Job security. Making a difference. Summer vacation. There are many reasons why today’s professionals are choosing education careers. Teaching is as exciting as it is challenging, and the field is evolving at a more rapid pace than ever thanks to advances in technology and shifting ideas on pedagogy.
Even those who previously involved themselves in other careers are discovering a passion for education. People are realizing that teaching is not only about high school classrooms and lecture halls. Here’s a look at some of the lesser-known education career professions and tips for finding the right program.
[Earn a master’s degree or graduate certificate in education.]
If you’re interested in an education career but aren’t thrilled by the idea of standing in front of the blackboard every day, becoming a school principal might be a good way to participate in meaningful educational conversations without spending all your time in a classroom. Principals step back to evaluate the big picture and have ample opportunities to interface with both students and teachers. These positions aren’t just about doling out disciplinary actions. Instead, principals are strategists, goal setters, and coaches. They oftentimes act as an ambassador for a particular school as well, serving as a public information officer. School principals generally earn between $80,000 and $130,000 each year.
A superintendent performs many of the same functions as a principal, but usually does so on a larger scale. Superintendents may manage multiple schools within a district and frame policies, handle budgetary issues, and ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. In a way, superintendents are the CEOs of educational institutions. As such, some schools and districts may require applicants to complete specialized training or certification programs. Superintendents can make anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 per year.
[Just starting out? Read more: A Career in Education: What You Need to Know.]
Want to work with students outside the classroom setting? School counselors provide an array of developmental services to help students (and sometimes students’ parents) reach their goals. Counselors are teachers, in a way. Instead of teaching a particular curriculum, they teach life skills and critical thinking. Many counselors offer a combination of personal, educational, and vocational support. Those with the proper credentials also provide mental health education, either themselves or as a member of a network of mental health care professionals. Counselors can expect to be paid $35,000 to $70,000 annually and more if they have higher degrees in psychology.
Chief Academic Officers
Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) plan, coordinate, and enrich educational programming. This often includes extracurricular offerings in addition to traditional courses. CAOs are also responsible for navigating any troubled waters that may arise between faculty members or academic departments. These positions most commonly require a master’s degree. CAOs earn between $90,000 and $175,000 a year.
Instructional Coordinators are teachers’ teachers. Their job is to research, communicate, and implement best practices of instruction within their respective educational organizations. Coordinators sometimes prepare training programs or materials for educators, or provide other such support by locating appropriate, up-to-date textbooks and materials. On average, Instructional Coordinators make an annual salary of $40,000 to $75,000.
Okay, I’m interested. What now?
Once you’ve decided on the direction you’d like to take your education career , your next move depends on where you’ve been. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to decide if you can reach your preferred position without returning to school for a higher degree or a degree in a different field. Some degrees, such as sociology, psychology, and business management, better lend themselves to getting your foot in the door of a particular department within an institution. Other relevant life experience can sometimes earn you credentials, as well.
Some positions require no more than a BA or BS and a teaching certificate valid in the state in which you plan to work. Other positions will be looking for candidates with very specialized education and professional histories. You’ll want to consider whether you’re willing and able to commit the time and money it takes to get where you want to go.
[Learn how your life experience can earn you college credit.]
If you discover that you’ll need to return to school in some capacity, be sure to consider the following:
- Reputation. There are good schools, and then there are schools good for you and your goals. When choosing a program, check out the academic community, campus culture, and senior faculty to make sure it’s going to be a good fit for your aspirations. Ask questions about what their alumni have gone on to achieve to gain a sense of the preparation the institution provides.
- Time. Many individuals pursuing education careers have already earned a degree in another field or are involved in another line of work. If this is your situation, it pays to take a close look at how you’ll balance your schedule. Some people have the flexibility and capital to go to school full time. Others can’t afford to put their jobs on hold, or they may have families to tend to. In these cases, accredited online teaching degrees offer busy students more practical choices.
- Experience. Depending on the profession you seek, you may be expected to participate in a targeted teacher preparation program or student-teaching assignment after you’ve earned your degree. When choosing a degree program, it may be worthwhile to plan ahead. Find out whether or not the program has partnerships with schools or institutions that interest you and how complicated or competitive the process of being placed with partner programs.
Fiona Mayberry is a retired teacher, occasionally substituting for some of her old classes while she pursues some of her lifelong ambitions of authoring a book and growing a garden. She maintains her daily writing practice by blogging for Teaching Degree Link, an online resource for those interested in pursuing a teaching career.