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

February 19, 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.

Transferable 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:

  • Instruction and clear communication
  • Active listening
  • Writing and reading comprehension
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Critical thinking and complex problem solving
  • Judgement and decision-making
  • Negotiation and persuasion
  • Systems analysis and evaluation

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 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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