Alternative careers for teachers: 6 Opportunities to leverage your existing skills
Some educators step foot inside a classroom and know they’ve embarked upon their lifelong callings. Maybe it’s the intellectual acrobatics required to engage the class in learning or the fulfillment in seeing students succeed.
But it’s not uncommon for educators to decide that in-class instruction may not help them achieve all of their career — or life — goals. You may feel compelled to enhance your impact in a different way. Perhaps you’re feeling the burnout from teaching during a pandemic. Or maybe you’re motivated to increase your earning potential.
Whatever the reason, there are some great career changes for teachers that will leverage all of the valuable skills and experiences you’ve gained. But before we dive into some of the jobs for teachers outside of education, let’s explore how an educator’s skills are cross-functional.
20 Transferable skills for teachers
If you’re worried about the feasibility of pursuing careers after teaching, 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 technical skills needed to be a teacher.
According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor, qualified elementary, middle and secondary educators typically possess the transferable skills listed below.
Teaching skills that can be used outside the classroom
- Active learning: Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- 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.
- Complex problem-solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Coordination: Adjusting actions in relation to others’ actions.
- Critical thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
- Instructing: Effectively teaching others how to do something, training, coordinating, coaching and facilitating.
- Judgement and decision-making: Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Learning strategies: Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Management: Coordinating and guiding others to meet objectives and goals.
- Monitoring: Monitoring/assessing performances of yourself, other individuals or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
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- Multitasking: Juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities while remaining composed and meeting deadlines.
- Negotiation: Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
- Reading comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
- Service orientation: Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Social perceptiveness: Being aware of others’ reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Systems analysis: Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations and the environment will affect outcomes.
- 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.
- Time management: Managing one’s own time and the time of others.
- Writing: Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
This list demonstrates the valuable skill sets educators possess that can jump-start a career change for teachers. There are several jobs for former teachers to consider — both inside and outside a school building.
Alternative careers for teachers within the education field
Even if you’re contemplating careers after teaching, you may still feel a sense of belonging within the education sector. 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:
Becoming a principal could be the most natural progression for you if you’re looking for a move outside of the classroom, but you’re still committed to working within your community’s schools. Rather than instructing 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 makes this an ideal career change for teachers. Do note, however, that in addition to prior work experience as a teacher, principals typically need at least a master’s degree and a state-approved administrative credential. At Brandman University, it's School of Education offers a combination graduate degree program that provides those interested in this path with both. Explore the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Administration with Preliminary Administrative Credential Services Credential program to learn more.
2. Curriculum specialist
Curriculum specialists are also called instructional coordinators, education specialists or program administrators. They develop instructional material, coordinate with teachers and principals to implement the material and, later, assess its efficacy. These experts are expected to stay updated on the latest teaching standards and techniques established by school board and 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 teaching skills you’ve acquired serve as a great foundation, but additional specialized training can be gained through 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 in other industries
Some former teachers feel called to serve their entire careers in the education space, but others may be looking for a more significant change. Rest assured that there are ways to leverage the skills needed to be a teacher in new ways — and new industries.
Consider the following three possible jobs for former teachers outside of education:
1. Corporate trainer
As a corporate trainer, also called a training and development specialist, the teaching skills you used to develop lesson plans and instruct class sessions could come full circle as you guide adults through their professional developments. 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 or additional instruction in areas like training and development, business communications or human resources. Former educators often have a bit of a leg up in a role like this due to their understanding of different learning styles and strategies.
2. 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 recruitments, interviews and hiring processes; consult with executives regarding strategic planning; and serve as a link between the organization’s management and employees.
HR positions make great second careers for teachers because they utilize the systems analysis, evaluation and problem-solving skills you gained as an educator. Most HR management positions seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business management, education or a related field.
The connection between teaching and working as a paralegal may seem far-fetched 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, research, 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.
Start planning your career after teaching
No matter your reasons for contemplating a transition, be reassured that there are plenty of alternative jobs for teachers to choose from. Whether you’re hoping to shift into another role in the education space or get a fresh start with something entirely different, you have options for flexing your teaching skills in new ways.
As you venture toward changing careers, it can be helpful to consider the advice of 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.”
*This article was original published in 2019 and was last updated May 2021.
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