This is not an easy question to answer. Whether you’re a classroom teacher or a veteran administrator, there is a point in your career where you have to make a decision about your career path. These days there are so many ways to be an impactful educator and take your career — and income — to the next level. Here are some of the most popular paths to take, what the role is really like, and what it takes to make this your next stop in education.
The school bell rings and students are busy filing in their classrooms. As they take their seats, they are ready to begin a new day and learn new lessons – from you – their teacher. However, as you begin to instruct these future leaders, have you ever thought, “What’s the next step for me?” “What does my future in education look like?”
Career Paths for the Classroom Teacher
- Team Lead/Lead Teacher – As a lead teacher or team lead, you are the bridge between the principal and your fellow co-workers. Your job, as a facilitator, is to make sure the voices of the teachers are heard by the administration regarding all school-related topics — attendance, curriculum, instruction, etc. You are also a mentor to other teachers, a liaison between parents and teachers and also track department goals and progress. While there may, or may not, be an additional income boost, the experience is invaluable for those who want to go into administration role. You wouldn’t need additional degrees or certifications for the role, but a master’s degree and additional leadership training is ideal for this role.
- Instructional Coordinator – The role of Instructional Coordinator is also a path to consider if you’re looking for additional experience in the education field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, the responsibility of this position is to “oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They develop instructional material, coordinate its implementation with teachers and principals and assess its effectiveness.” This is a role said to be one of the fastest growing fields in education. Outside your teaching credentials, experience, and a master’s degree, you wouldn’t have to have any additional training to get started.
- Principal/AssistantPrincipal (Administrator) – This is perhaps the role most people think about when they decide to make a move from the classroom and into a leadership position. While the responsibilities of a principal are heavy, it’s a chance to make an even greater impact on education and in your community. Scholastic describes the role of Principal/Assistant Principal as, “The assistant principal’s role varies from school to school. Some APs are mostly responsible for logistics and operations, others are primarily in charge of student discipline, and still others head up curriculum and instruction for a particular grade level or two. The principal is a school’s overall instructional leader and manager. (www.scholastic.com)” If you’re looking to head into this line of work, while rewarding, it’s also important to note there are some modern-day challenges as well.
In SEEN’s most recent Fall/Winter 2018 edition, the perspectives of two principals – at different stages in their careers – shed light on the role as it exists today. One common thred cited by both principals: community and communication. Both principals felt that the need to communicate – and how you communicate to your staff and community — was vital in being successful in this role. The ways to communicate today are far beyond notes home, press releases to local media, and your PTA meeting. These days you must also have a heavy digital and social media presence to reach parents, teachers, and community leaders. You have to develop a brand for your school as principal and with this you’re sure to go far.
Make sure you have the leadership and communication skills needed when you step into this job because you are the school leader from top to bottom. Also – just in case you were wondering — a master’s degree in education administration and years of educational experience is required.
From a principalship position, many may decide to go further up the education hierarchy and pursue roles in education administration. The roles are not necessarily superintendent roles — which most people naturally assume — but these are impactful opportunities that extend far beyond your county and state. Here are some ideas for those looking to go into education administration or even transition out education administration.
Career Paths for the Administrator:
- Superintendent/Assistant Superintendent – This is part of the traditional career path for most principals and you will need a doctorate degree. While the principal evaluates teachers in their schools, the superintendent evaluates principals within their school districts. They also devise overall budgets for schools, work closely with elected officials — i.e. school boards — and oversee professional development for principals and teachers. This role, in a lot of ways, is a very political one – as the superintendent directly interacts with the school board and other local officials to implement policy and standards.
- Corporate Trainer — A corporate trainer is not one most people think of but can certainly be very lucrative for those who want may want to put their skills to work after leaving an administrative role. Trade-Schools Net says, “Training other professionals in a business setting can be a terrific way to use your presentation, communication, and leadership skills. (www.trade-schools.net, 36 Jobs For Former Teachers). You can still teach – just this time to corporations and non-profit organizations. Courses to become a corporate trainer will be a key factor to your success. Look online and to your local university to see what additional credentials/certifications you need to get started.
- Policy Maker/Policy Staff — Someone who chooses to be a “policy maker” doesn’t have to have moved up the ranks as an administrator, but it would help to have significant education experience under your belt in order to make solid recommendations for change. TEACH.org says this role is for the educator looking to make a difference in education via government, “There are a number of policy positions that you might consider at a Mayor’s Office, a County Office of Education, a State Education Agency, U.S. Department of Education, or the legislative branches at the state or federal level. In these roles, you may help research and inform educational policy decisions.”
- Education Consultant – The education consultant is one that has really taken off among former teachers and administrators alike. You are truly your own business when you decide to become an education consultant. There are so many avenues you can take in doing this, but the overall goal is to lend your expertise to help schools excel. Scholastic’s description of an education consultant: “Consultants for nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies work with teachers and administrators to help boost student achievement.” It helps to have an extensive background in education – from teaching to administration – to be able to provide the needed counsel to district administrators.
The skill set of an educator provides so many other great career opportunities this article hasn’t even begun to touch upon. The skills utilized daily in front of the class not only helps you propel students forward but can also propel your own career or second career in education. The important takeaways found in any of the opportunities above is: a passion for continued learning and a desire to make a difference. With those two characteristics alone, the sky is the limit to what you can do in your education career.