Jobs for Former Teachers
Many students set out on teaching careers with high hopes, only to find that their experience doesn't match their expectations. In 2022, an unusually high number of teachers are indicating that they want to move on to new fields. But how will they earn their living once they leave teaching?
The good news is that teachers often switch careers successfully. As educated professionals with marketable skills, they can potentially pursue a range of alternative careers. If you find yourself looking for something different, read on to learn your options.
Why Are So Many Teachers Leaving the Field?
In a normal year, about 8% of teachers leave the profession, but the 2020-2022 period has been anything but normal. A number of COVID-related factors have driven the majority of teachers to consider quitting: the strain of suddenly needing to teach remotely, further teacher and support staff shortages, and personal safety concerns once in-person learning resumed. All of this has piled on to leave teachers around the world feeling "underappreciated, underpaid, and overworked."
What Do Teachers Do After They Quit?
Teachers with fewer years of experience tend to experience burnout at the highest rates, which suggests that most of those who decide to leave must find another line of work because they haven't reached retirement age. The latest, most comprehensive data suggests that most teachers find nonteaching positions within the education field, a much smaller number find jobs outside the industry, and about 38% retire. A small percentage go back to school full-time, but even more take care of family members.
However, all of these numbers are 10 years out of date at the time of writing. The Department of Education had to cancel its 2016 Teacher Follow-Up Survey because of low participation, though it is collecting responses for the 2021-2022 school year. Other data sources aren't nearly as comprehensive, but we can still gather some impressions from them.
Jobs for Former Teachers
As discussed, most teachers either retire or move on to new roles within education once they quit their teaching job. However, many teachers also change fields entirely. Read on for examples of career transitions that educators have made.
Most teachers either retire or move on to new roles within education once they quit their teaching job.
Nonteaching Jobs in Education
Changing roles within education makes sense for many teachers who've spent years immersed in the field. This may be why the largest percentage of those who leave take jobs connected to education in some way. We've listed a few occupations here that former teachers have secured in recent years, complete with details of the job duties and — where available — salary and job outlook information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
These professionals perform support functions that keep schools and districts operating, including payroll, budgeting, supply and logistics, and standards compliance. You may need a master's or doctoral degree at the highest levels, such as a school principal. But data from analytics company Emsi Burning Glass shows that 62% of administrator job posts in 2021-2022 called for a bachelor's degree as the highest level of education.
Many teachers develop opinions about the curriculum they're expected to teach, and becoming an instructional coordinator can give them a chance to shape that curriculum. They decide what material students should learn at specific grade levels, train teachers on the curriculum, and evaluate how well teachers are meeting requirements. They can work for individual schools, school districts, government agencies, or educational consultants.
Some employers might require a master's degree, but Emsi Burning Glass data shows that 69% of job posts asked for instructional coordinators with bachelor's degrees in 2021-2022. Teaching experience is the most commonly sought skill in posts for these positions.
Broadly speaking, instructional designers use technology to help learners absorb information. They combine practices from teaching, graphic design, and educational psychology to present instructional materials in appealing ways. The growing popularity of online learning has led to a steady increase in demand for instructional designers.
The BLS ascribes the duties of instructional designers to instructional coordinators, but these are actually two distinct professions — coordinators shape a school's curriculum and designers create the materials that make the curriculum come alive. Because the BLS doesn't have a separate category for instructional designers, it's hard to find reliable government data about their salaries and job outlook.
About 81% of instructional designer jobs require a bachelor's degree, according to Emsi Burning Glass. These jobs require familiarity with pedagogical technology that some teachers might not have, including Adobe Captivate and particular learning management systems. However, a number of community colleges and private companies offer certificate and online training programs for teachers who want to switch to this discipline.
This career option may appeal to former preschool or early-childhood teachers. Directors manage the staff and services of pre-kindergarten education centers, helping to oversee budgets, curriculum, hiring, and communications. Teaching experience might prove useful when listening to teachers' needs and deciding on curriculum goals.
Although 11% job growth is higher than the 8% nationwide average for jobs, the BLS expects most of that growth to occur early before tapering off as 2030 approaches. This is because of a recent sharp uptick in childcare costs, which is likely to cause many two-guardian families to keep one person at home to watch young children.
