Thinking Through Teacher Transitions: 5 Considerations Before Changing Careers

September 01, 2022

Nneka McGee

Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

Asian woman packs up her desk, putting a notebook into a brown box

Many teachers are transitioning away from the classroom into new career opportunities. The experience, skills and knowledge teachers have can certainly be applied in other contexts, especially within educational technology companies who are looking for input from recent teachers on how to make their products better. But there are opportunities everywhere, from within business, real estate, start-ups and more.

Here are five considerations teachers should make before transitioning to a new profession:

Pinpoint Your Why

Burnout. Lack of autonomy. Increasing workloads. Unmanageable expectations. These are all reasons teachers have transitioned out of classrooms. The “why” is one the most important parts of the transitioning journey and teachers should carefully reflect on the factors guiding their potential exits. Before submitting a resignation letter, draft a list of the pros and cons of leaving. Reflect on the potential impact it can have on your current lifestyle. Taking time to reflect can help teachers assess whether their desire to transition away is temporary or permanent, as well as feel confident and assured about their decision.

Review Your Contract

Most teachers sign contracts each year to indicate their intention to serve during the following school year. Many districts do provide grace periods in which teachers can resign after signing contracts with no penalty. Given significant teacher shortages, districts are now more reluctant to release teachers from their contracts, particularly when students are set to return or after the school year begins. Requirements vary by state, district or country, so review your contract and the potential penalties for breaking it before making a final decision on transitioning away from your position.

Determine Your Skills and Strengths

Teaching requires a specific set of skills. How will the expertise you’ve gained in the field of education transfer to other careers? Before taking the leap, think about the types of positions that match both your interest and skills. If you realize there are gaps in your skill set, invest in courses or bootcamps that will provide the skills needed in your new career. Websites such as Udemy and LinkedIn Learning offer content and courses geared toward individuals seeking to gain new skills. American College of Education provides micro-credentials that can enhance teachers’ resumes with in-demand skills.

Align Your Salary Expectations

Unfortunately, teachers are often not paid enough for the hours they put in and the hard work they do. However, don’t assume that switching careers will give you a guaranteed pay bump. Transitioning teachers may be relegated to entry-level corporate roles or other positions with lower pay. While some are willing to take a pay cut in order to leave the classroom, others should review their finances to determine the salary ranges necessary to maintain personal and family budgets.

Expect a New Company Culture

Education is a service-oriented profession. Through meetings, professional development and teaching, teachers are constantly in tune with and working towards their mission – the education and empowerment of students.

Not all organizations are as mission-driven, just as not all jobs make you feel like you’re making a tangential difference. For teachers changing lanes, this will be a culture shift. Changes in culture are not inherently negative, but the shift can be overwhelming for teachers who are unprepared. When considering the pros and cons of transitioning, take into account this culture shift. And before embarking on your job search, make a list of culture expectations for your new place of employment. Be sure to do your research on workplace culture before you accept a new position.

There are many factors that lead teachers to leave the classroom. Given the challenges and complexities of changing careers, teachers should take the time to plan appropriately so they can make their career change as smooth as possible.

American College of Education’s online micro-credentials and certificates can help you gain the new skills you need to jumpstart your career shift.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Nneka McGee
Nneka McGee, Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction

Dr. Nneka J. McGee is an innovative educator, researcher and advocate dedicated to creating and promoting pathways that provide students access and opportunities to navigate a future driven by automation and artificial intelligence. Prior to earning her Ed.D. at American College of Education, Nneka obtained a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and a juris doctorate. As part of her doctoral studies, she researched the experiences of K-12 teachers implementing or planning to implement artificial intelligence in classroom learning environments. She is a sought-after speaker on artificial intelligence in education and has shared her work as a panelist or presenter at national, state, regional and local conferences. Nneka is a proud member of HAKing Innovation’s Board of Directors, a non-profit, social impact organization on a mission to create a community of technical talent by exposing students to STEM experiences. She also serves as an AI practitioner advisory board member for the Engage AI Institute and was selected as an EdSAFE AI Alliance Fellow.

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