Becoming an Educator: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
Educators teach students from preschool age through adulthood. Teaching has many rewards, along with job frustrations. Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of becoming an educator.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming an Educator

Teachers provide the surroundings and tools necessary for their students' development. Learn more about the pros and cons of a career as an educator to decide if it is the right job for you.

Pros of Becoming an Educator
Expected job growth through 2022 is faster than the average for many levels of teaching*
Rewarding to see students mastering new skills*
Have options for boosting your earnings*
May have opportunities to work with teams or mentors*

Cons of Becoming an Educator
May deal with disrespectful, unruly or even violent students*
Increased accountability standards may cause stress*
May have a heavy workload and work more than 40 hours per week; might also have large classes and outdated technology*
Moving may be necessary, as opportunities vary by geographic area*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a teacher of children under five years, you'd care, nurture and teach children one-on-one and in groups. In addition to language development, you'd also teach skills for motor, emotional and social development. Young children learn through play, and you'd utilize music, games, movies, computers and books. As a preschool teacher in a public school district, you'd probably work a traditional 10-month school year. If you worked in a daycare or private school setting, you might work full- or part-time and possibly year round.

As a kindergarten or elementary teacher, you'd introduce your students to many concepts in math, science, language, and social studies. You'd probably teach a variety of subjects to one class of students, unless you're team-teaching, or teaching a specialty area, such as physical education, art, or music. If you're teaching middle or high school, you'd probably teach one subject to a larger number of students. You'd dig in deeper to topics that were introduced in kindergarten and elementary school.

If you're thinking of becoming a special education teacher, you're probably especially patient, organized and understanding of differences in others. You'd be working with students of all different ages who have emotional, physical, or cognitive disabilities. You'd plan and implement a great deal of individualized instruction and ensure that your students' special needs are met.

As a postsecondary teacher, you might be a faculty member at a college or university, or work as a graduate teaching assistant. You could teach either vocational or academic subjects, and your students might be working towards degrees, certificates, or skills enhancement. As a full-time faculty member at a 4-year school, you'd probably be required to complete research and committee work, in addition to your teaching duties.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

According to the BLS, the expected job growth through 2022 for most levels of teaching is faster than the average, with excellent job prospects. However, the job growth for K-12 is about as fast as average, and it's best in bilingual education, math, and science. You'll also have the best prospects in rural and urban school districts.

According to the BLS in May 2014, preschool teachers earned a median wage of about $28,000. The median wage of K-12 teachers ranged from approximately $54,000-$56,000. At that same time, the median wage for postsecondary educators was approximately $62,000. However, their earnings varied widely, depending on their rank, school, field, and geographic area. In 2014, the median wage for special education teachers in elementary through secondary school was about $54,000. Many educators earn extra income by teaching extracurricular activities, coaching sports, earning additional degrees or certifications or working summer jobs.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Certifications

Public school educators are required to hold a bachelor's degree and to complete a teacher education program. Additionally, all public school teachers must be licensed, while private school teachers typically do not have this requirement. In some states, there's a specific license for special education teachers. If you want to become an educator and you hold a bachelor's degree in an area other than teaching, you could earn a master's degree in teaching, or you could work towards the alternative licensure now offered by all states. This might take several semesters to complete, and these credits may count towards a master's degree. Some private schools may hire teachers with degrees in other areas or relevant experience.

As will most 4-year schools offering full-time, tenure-track jobs, universities considered research schools will usually require that you have a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a concentration in your field. Some 4-year schools might consider you for some part-time or temporary jobs if you have a master's degree or if you completed most of your Ph.D. requirements. A master's degree program may also qualify you for a teaching position at a 2-year college. If you're working on your Ph.D., you might be able to get some teaching experience by working at your school as a graduate teaching assistant.

What Are Employers Looking for?

School districts had started advertising positions for the following school year already in the spring. Degrees and certifications definitely topped the list of requirements, but experience was often preferred, too. Read the following excerpts taken from real job listings in March 2012 to see what the employers sought.

  • A public school district in Arizona advertised for a full-time special education preschool teacher. This employer required Arizona certification, Highly Qualified Status, fingerprint clearance, demonstrated subject area knowledge and a comprehensive background in child development.
  • A public school district in Nevada posted jobs in general education (K-5), special education (K-12) and various specialty subject areas for grades K-5 and 7-12. This district required a bachelor's degree in education and student teaching through an accredited college. The posting also noted that Nevada requires permanent residency or U.S. citizenship for licensure.
  • A public school district in Illinois was accepting applications for the next school year. Openings included high school math, high school computer science and elementary reading. The employer required proper certification and endorsements.
  • A community college in Michigan advertised for a full-time instructor, lecturer status. The contract was for one year, with renewal possibilities. This school preferred a master's degree in business or management, but they would consider an experienced community college teacher with a bachelor's degree. Experience working for 4,000 hours in business and management was also a requirement.

How Can I Stand Out?

Educators working in preschool through high school can stand out from the crowd by earning additional degrees or certifications and becoming experienced with various grade levels. Completing continuing education credits above the required minimum could also be helpful, along with specializing in various extracurricular activities or sports. Postsecondary teachers can also earn additional degrees or certifications, in addition to performing and publishing their research.

Other Careers to Consider

If the requirements for becoming an educator are too extensive, or you aren't sure that you want to work with children full-time, you might consider the following positions.

Teacher Assistant

If you're interested in less education requirements, you might consider becoming a teacher assistant. These assistants may also be referred to as teacher aides or paraprofessionals. Schools receiving federal funding often require that you complete two years of college or pass a state or local assessment. Other schools may consider you with various levels of education; previous experience is a plus. The median wage, according to the BLS in May 2011, was around $24,000.

Librarian

If you decide that you don't want to work with children full-time, but you do enjoy working with reading materials, you might want to consider a career as a librarian. In this career you'd help patrons find facts and information, decide which reading materials to buy, and arrange books so that the users can find them easily. You will likely need a graduate degree in information science or library science, and you may need a state license and teacher certification to work as a librarian in a public school. The median wage in May 2011, according to the BLS, was about $55,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Literacy
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education
      • Ph.D. in Literacy: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
      • Ph.D in Literacy: Literacy
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
      • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Career and Technical Education (CTE)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: ESOL (K-Adult)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Adolescent Literacy
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • Master of Science in Chemistry with an Emphasis in Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • Ed.D. - Early Childhood Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
      • PhD in Education - Higher Education Leadership
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MEd - General Education
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
      • M.Ed. - Higher Education Leadership
      • MAT - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MAT - Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - E-Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
      • MS - Special Education with Autism Specialization
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
    Certificate
      • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
      • Certificate - Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education - Elementary Education
      • Master of Education - Secondary Education
      • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.Ed. - Adult Education and Training
      • Master: Education - Leadership in Educational Organizations
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    9. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Graduate Certificate in E-Learning
      • Graduate Certificate in Special Education for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

Featured Schools

Saint John's University

  • Ph.D. in Literacy
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Educational Leadership
  • Ph.D. in Literacy: Special Education

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • Doctorate of Education - Higher Education
  • EdD Professional Leadership, Inquiry, and Transformation
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Secondary Education with OATCERT Certificate
  • MS - Special Education with Autism Specialization
  • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
  • Certificate - Special Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Graduate Level Instructional Practices

Are you a US citizen?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Master of Education - Secondary Education
  • Master: Education - Curriculum and Instruction

Are you a US citizen?

Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

What is your age?