Teaching, especially these days, is hard work. From long hours, to low pay, to lack of proper resources, and so much more – the challenges of the teaching profession are endless. Teachers take on this tough work day after day, year after year. Until, sometimes, they decide not to anymore.
(Photo Credit: karen_neoh/Flickr)
When great teachers turn away from the classroom, schools and students miss out. Perhaps through understanding where they go once they’ve left the career, we can learn a little bit more about what’s causing them to want to leave in the first place. For educators, it’s interesting to learn what the career paths of others have looked like, in case you’re trying to decide whether or not to make a change.
Teaching has a turnover rate that is about 4 percent higher than other professions. About half of the teachers who leave their jobs simply move to another school and continue teaching, but the other half leave the profession all together. So, where do these folks go after they’ve decided to stop working in a classroom?
Perhaps as many as one-third of teachers who leave the classroom move into another “K-12 non-teaching job,” according to Brookings Institution. It’s wonderful that the field is retaining these professionals, and surely their experience in the classroom will help them make wise and informed decisions as administrators (or other professionals who work in schools). Still, there is something sad about this move, perhaps because an obvious reason for making the change is that administrators earn significantly more money than teachers, and it’s interesting to wonder how much of a motivating factor this might be. Of course, not everyone who leaves their classroom teaching job but stays in K-12 education becomes an administrator – former teachers can occupy lots of roles in a school.
While elementary school teachers often find their way onto lists of the most stressful jobs out there, professors (at least, the ones who are tenured) are often mentioned on the other side of the equation – as having one of the least stressful jobs. So, who can blame some folks for making this switch? Professionals working in higher education are also viewed differently in our society than K-12 teachers, and they have more autonomy and freedom in terms of their curriculum.
“One of the big reason I quit was sort of intangible,” Richard Ingersoll, who worked as high-school teacher before becoming a professor, told The Atlantic. “Teachers in schools do not call the shots. They have very little say. They’re told what to do; it’s a very disempowered line of work.”
Recently, Dick Startz wrote a piece for Brookings Institution in which he utilized data from the Current Population Survey between 2010 and 2015 to understand where people who left the field of education went next. He found that the most common career path (with more than 6 percent of “the leavers” joining in) was the legal field, composed of lawyers, judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers. Like the other professions on this list, these occupations certainly pay a lot more than teaching.
Next up on Startz’s list of common career paths for former teachers was the medical track. Just over 6 percent of those who left teaching went on to work as physicians or surgeons, according to the data presented. In addition to earning more money than teaching (an unwavering theme) these job titles command quite a fair amount of respect from the community. Also, when we look at the professions teachers tend to enter after leaving the classroom, we are reminded of the powerful choice and sacrifice teachers make. They are quite capable of doing something else where they’d earn more money, receive more respect, and work with greater autonomy.
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