Want an in-demand career? Become a teacher
If you’re looking for a profession with strong hiring potential, you might consider teaching.
Hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs are expected to open up throughout the rest of the decade, according to Gary Christiansen, a teacher with more than 40 years of experience in the California public school system and an instructor in the education program at the University of Phoenix Central Valley Campus.
A 2012 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report projects a 17 percent increase in demand for kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers across the country — especially in the South and West — from 2010 to 2020. That amounts to 1.4 million jobs, mainly because of increasing student enrollment and baby boomer teacher retirements.
With the right training, high school graduates and midcareer professionals alike can take advantage of these opportunities. Some teaching specialties are more sought after than others, Christiansen emphasizes, so it’s important to know the market before selecting your degree program.
For example, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers are in the shortest supply nationally — and the demand for them is expected to rise, according to Alex Taghavian, academic affairs manager at the University’s Sacramento Valley Campus.
“STEM education is gaining rapid traction in terms of corporate support,” Taghavian says. “There’s a tension between what [high-tech] employers want and what the U.S. educational system is producing, and that begins with K–12.”
Taghavian notes that companies like Intel and Aerojet are partnering with California school districts to support STEM education, with the aim of training tech-savvy students who can become qualified future employees at their companies.
In addition, English as a second language (ESL) teachers and bilingual educators are needed in states with high immigrant populations, including California, Texas, and Florida.
Special education is another area with an ongoing need for qualified teachers, Taghavian says.
“Special ed is a [shortage area] that seems to go unresolved,” Taghavian adds. “It takes a lot of extra credentialing … That demand isn’t going away in the near term.” It can require one to four years beyond a standard teaching degree to earn these credentials, he points out, depending on the state and discipline.
Those who combine credentials to address more than one of the shortage areas will find themselves hot commodities.
“The trend is toward credential stacking,” Taghavian says. “Aspiring teachers who can expand their credentials to include ESL or special education along with another discipline will have a leg up on the competition.” A triple ESL/STEM/special education combination, he says, “is the golden ticket.”
However, he advises aspiring teachers to choose their primary discipline according to their passions. “If I were in the early phase of my [teaching] education,” he says, “I would try to identify where my heart lies ... then understand the landscape so I would have the [competitive] credentials.”