So You Don’t Want to Teach Anymore: A Guide to Jobs for Former Teachers
Reviewed by Sarah Mattie
A career in education can be rewarding, fulfilling, and exhilarating. Many teachers love shaping young minds and helping prepare students for a changing future. However, the job can also be stressful, heartbreaking, and highly political, which can make some teachers consider leaving the field.
Teacher burnout and demoralization are on the rise, with teachers leaving their jobs at the highest rate on record as of 2018. A whopping 44% of teachers leave the field after five years or fewer. Most teachers cite a lack of support for both students and themselves, low pay, and poor working conditions that can affect their mental and physical health, as their reasons for exiting this career. We can especially see these effects if we look at data from the COVID-19 pandemic: in June 2020, 20% of educators polled nationwide said they were somewhat or very likely to leave education due to the virus. Just six weeks later, in a Missouri poll, 80% said they would leave if required to return to in-person teaching.
Leaving a teaching career can be daunting. You may have poured a significant portion of your life into your studies or your job, and it can feel like your training and experience won’t apply elsewhere.
The good news is that teachers generally have excellent interpersonal, organizational, and leadership skills, plus a plethora of other soft and hard skills that are valuable in other careers. There are myriad options open to teachers looking to pivot into related fields as well as those seeking significant career changes.
Jobs in Education, but Not in the Classroom
Do you enjoy the idea of working in the field of education, but know that traditional classroom teaching isn’t for you? There are plenty of roles in the education field that can benefit from the skills of an experienced teacher.
Test developers, also called item writers, create and revise examinations, from public school standardized testing to career certification exams. Many teachers have firsthand experience finding a balance between creating valuable lesson plans and meeting standardized testing demands. As a test developer, you can use that experience to develop better ways of assessing students’ true knowledge and comprehension.
Educational Product and Supply Professional
Companies like Houghton Mifflin Harcourtand Nasco specialize in developing educational products and services like books, apps, and online learning tools. These companies need to understand how to tailor their products to their users, and recent teachers may best understand clients’ needs. Those interested in this line of work should keep in mind that these careers often involve a good deal of regional or national travel, particularly on the sales end.
Instructional Technology Specialist
Contemporary American classrooms often depend on technology. As an ITS professional, you may help schools and school districts obtain and integrate technology that helps students and teachers access, develop, receive, and deliver curricula. Because you may also help solve both hardware and software problems, certain positions may require flexible (e.g., overnight) hours. Glassdoor reports that the average salaryfor instructional technology specialists is $70,969 per year as of July 2020. The number of positions is expected to grow at a rate of 4%-6% between 2018 and 2028.
Education Nonprofit Employee
Nationwide, educational nonprofit organizations have become increasingly important players in the U.S. public education system. There is a wide range of jobs in the field, from direct student support to fundraising and lobbying. While nonprofits hire people for all sorts of positions, social and community service managers—those who oversee programming—made a median of $67,150per year as of 2019, and the field is experiencing growth of over double the national average at 13%.
Online teachers fulfill the same duties as traditional teachers—creating and grading assignments, communicating with parents and administrators, and so forth—but they do so from the comfort of their own home. This is a good option for those who love teaching but don’t want to work in a physical building due to issues like health or safety concerns or a lengthy commute to their nearest school. There are online schools in every state, some run by individual districts, some as independent entities. A popular online education company is K12, which is always looking for quality educators to join them. Online teachers generally earn around the same amount as traditional teachers, as they’re employed by academic institutions.
This is a broad term for those who advise individuals, institutions, and policymakers on best practices. Some are self-employed, while others are employed by school districts or other organizations. On an individual level, this can include helping homeschool families improve curricula or assisting college-hopeful students in increasing their chances of acceptance to schools. If you’re a teacher, you’ve likely attended professional development sessions where experts come to speak on topics—those are often educational consultants. At the policy level, they’re often former educators who advise decision-makers about what it’s like “on the ground” in educational settings, as well as explain developments in research. In 2020, educational consultants self-reported an average salary of $61,183 per year.
