- Required Education: Most districts require that assistant principals have, or are working towards, a master’s degree in education administration or leadership. As with principals, most states also require a minimum number of years in a classroom.
(Salary data for elementary, middle-school and high-school teachers reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2019. Figures represent state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Information accessed June 2023.)
Learn more about how to become a Vice Principal >>>