Becoming an Economics Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career teaching economics? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming an economics teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Economics Teacher

Economics teachers teach students the principles of macro- and microeconomics, price theory and econometrics. Here is a list of different pros and cons to consider.

Pros of Becoming an Economics Teacher
Pay is good at postsecondary level (median annual wage was around $90,870 in 2014)*
Can be rewarding to work with students and help them learn*
Graduate degree is not required for entry-level position teaching at the secondary level*
Flexible work schedules with extended vacation time*

Cons of Becoming an Economics Teacher
Slower-than-average employment growth at secondary level (6% growth from 2012-2022)*
Pay is not as good at the secondary level (median annual wage was $56,310 in 2014)*
Entry-level requirement for postsecondary level is a graduate degree*
Tenure for postsecondary teachers can take roughly seven years to earn*
Work may be stressful*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

High school economics teachers are responsible for teaching students from the ninth to twelfth grades. Most of the education students receive in high school is meant to prepare them for college and their entrance into the job market. The study of economics will help students understand how goods, resources and services are produced and distributed throughout the global economy. Yet, high school economics teachers are not just responsible for teaching these basic principles to young students. In fact, professionals have a number of other duties, such as supervising student club activities, chaperoning special events and coaching sports teams.

Conversely, professors of economics at a postsecondary institution interact with students mostly through class discussions, lectures and advising sessions during specific office hours. Most of the remaining time is spent conducting research, publishing new theories and serving on university committees. The goal of any teacher at this level is to earn tenure at a university for greater job stability; however, these opportunities are becoming more difficult to obtain. As a result, economics teachers must publish content consistently over the course of roughly seven years in the hope of moving up the ranks from assistant to professor status.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school teachers in general will experience an increase in employment by 6% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). This growth will vary by region, but it's mostly likely being caused by the combination of an increase in enrollment and a decline in student-to-teacher ratios, with teachers being responsible for fewer students. High school teachers earned a median annual wage of roughly $56,000 in May 2014. That same year, the lowest paid 10% of secondary teachers earned an annual salary of about $38,000 or less, while the highest paid 10% earned around $89,000 or more.

The BLS also estimated that, in May 2014, postsecondary economics teachers earned a median annual wage of about $90,900. In addition, the lowest paid 10% earned around $43,000 or less, and the highest paid 10% earned an annual wage of roughly $175,000 or more. Employment is also predicted to grow by 14% from 2012-2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

What Are the Requirements?

Requirements for secondary school teachers depend on whether the employer is a public or private institution. Public high schools require teachers to have at least a bachelor's degree in economics, but prefer candidates who have also completed a teacher preparation program. In addition, some states require economics teachers to earn a master's degree after earning the proper teacher certifications. For instance, all public high school teachers must be licensed by the state, with specific certification requirements varying from state to state. Conversely, it is not common for private schools to require licensure and certification for teachers.

In most cases, an economics professor is required to possess a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in economics to teach at a postsecondary institution. After earning an undergraduate degree in economics or a similar field, it can take an additional six years to successfully earn a Ph.D. in economics. While some community colleges may hire a professor holding a master's degree, the best job prospects are reserved for those with a Ph.D. In order to earn this terminal degree, candidates must successfully complete and defend a dissertation, which, in this case, would be an original paper discussing research done in the field of economics.

What Employers Are Looking for

Necessary skills for economics teachers include strengths in verbal and written communication, mathematics, problem solving, instruction, deductive and inductive reasoning, critical thinking and reading comprehension. Here are examples of what real employers looked for during April 2012:

  • A K-12 school in Texas advertised for a part-time economics teacher with at least a bachelor's degree in economics, political science or history; however, an advanced degree was preferred. In addition, candidates needed at least three years of experience teaching economics at the secondary school level.
  • A design and technology college located in Las Vegas sought a part-time economics instructor with a master's degree and knowledge of global economics.
  • A college in Ohio requested applications for a job as an economics adjunct instructor. Candidates were required to possess a master's degree in economics, as well as at least two years of experience teaching at a postsecondary institution.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

In order to stand out as an economics teacher, you must complete the highest level of education to be eligible for the best jobs. In addition, as a postsecondary teacher, you must consistently publish new research and scholarly papers to stay competitive in this field. As stated earlier, fewer universities are offering tenure. Instead, these institutions are choosing to offer limited-term contracts while keeping some faculty on the staff part-time. Therefore, you should strive to publish strong content consistently to convince a university to keep you on board as a tenured professor. Tenure is the main way to gain job stability as a professor. As a secondary teacher, it's recommended that you continue your education and earn certifications whether your employer requires them or not. In fact, a master's degree in economics could also merit a larger salary for a high school economics teacher.

Alternative Career Paths

Economist

Economists spend most of their time researching and analyzing economic issues, such as inflation, market trends and employment levels. If you decide to pursue a career as an economist, you'll be able to obtain an entry-level position with a bachelor's degree. Yet, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned an advanced degree in this field. You can expect to work in an office full time, although work may become stressful due to impending deadlines. According to the BLS, employment was projected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of six percent from 2010-2020, but in May 2011 the median annual wage was roughly $91,000.

Political Scientist

Political scientists study political systems by analyzing various governments, laws and trends. Similar to economists, professionals spend most of their time conducting research and writing scholarly papers. The entry-level education requirement for this field is a master's degree, and the median annual wage in May 2011 was around $104,000. Still, the BLS predicted that this profession will see slower-than-average growth in employment at eight percent from 2010-2020.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Professionals in this field oversee research, student services and academics of a college or university. Some institutions may offer entry-level positions to a candidate with a bachelor's degree, although most opportunities are available only to those holding a master's or doctoral degree. The BLS estimated the median annual wage for postsecondary education administrators in May 2011 to be around $84,000. In addition, employment in this field was expected to grow at an average rate of nineteen percent from 2010-2020.

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