Jobs Outside of Education
In the past, fewer teachers transitioned to jobs entirely outside education than nonteaching jobs within the field. But there's some evidence that teachers leaving during the pandemic era are finding a wider range of alternative jobs. A Wall Street Journal report suggests that employers are attracted to teachers' aptitudes for communicating complex information, juggling multiple priorities, and maintaining calm under stress.
The possibilities are potentially vast for transitioning teachers, so we've included only a few examples below.
These professionals organize gatherings of people, from celebratory parties to professional conferences. They tend to share many of the same qualities as teachers — empathy, communication, and detailed organization — so they can understand what their clients want and work with multiple vendors to deliver that result.
The largest contingent of event planners works for nonprofit organizations that rely on fundraiser gatherings to stay afloat. The number of event planner positions is growing rapidly, in part because the industry is recovering from the sharp halt that COVID-19 brought. As of 2022, it's unclear whether the public will prefer live, online, or hybrid events in the future. Regardless of the format, demand for these gatherings is expected to remain stable.
Public relations (PR) work calls for well-developed written and oral communication skills, which teachers use constantly. Educators who taught liberal arts disciplines may be especially adept with using words to persuade people, which is the heart of PR.
PR specialists may work in-house for large employers or for a PR firm that provides services to outside clients. The vast majority of employers call for a bachelor's degree in their job posts, according to Emsi Burning Glass. In other good news for job switchers, nearly half of job posts require 0-2 years of experience.
This role shares features with teaching, because the goal is to instill knowledge in employees to make them better at their jobs. To do this, they give seminars, distribute instructional material, and consult with technologists to create web training modules. They can work in any industry as long as they cultivate expertise in their employer's specialty and professional development requirements.
Corporate trainers who gain experience may rise to the level of training and development managers, where median yearly salaries are nearly double. According to Emsi Burning Glass, employers most often request communication and interpersonal skills from their trainers, which are skills that teachers usually have plenty of experience cultivating.
This is a broad category of people who get paid for their words, including writers for both the public and private sectors. More than two-thirds of writers are self-employed, taking on projects in areas where they've developed some expertise, as teachers have. English teachers tend to have well-honed writing chops, but teachers in social studies, science, or math may be able to write about those subjects for online publications.
The internet has made it easier to be a freelance writer with multiple clients around the world. Beyond the ability to wow people with words, this career requires great organization and the ability to prioritize and manage time effectively.
How Do I Get Out of Teaching and Into Another Career?
A career change can be an agonizing process loaded with uncertainty. But once you've committed, you might not know how to start down your new path. There's more than one way to leave teaching for new horizons, so we've listed some general principles below instead of laying out definitive steps.
Before applying, make sure your LinkedIn profile is detailed and up to date. It's a good idea to tailor your resume, cover letter, and any writing samples to specific points you pull from the job post you're applying for.
FAQs About Jobs for Former Teachers
What Job Can a Former Teacher Get?
Former school teachers can secure a variety of nonteaching jobs both in and outside of education. Common choices within education include instructional coordinator or curriculum specialist, instructional designer, and school administrator. Outside of schools, the possibilities are wide and diverse. As long as a career doesn't require specialized education, at least one former educator has probably made the leap to it.
What Are the Best Jobs for Former Teachers?
There's no definitive "best" job for ex-teachers, because different people have different criteria for what makes a good job. Going simply by the numbers for jobs described on this page, writers tend to earn the most and event planners are experiencing the fastest rate of job growth. But these jobs might not appeal to a former chemistry teacher, who'd prefer to work in PR for a pharmaceutical company.
How Do I Find a Job After Teaching?
Many people apply to jobs on aggregator sites such as Indeed and LinkedIn. Employers often post ads for the same position on multiple sites to extend their reach. But you should also talk to contacts you have in the industry you want to enter — request informational interviews during which you can ask questions about what they do and how they broke into the field.
What Are Other Careers Similar to Teaching?
Training and development specialists perform many of the same functions as teachers, only with adult professionals as their audience instead of children or adolescents. They need to constantly evaluate and update their curriculum, use effective pedagogical techniques to get the message across, and assess their audience's learning.
Teachers are college-educated professionals who usually have transferable skill sets that include facility with written and spoken communication, time management, organization and detail focus, and writing ability. With these competencies, they can potentially establish new careers in education or entirely different fields.
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