A career change entails jumping from your current job to a different career path, which may or may not be in the same line of work or industry. Remember that it’s a process and, thus, it consists of a series of well-planned steps for it to be successful. This is true whether you have been thinking of switching careers for a few years now or your hand was forced due to termination and other factors beyond your control. Some former teachers have done a great job at switching careers!
If you’re thinking of a career change, you’re not alone either! In a LinkedIn study of member profile updates in November 2021, the separation rate among K-12 classroom teachers increased to 66% over the rate a year earlier. The reasons cited included mental burnout, low student engagement in online classes, and concerns over students falling behind on academic performance.
The current labor market with the Great Resignation fuelling its shift to an employees’ market means teachers and educators can look forward to ample job opportunities. With their wide range of transferable skills, their transition into a new career can be smooth, sustainable and rewarding in many ways.
Teachers and educators who want to make a successful career change should deliberate decisions and actions before making the jump. While employers highly seek after their technical and transferable skills, it’s also important to stand out from the competition and ensure long-term employment in the new occupation. Mirror the success of former teachers who made it in new professions!
Types of Career Change
There are four types of career changes and shifts from or around the education field that teachers and educators can make. While a few are easier to make since there’s little change between the current and future careers, a few are more challenging because of the significant changes required.
- Same role, same industry
Since there’s little change involved except for a change of employer, this is the easier career change to make. Known as a lateral move, the roles and responsibilities are likely similar.
- Same role, new industry
This is a more significant change since you’re taking your technical and transferable skills into different industries, although your roles and responsibilities are similar. You’re a K-12 teacher now, but you can apply your skills as a corporate trainer – you’re still teaching and mentoring others, but instead of children and teens, it’s adult professionals soon.
- New role, same industry
The challenge in transitioning from a new role within the same industry is the possible gaps in knowledge, skills and credentials, and it can become a personal branding issue. But this can be remedied by gaining new skills in the formal education field through job shadowing and self-learning methods.
- New role, new industry
If you’re up for a real challenge, jumping into a new career within or without the education field and calling yourself one of the “former teachers” should be right up your alley! While success is possible, it demands hard work, including researching jobs, developing new skills sets, and rebranding yourself.
When choosing the best route for yourself, take the time to ensure that the industry you choose reflects your values while the occupation reflects your interests and skills.
10 Best Alternative Work for Teachers and Educators
Librarians and Library Media Specialists
Teachers will find the transition from the education field to library media specialization easier since these are in the same industry, albeit with different roles. Librarians and library media specialists assist people, including students, professionals and the general public, find information in their studies, research and recreation. Other tasks include creating and utilizing databases, organization of library materials, and maintenance of new and existing collections.
With your bachelor’s degree in the education field, you can apply for a master’s degree in library science, an entry-level requirement for librarian positions. Many positions also require a teaching certificate, which you likely already have. Master’s degree programs have a 1-2 years time-to-completion and cover topics on online reference systems and research strategies.
Librarians are less likely to be stressed from workplace-related issues than teachers. With a median wage of $60,820/year, they are also well-paid professionals at the forefront of the Age of Information.
Training and Development Managers
Teachers and educators make the best training and development managers with their effective communication skills! These professionals plan, manage and evaluate knowledge and teaching skills enhancement programs for employees, managers and even employers. Their job also involves managing the training budgets, updating the existing training programs, evaluating the quality of third-party training materials, training the instructors, and evaluating their performance.
Many positions require only a bachelor’s degree with sufficient background and work experience in training and development, but many openings require a master’s degree. Your undergraduate degree in education, business or communications, among other related fields, will likely be sufficient for training and development jobs. If you’re planning on taking a master’s degree, your best choices are organizational development, human resources management, or business administration. You will acquire workplace-ready skill sets that can be translated into a successful career as a training and development manager.
Since you’re dealing with adults instead of children, not to mention working into the night and on weekends on lesson plans, your stress levels will decrease. With $115,640/ year as the median wage, your net pay increases.
Human Resources Managers
Start by being a human resource specialist, an entry-level position that involves the recruitment, employment and termination of employees. Handling the compensation packages, training and development, and employee rights and relations are also on the table. With your bachelor’s degree combined with your communication, organization, leadership and teaching skills, your teacher-to-human resource manager transition will be smoother.
With several years of work experience, career advancement to human resource manager positions is possible. You should also consider earning a master’s degree in human resources management, organizational management, or business administration to get an edge. With nearly every office requiring a human resources manager, there are plenty of job opportunities for full-time work and career progression.
Human resources managers plan, direct, and manage the administrative functions related to employee welfare, performance, and retention. Recruitment, employment and termination are also in their job descriptions, although at a managerial level than their specialist counterparts. With a median pay of $121,220/year, it’s a significant step-up from a K-12 teacher’s salary!
Yet another easy career transition for teachers and educators is becoming instructional coordinators since both occupations are in education. Note that instructional coordinators in public schools have a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction or other related fields and a subject specialization (e.g., history, math or social science). With your baccalaureate degree in education, your master’s degree in learning instructional theory, curriculum design, and data collection and analysis make sense.
Check with your state licensing board, as instructional coordinators in public schools may have to secure either an education administrator or teaching license. Their jobs include designing, developing and implementing curricula in schools; organizing and conducting training, workshops and conferences for educators; and analyzing test data of standardized tests among students. Their abilities also enable them to recommend effective teaching strategies and technologies and even coach teachers in their jobs.
With a median wage of $66,970/year, instructional coordinators enjoy a good income with little of the physical toll and mental burnout cited by many teachers as their primary reason for changing careers.
Effective communication, leadership and interpersonal skills are among the critical skills that successful sales managers possess, and these are exactly what teachers have developed in their years in the classroom! The teacher-to-sales manager transition isn’t just easier, but it also brings more financial benefits – sales managers earn $132,290/year in median wage in contrast with $62,870/year for K-12 teachers. While sales managers have their fair share of work-related stressors, their jobs seem more profitable and enjoyable.
Sales managers are in charge of sales teams, meaning their jobs involve setting sales goals, analyzing sales performance, and developing training programs for sales associates. Other responsibilities include evaluating the profitability of products and services; creating promos, discounts and other special pricing plans; and developing customer acquisition and retention plans through sales strategies.
Although a bachelor’s degree is an edge, there are no specific educational requirements for success as a sales manager. You must, however, consider becoming well-versed in business management and law, finance and accounting, and sales and marketing through education, training and work experience.
The teaching profession demands its practitioners possess excellent writing and critical thinking skills and be detail-oriented and creative. These skills along with your teaching skills are valuable in the technical writing occupation, where instruction manuals, journal articles, and DIY guides are prepared for distribution to target audiences. Technical writers make complex materials, including technical information, easier to understand and apply, such as assembly manuals.
When writing technical documents, their jobs include incorporating graphs, illustrations and photographs into the documents; working with technical staff in ensuring accurate descriptions; and choosing the best medium for communication. While it may seem like there’s no imagination involved, there is since they must put themselves in the shoes of their target audience.
Only a bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level positions, with preference given to those with a background in communications, English, or journalism, among other related fields. Your soft skills will ease your transition, but you may have to develop additional teaching skills through formal training and shadowing. With a median wage of $74,650/year and 9-to-5 hours, it’s all worth it!
Postsecondary Education Administrators
If being in the classroom isn’t in your future anymore, but you still want to be involved in education, you can consider being a postsecondary education administrator. Many positions require a master’s in educational administration degree for supervisory positions, but a relevant bachelor’s degree and work experience may suffice, too. Ask about entry-level positions in the offices of deans, registrars and provosts to launch your career in this area.
A Ph.D. degree is a must for aspiring deans and provosts and their years of work experience and other formal training. While master’s and doctorate degrees mean significant financial investment, the median salary of $97,500/year makes it worthwhile. The job rewards, such as assisting college students in finding the right fit in terms of their degree and financial aid, are just as worthy of the investment. There are also numerous job titles, such as admissions officers, academic counselors, and college coordinators.
Social Media Specialists
With social media being ubiquitous, there’s always the chance that experienced teachers with strong social media backgrounds will find work as social media specialists. Many of the teachers’ soft skills have practical applications in this occupation, too, such as communication and critical thinking skills. It’s also important to gain new teaching skills, if necessary, in social media, including networking and SEO tools and the ability to spin familiar content in new ways.
The great news is that only a bachelor’s degree is needed to become a successful social media specialist! If you don’t have a relevant communications and public relations background, you’re well-advised to get formal training and adopt a self-study approach. You may also consider pursuing a master’s degree in Internet marketing for hard skills.
Social media specialists tend to have more flexible working hours, too, even enjoy the benefits of a work-from-home arrangement, unlike K-12 teachers. While workplace-related stressors are inevitable, these are more manageable, too, not to mention that the annual salary can range from $66,000 to $97,000+ per year!
Public Relations Specialists
Armed with your bachelor’s degree and excellent skills, you can try your hand at being a public relations specialist! You must, however, consider earning professional credentials in communications and public relations through certificate programs. Your technical skills will also improve through training and development within the organization and via self-study of these relevant fields. Ask about professional certifications, such as the Communication Management Professional certification.
Internships are also excellent opportunities to earn your stripes, and the best places are in public relations departments or firms. Be sure to highlight your relevant work experiences, such as being the advisor of your school newspaper and leadership positions in the school and community. You should also demonstrate your excellent interpersonal, organizational and problem-solving skills alongside your exemplary written, oral communication, and teaching skills.
If you want more challenge and more income, you should consider becoming a public relations and fundraising manager. Think of it as a step-up in the public relations field with its $118,430/year median wage and other rewards.
While a bachelor’s degree in business, economics or finance is useful in becoming an insurance underwriter, your degree in education will suffice, particularly if you have strong, soft skills applied in the industry. Getting more insurance-related work experience and training will also mean increased competitiveness. Earning an insurance-related certification, too, will be useful for senior positions; examples of professional certifications are Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter and Certified Residential Underwriter.
Most insurance companies provide new hires, regardless of their backgrounds, with training on insurance, including its products and services. New hires also work with senior underwriters to learn the ropes before becoming independent insurance underwriters. Skills developed from your teaching days with applications in this job include math, decision-making, interpersonal skills, and math competency. Aside from the flexible working hours and exciting career opportunities, insurance underwriters earn $71,790 in median annual wage.
Five Signs a Career Change Should Be Considered Now
Every teacher’s reasons for leaving the teaching profession are unique in their work experiences, future aspirations, and personality. But common threads are running through these reasons, too, which may apply to your case. Mental burnout and physical exhaustion caused by errant students, working through the night and weekends, and an unsupportive environment are common.
The challenges of virtual teaching during the coronavirus pandemic became the catalyst for the career change for many teachers, too. These include low student engagement, parents’ uncooperative attitude, and the district’s response to these issues. When the fairly low pay of K-12 teachers is considered, these challenges have become too much even for the most dedicated teachers to handle.
But teachers have also realized that their technical skills cannot be limited to a lifetime role in the classroom and, thus, their careers can pivot. The nonlinearity of their career trajectory means opening their eyes to the great possibilities out there!
If you’ve been experiencing one or more of these signs for a while, you must consider a career change now. You’re not just doing it for the money but for your physical and mental health and peace of mind.
You’ve been unhappy with your job for a while
Job satisfaction and teacher retention are closely related, and it’s also a contributing factors to the increased well-being of educators and their students, the overall sense of community in schools, and improved public perception of the teaching profession. But while the majority of teachers are satisfied with their jobs, only 36% believe that society places a premium on their profession.
But if you’ve been unhappy and unsatisfied with your job for a while, then perhaps it’s time to transition to a new career! Your unhappiness may stem from several factors, such as long hours and low pay. You may also feel unwarranted pressure from the district and parents or perform tedious work. You may also want a more flexible job with a better work-life balance.
You want to shift your focus to more enjoyable things
The teaching profession can be all-consuming, with teachers spending an average of 46.2 hours a week on work-related tasks. (In contrast, the international average is 38.3 hours) Of these hours, 28 hours are spent on teaching, seven hours on planning lessons, five hours on grading, and three hours on student counseling.
With the long hours spent on teaching-related tasks like those of educational consultants and school administrators, your personal life, including time with family and friends, has taken a backseat for years. You may have also put your travel plans on hold and put away your hobbies. You now want to enjoy the things you have missed out on due to your commitment to teaching and pursuing personal growth.
Your values have evolved
Every job is similar to a personal relationship – sometimes, you drift apart because your values have changed. Your idealistic values in your 20s when you first started teaching have become more realistic due to the pressures and stressors of the job. You may have started with a passion for making a difference in young people’s lives, or you loved the subject or wanted the variety and challenge of the job.
Whatever your reasons for getting into the teaching profession, you’ve changed over the years and want to focus on other things! Instead of changing people’s lives, you want to change your life for the better, from your income to your health and peace of mind. Your changing values may mean that it’s time for a change, including stepping away from the classroom.
You want a new challenge and environment
You’re happy and satisfied with your teaching job, including your relationships with your students, peers and colleagues. But after several years on the job, you’re feeling bogged down or tied down by the routine and familiar faces. You want a new challenge and the new environment that comes with it.
Your road to alternative career paths may have to be more drastic in this case. Think of a new industry and a new role, such as a public relations manager, where your persuasive communication skills and personal charm will be an excellent fit.
You have an abiding passion
Perhaps when you started teaching, you were inspired by your teachers or felt pressured to be in the teaching profession because of peer or family pressure. But your abiding passion has always been elsewhere, say, in the medical field or sales or writing stories. You’re longing to follow your dreams instead of being stuck in a profession that you’re not satisfied with anymore.
Any of these reasons should be reason enough to have second thoughts about pursuing a lifelong career in teaching. But beware of making sudden decisions toward alternative career paths, either, because it can negatively affect your life.
Getting Started on the Right Foot in Your Career Change
Planning is key to your success! Whether your employment was suddenly terminated or you spent a few months contemplating a change in career paths, this is true. You should plan your next steps and, thus, minimize missteps that may cause an even longer transition, perhaps affecting your financial health.
Start with the right mindset
What your mind can conceive, you can achieve! While it sounds cliche, it’s an excellent foundation for your career change plans because what you set your mind to now can be your reality soon. You may be anxious about the future, particularly if you’re entering a new industry, but changing your self-talk habits will increase your self-confidence. You will find that even simple words like “I can do this!” will suffice.
- Consider your reasons for leaving and ensure that you’re satisfied with them.
- Expand your horizons instead of limiting yourself to what’s before you now.
- Be your own loudest and biggest cheerleader!
Make a personal inventory
Even a simple SWOT personal analysis will go a long way toward increasing your chances of success in a career change. You may also write down your experiences in your current teaching job, including your reasons for satisfaction and dissatisfaction with it. You will have a clearer view of your reasons for leaving and your next steps, such as the type of jobs you may be happier in.
Then, take a personal skills inventory – both technical and transferable skills – that can be applied to other jobs. You should include skills from your teaching job and your volunteer work, community engagement, and organization membership. You must also include your interests, hobbies and values in your inventory because these will impact your choice of future jobs.
Consider a wide range of careers
Whether you want to stay in the education sector, you should brainstorm as many careers as possible instead of limiting yourself. You must use available career-related resources, such as career counseling, online job informational sites, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The more you research careers, the more confident you will be in your final choices and the more likely your success in your new job.
When considering new careers, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the compensation aspect either! Job satisfaction consists of several factors, from the salary and benefits to career advancement and corporate culture.
Create an action plan
With your skills inventory and possible careers information in hand, you can make a SMART action plan. Instead of meandering, you have a clear path ahead to guide your every action. Your action plan should ideally include the following steps:
- Tap into your personal and professional networks for job opportunities, including referrals. If you’re new to an industry, the importance of networking cannot be overemphasized. With somebody putting political capital into your skills, you have one foot in the door.
- Set up informational interviews with current professionals in the field. You not only learn more first-hand information from successful professionals, but you may have an opportunity to make an elevator pitch of yourself.
- Consider learning new knowledge and skills from formal academic training, such as master’s degree or certificate programs, and earning professional certifications. If you want to start in small steps and don’t have the financial resources, you can audit classes and embark on a self-study path. By upgrading your skills, you will have more job opportunities in store.
- Shadow successful professionals, if you can, even if it’s just for a few days. You will get first-hand experience with the demands of the job you’re planning on taking on.
Look at your resume and cover letter and your social media profiles, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. More than 70% of employers consider social media presence and activity a useful indicator of future employee fit and performance. You may have to make appropriate changes to your digital presence by highlighting your work experiences and skills. You may also want to consider keywords in updating your profiles and posts.
And be patient! The best change doesn’t come quickly, and it may take 6-12 months before you can land your dream job.
Transferable Skills From Your Teaching Days
When making your skills inventory, you will find a wide range of skills you’ve developed during your teaching days! These skills have useful applications in diverse jobs, too, both in and outside of the education sector.
Being courteous, tactful and sensitive to others’ feelings and showing respect while also standing up for yourself are some of the social skills that effective teachers possess and practice. These are soft skills with useful applications in all jobs and industries because there’s always a certain level of human interactions required, even in solitary jobs.
Effective communication skills are a must among teachers, from teaching students and conducting parent-teacher conferences to collaborating on curriculum design and presenting papers at conferences. Your strong verbal and written communication skills are marketable in whatever occupation you’re targeting, whether an educational administrator or a sales manager.
You have probably developed your leadership skills by developing a clear vision for your classes and students, taking strategic actions to achieve related goals and building connections where differences exist. Your ability to lead students in their studies and inspire them toward personal greatness are skills that can be translated into other jobs!
Your leadership skills include:
- Effective, decisive and inclusive decision-making skills
- Active listening skills
- Persuasive negotiation skills
- Effective organization, delegation and scheduling skills
Your primary role as a teacher is to instruct, and it’s the same ability that will be useful in many occupations like corporate training, curriculum development, and sales management. Your ability to make things stick in the mind of others may even be your ticket to managerial positions.
Why not transfer your uncanny ability to inspire your students to another workplace? While adults may have different motivations than students, they are still humans and thus, you can use your motivational skills on them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do if you have second thoughts about a career change?
You may doubt your ability to change careers because you have a family to raise or you’re afraid of leaving your comfort zone. Don’t stress too much about it, as it’s normal to have second thoughts when making life-changing decisions! But there are steps that you can take to determine whether you’re up for a change soon, or you may want to postpone it for a while.
- Talk to your mentor, family and friends about your plans. You may be missing an important perspective.
- Change your work environment, if possible, such as changing grade levels. The change in scenery and students may reenergize you.
- Take a closer look at your work stressors and decide whether you can put up with them in the next year. If not, then you should seriously consider the career change now.
How do I stop feeling guilty about changing careers?
Your students and peers may be part of the reason for your guilt – it feels like you’re abandoning them for greener pastures! But you shouldn’t feel guilty about your career change because you can’t pour from an empty cup. You should consider taking these steps to stop feeling so guilty, too.
- Think of yourself first, as selfish as it sounds, because your health and happiness come first
- Maintain contact with the people who mattered in your old workplace instead of burning bridges
- Personal growth comes with change
- Look forward to the exciting challenges and rewards of your new job so that your guilt doesn’t dampen your happiness
What can you do now for a future career change?
Preparation is crucial to your future success, whether you’re still on the fence or have decided on a career change. Your preparations must start now so that your foundation has a good start. You can perform the steps mentioned above in getting started on the right foot, particularly about changing your mindset from anxiety to anticipation.
Your journal is also a good start since it will make your journey from teaching to non-teaching occupations more tangible. You will also have something to look back on when you’ve finally found your footing in your new career.
When should I start applying for new jobs?
There’s never a perfect time for changing careers! There will always be another lesson plan, another teacher-parent conference, and another curriculum change if you decide to stay for a little while longer. You may miss an excellent career opportunity in the process. The best time to start applying for new jobs is NOW, particularly if you have already undergone skills upgrading and networking, among other preparatory steps.
What can you do for your financial health?
As part of your preparation for a new career path, you should look at your budget, particularly your income and expenses. Former teachers or ex teachers made it by saving money as soon as possible, because they knew the new job could take a few months to materialize.
- Changing careers should be an opportunity for personal growth and professional advancement, so go for it!
- Be sure to have a clear and concrete action plan before resigning from your job.
- Transferable skills developed as a classroom teacher are valuable in many other occupations, so highlight them in your applications.