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Teacher Appreciation Week: More than a Quarter of K-12 Teachers are Career Changers, Finds University of Phoenix Survey

By University of Phoenix

National Teacher Survey looks at how the teacher shortage is affecting classrooms, why career changers are critical and the reasons teachers recommend the profession to others

PHOENIX, May 2, 2016 — Teaching is one of the most visible and publicly debated professions in the workforce, and a recent University of Phoenix® College of Education survey indicates more than nine-in-ten (92 percent) K-12 teachers are satisfied with their career choice, and more than two-thirds (67 percent) would recommend the profession to others. Eighty percent of teachers who joined the profession within the last ten years would recommend it.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, University of Phoenix surveyed more than 1,000 K-12 teachers across the nation to explore how they feel about the profession and what can be done to attract high-quality teachers in the midst of a critical teacher shortage¹. The online survey was conducted on behalf of University of Phoenix by Harris Poll in April.

How the K-12 Teacher Shortage Is Impacting Districts and Schools

Nearly two-in-five (37 percent) K-12 teachers indicate at least one full-time teaching position is unfilled in their schools, with an average of 2.6 unfilled positions. Twelve percent say there are five or more unfilled full-time teaching positions in their schools.

Some of the issues teachers report due to potential teacher shortages include larger class sizes (42 percent), needing to teach subjects in which they are less fluent (23 percent) and more teaching toward the middle with less differentiation and individualized instruction (21 percent).

“At a time when schools nationwide are facing teacher shortages while trying to help students stay competitive in areas such as STEM, it is critical to highlight the incredible opportunities that exist in the classroom,” said Pamela Roggeman, Ed.D., academic dean for University of Phoenix College of Education and former 17-year K-12 teacher. “Retiring baby boomers and fewer people entering the profession are contributing significantly to today’s shortage, and attracting high quality candidates with diverse backgrounds is vital to future school success.”

Career Changers in the Classroom

The survey also reveals more than a quarter (27 percent) of K-12 teachers switched careers to enter the classroom. When asked why they made the switch to teaching, 37 percent of career changers said they always wanted to be a teacher, 28 percent wanted a change of pace and 18 percent decided to re-enter the workforce after some time away.

“Every child deserves an amazing teacher and career changers can play a huge role in helping address the nation’s critical teacher shortage,” said Roggeman. “Career changers bring rich experiences to the classroom because their backgrounds often help connect lessons to real-world applications.”

Why K-12 Teachers Specifically Recommend the Profession

More than three-quarters (78 percent) of K-12 teachers say the ability to profoundly affect students’ lives is a key reason to join the teaching profession. Other top reasons include: The variety that exists because no two days are alike (49 percent) and the lifelong learning opportunities (48 percent) that exist in the profession.

Teachers’ roles are also evolving. Nearly half (49 percent) of teachers who have been in the classroom for at least five years indicate they have gotten more opportunities to assume leadership roles in their schools than they did five years ago.

“There is arguably no other profession in which individuals regularly seek you out 20 years later to share the impact you had on their life choices,” said Roggeman. “Many Americans feel stuck in their careers, but as the survey indicates, teaching not only allows you to affect others, but also provides variety and the ability to constantly grow your own skills. It is a great time to be a teacher.”

There are many diverse pathways to the classroom. Roggeman recommends some tips to get started:

  • Become a substitute teacher. This is a great way to get engaged in K-12 schools and determine which level you feel most suited to teach.
  • Volunteer in a school or with community youth organizations. This can help you better understand how children learn and stay engaged.
  • Research alternative licensure programs. Explore the programs that lead to licensure. There are many options for those who want to make career changes and are working full-time.
  • Do informational interviews. Talk to teachers and administrators about the field and qualities and preparation that lead to fruitful teaching careers.
  • Find a mentor. Once you’ve decided you want to pursue teaching, seek out a mentor who can provide coaching and feedback about what it’s like to be in a classroom.

For more information about teacher preparation programs, continuing teacher education and professional development programs at University of Phoenix, visit

For general information about University of Phoenix programs, including on-time completion rates, the median debt incurred by students who completed the program and other important information, please visit

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between April 14 and 25, 2016. Respondents included 1,005 U.S. residents employed full-time as teachers in grades K-12 who have at least an undergraduate degree. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tanya Burden at

About University of Phoenix® College of Education 

University of Phoenix College of Education has been educating teachers and school administrators for more than 30 years. The College of Education provides bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for individuals who want to become teachers or current educators and administrators seeking advanced degrees to strengthen their professional knowledge. With education programs available throughout most of the U.S., the College of Education has a distinct grasp of the national education picture and priorities for teacher preparation. Faculty members on average bring more than 17 years of professional experience to the classroom. For more information, visit

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is constantly innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. As a subsidiary of Apollo Education Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit