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Alternative careers for teachers: 6 Ways to leverage your teaching skills

September 24, 2019 by Brandman University


Some educators step foot inside a classroom and know they’ve embarked upon their lifelong calling. Perhaps they enjoy the intellectual acrobatics required for engaging instruction. Or maybe they feel fulfilled when they see students succeed.

But it’s not uncommon for educators to eventually decide that in-class instruction may not help them achieve all of their career—or life—goals. Some feel compelled to make a different type of impact. If you count yourself among them, you could have any number of reasons for contemplating a career change.

Whether the decision to take your career in a different direction is due to burnout, a desire to increase your earning potential or simply an insatiable itch for change, rest assured there are a number of alternative careers for someone with your background. Join us as we explore some of the additional opportunities to leverage your existing experience. But first, it’s important to illustrate how an educator’s skills are cross-functional.

20 Transferrable skills in teaching

If you’re worried about the feasibility of transitioning your career, know that you won’t be starting from ground zero. Dr. Kathy Theuer, professor and associate dean of the School of Education at Brandman University, maintains there are a number of transferable teaching skills educators learn in the classroom that could help them excel in alternative career paths.

Dr. Theuer highlights creativity, collaboration and technology proficiencies in addition to some of the hard skills often featured in a teacher’s job description.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, qualified elementary, middle and secondary educators typically possess a skill set that includes the following:

  1. Active learning
    Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making
  2. Active listening 
    Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate and not interrupting at inappropriate times 
  3. Complex problem solving 
    Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions
  4. Coordination
    Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions
  5. Critical thinking
    Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems
  6. Instructing
    Effectively teaching others how to do something, training, coordinating, coaching and facilitating
  7. Judgement and decision making  
    Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one
  8. Learning strategies 
    Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things
  9. Management
    Coordinating and guiding others to meet objectives and goals
  10. Monitoring
    Monitoring/assessing performance of yourself, other individuals or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action
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  12. Multitasking
    Juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities while remaining composed and meeting deadlines
  13. Negotiation 
    Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences
  14. Reading comprehension 
    Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents
  15. Service orientation 
    Actively looking for ways to help people
  16. Speaking
    Talking to others to convey information effectively
  17. Social perceptiveness 
    Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do
  18. Systems analysis 
    Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations and the environment will affect outcomes
  19. Systems evaluation 
    Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system
  20. Time management
    Managing one’s own time and the time of others
  21. Writing
    Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience

This list indicates that the skills of a good teacher enable seasoned educators to be transplanted into numerous other career paths with relative ease. But there are a handful of positions that former educators may find they’re particularly well-suited for—both inside and outside a school building. 

Alternative careers for teachers within the education field

Some teachers may want to explore alternative career opportunities, but still feel a sense of belonging within the education industry. The good news is, there’s an array of options that don’t involve classroom instruction.

You might consider one of the following three career paths:

1. Principal 

Becoming a principal could be the most natural progression for you if you’re not interested in continuing classroom instruction, but you’re still committed to working within your community’s schools. Rather than teaching students directly, principals manage all school operations to ensure a safe and productive learning environment for students and staff alike.

The experience you’ve garnered in classroom management and organization could make you a great fit for a role like this one. Do note, however, that in addition to prior work experience as a teacher, principals typically need a master’s degree in education administration or leadership.

2. Curriculum specialist 

Also called instructional coordinators, education specialists and program administrators, curriculum specialists develop instructional material, coordinate with teachers and principals to implement it and, later, assess its efficacy. They maintain a working knowledge of teaching standards and techniques established by school boards. Curriculum specialists also work to ensure these criteria are continually met.

Curriculum specialists may be asked to observe teachers in the classroom, review student test results and interview school staff about the curricula in use. The specialized skill set these education pros need is garnered through years of experience working in education, plus a master’s degree in education or curriculum and instruction.

3. School counselor 

Educators who have spent years working within a school system are no stranger to the academic and social struggles common among young learners. With that in mind, many consider it a natural transition to shift from a teaching position to a career as a school counselor.

School counselors tend to the social and emotional needs of students while also helping them explore their interests and potential career options. This master’s-level position can also include collaborating with teachers, parents and guardians to ensure that effective changes are being implemented in a student’s learning environment if needed.

Alternative careers for teachers outside of the education field

While some former teachers consider themselves to be “lifers” within the education space, others may eventually feel they need a clean break from that life. Rest assured that there are ways to leverage your teaching experience in new ways—and new industries.

Consider the following three possible jobs for teachers outside of education:

4. Corporate trainer 

Working as a corporate trainer, also called a training and development specialist, your experience developing lesson plans and instructing class sessions could come full circle as you guide adults through their professional development. These business professionals help plan, conduct and administer training programs that can help improve the skills and knowledge of an organization’s employees.

The most qualified corporate trainers have obtained a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field. They must also have some related work experience in areas like training and development, teaching or human resources. Former educators, obviously, may have a bit of a leg up in a role like this due to their understanding of different learning styles and strategies.

5. Human resources manager 

Organizations in every industry have one core desire in common: They want to attract, motivate and retain qualified employees. This is why most companies employ a human resources (HR) manager.

HR managers are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating an organization’s administrative functions. They oversee recruitment, interview and hiring processes; consult with executives regarding strategic planning; and serve as a link between the organization’s management and employees.

These duties may call upon the systems analysis, evaluation and problem-solving skills you gained while teaching. Most HR manager positions seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business management, education or a related field. 

6. Paralegal 

The connection between teaching and working as a paralegal may seem farfetched at first glance. But if you’re the type who thrives when tasked with crafting new lesson plans, evaluating coursework and researching for upcoming class subjects, you may find you’re naturally inclined to succeed in the legal field.

Paralegals perform a variety of different duties to support lawyers. This can include conducting research on relevant laws, investigating and gathering the facts of a court case, organizing files, drafting important legal documents and writing or summarizing reports to help lawyers prepare for trial.

Your penchant for writing, reading comprehension, communication and complex problem-solving can help you excel in a role like this. Paralegal positions typically require an associate or bachelor’s degree in tandem with a certificate in paralegal studies or comparable on-the-job training.

Where will your career take you? 

No matter your reasons for contemplating a transition, be reassured that there are plenty of alternative careers for teachers to choose from. Whether you’re hoping to shift into another role within the education industry or get a fresh start with something entirely different, you have options.

As you venture toward changing careers, it can be helpful to consider the advice from those who have walked that path before you. Hear from professionals who found success after a major career change by reading our article, “6 Things to consider before making a career transition.”


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