I'm pursuing a career in education — which is a fancy way of saying that, right now, I'm a teacher. I really love my job. I love working with kids, and I love being a part of the educational system, and I even like the schedule (sure, you have to get up early, but you can't beat the vacation!). But, despite all of this, there are some things that I'm concerned about when I think about my career. Teachers should make more money, but the fact is that we don't. I want to have a stable and secure financial future. I don't want to stop working in education, but I am thinking about trying to advance my career in some way.
Experts, I'm looking for advice. What can I do to get more — including more challenges and, yes, more money — out of my career in education? What do I have to do to compete with the other people who want to expand their careers, too?
Education is an incredibly rewarding place to build a career. When you work as a teacher, administrator, or other type of educational professional, you're part of a system that changes children's lives for the better and helps shape a more positive future for all of us.
But, as you point out, the sad truth is that many people working in education just aren't enjoying the great salaries and benefits that they deserve. Teachers in the United States make just over $58,000 per year on average — a decent living, but far from reflective of teachers’ hard work! Meanwhile, teachers deal with all sorts of frustrations. They have to implement mandates from school administrators, school districts, and state and federal agencies, for instance. Being a teacher can be immensely rewarding, but it can also be immensely frustrating!
Here's the good news: You don't have to leave education to build a more lucrative career. And, along the way, you may find that your challenges, responsibilities, and more can grow wonderfully along with your earnings and your career.
You can chart a few paths as you seek to improve your career in education. Perhaps the most obvious one is to target roles within your school that come with greater administrative responsibilities — and greater pay. For instance, you could try to become a department head, a vice principal, a principal, a school manager, or even a district-level administrator. Which roles and which career paths within this category are best for you will depend on which aspects of the jobs appeal to you most.
Climbing the ranks (so to speak) within your school is not your only option for growing your career, however. You could also choose to go back to school yourself. You could attend a higher education program full time or part time to boost your credentials and jump up a few rungs on — rather than climb slowly up — the administrative career ladder.
You could also choose to leave your school for good without leaving the world of education. Education involves much more than just what happens within the classrooms and administrative rooms of a school. Our educational system also requires lots of policymakers in government; educational experts in private companies; and consultants who work with schools, districts, government agencies, and private companies. You could find yourself designing curriculum or writing computer programs that schools will use to reach students more effectively than ever before.
If you're interested in a career in one of these fields, you'll certainly want to get more education yourself. Head back to school for a master’s degree and/or Ph.D. in education or related subjects. You don’t have to go away to school to do that: you can get an M.Ed. online, and other higher educational degrees are available through online and part-time programs, too. Focus on the things that interest you most. If you want to write curriculum, a focus on curriculum design is essential. Ultimately, how far you go is up to you! You'll decide what interests you and what roles are the best fit, and only your own hard work will get you ahead of your competition.
Our best advice to you is this: Think carefully about what parts of education you find most rewarding and challenging. You may quickly find that administrative work, curriculum design, ed-tech, or another area is a clear favorite of yours. Once you have a sense of what you'd like to do, reach out to the people who are already there. Ask people who have the job you want what they did to get there, and then pursue the degrees, certifications, and experience that you'll need to replicate their success. Good luck!