Microschool/Pandemic Pod Teacher
Microschools are similar to homeschooling, but the instruction is “outsourced” to people other than the parents. They’re typically expected to follow state laws regarding private schools, including pay and benefits. Some of the groups are large—up to 150 students—but many are smaller, containing as few as six learners. The classes are generally mixed groups of all ages, and the instruction is tailored to individual students. This may sound largely like traditional classroom teaching; but, in this environment, instructors don’t “teach to the test” because there are no standardized tests (except, perhaps, when students are taking the SAT or ACT for college admission), and they function as mentors and guides rather than lecturers. Additionally, it’s rare for there to only be one adult in the room—there are often two instructors, one versed in STEM and the other in liberal arts. These environments are frequently in individual homes, though larger groups rent spaces. They can focus on Socratic dialogue, project-based learning, and the use of technology to replace traditionally “skill and drill” instruction.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents began investigating this option, along with “pandemic pods.” Unlike microschools, these pods are intended to be temporary. They often include only a few families who agree to commit to socially distance, wear masks, and follow other agreed-upon precautions in their daily lives. The risk of these pods is, of course, that the virus can still spread, particularly as they emphasize close contact with students; so, when making a decision about teaching in these environments, consider your and your family’s health risks. A teacher who chooses to enter this field needs to ensure the setup is done legally—it will likely need to follow their state’s homeschool rules.
Jobs Outside of Education for Former Teachers
While corporate and nonprofit organizations can operate quite differently from the education system, teachers tend to have a wide range of skills that can be applied in a variety of settings. Teachers looking to make a total career change may require additional training, from taking individual online courses through programs like LinkedIn Learning (which is free with a LinkedIn premium membership) and Coursera, to earning additional degrees. While exploring career options, take note of degrees or skills typically expected, and research your options.
HR Learning and Development Specialist
Corporations and businesses need help training their staff. Interpersonal communication, lesson planning, and the ability to work with all types of learners make teachers great trainers. If you’re looking for a career teaching adults but aren’t interested in becoming a college professor, this may be an excellent path for you. Training and development specialists’ median paywas $61,210 per year as of 2019, with a faster than average growth of 9%.
This can be a good match for teachers who have a particular interest in law and the judicial system. Teachers can earn their paralegal certification in a rather short period if required by their state or the law office in which they are interested. As of 2019, paralegals and legal assistants earned a median salary of $51,740. The number of jobs is expected to grow by 12% between 2018 and 2028.
Museum Curator and Archivist
All types of museums are, at their core, educational, so this career path may be a natural fit for some teachers. Former educators may work in program development, act as museum instructors, or manage volunteers, among other positions. Some museums prefer applicants with degrees in museum studies. If you decide to go for the degree, you can apply for part-time or volunteer positions and gain practical experience while studying. Museum archivists, curators, and other workers made a median pay of $49,850 in 2018, with a growth of 9% anticipated between 2018 and 2028.
This is a common suggestion for teachers hoping to leave the classroom, but it’s important to note that many libraries require a Bachelor or Master of Library Sciences degree for salaried positions. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply, but you may need to return to school. If this is your goal, it might behoove you to apply for an hourly position as a library page to gain experience while taking your courses. In 2019, the mean pay for librarians was $61,920 per year, and the field is growing at a rate of 6%. Library assistants, who don’t typically need library science degrees, earned a median of $29,490 per year, and the number of jobs is anticipated to shrink by 3% between 2018 and 2028.
If you enjoy working with children but want to do so in a less academic manner, nannying may be right for you. Nannies provide care for children of all ages, fulfilling parent-like duties: helping with homework, cooking meals, taking them to activities, and often housework. Some may even go on vacation with their families. Though certifications are generally not required, many are recommended to make you a more desirable candidate. Pay for nannies varies by location and number of children in their care, though the nationwide average is $15 per hour, which is $600 per week if working 40 hours. Nannies are covered under the domestic service portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). Therefore, they’re legally entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in seven days.
Horkey Handbook states, “A virtual assistant is anyone who offers services to other businesses from afar in exchange for an agreed upon fee.” Being a virtual assistant requires discipline, an ability to multitask, excellent communication skills, and attention to detail—all things teachers are adept in. Work can include anything from proofreading to video editing to project management, among dozens of other possibilities. You decide what services to offer, the hours you’re available to work, and even your own pay. Horkey Handbook offers classes you can take to improve upon skills for the services you want to offer, and you can also take similar classes through LinkedIn Learning or Udemy. Be sure to read up on self-employment laws before you start!
Part-time Jobs for Teachers
You may think, “I want a career, not a gig!” but part-time positions can be assets. They can serve as income supplements if you’re still working as a teacher while also adding your resume and showing you possess a variety of skills beyond traditional teaching. These could also help fill any gap between leaving teaching and starting your next career.
Online ESL Teacher
Online teaching is a growing field that is usually recruiting new instructors. Jobs are especially plentiful for teaching English online, with companies like VIPKid and GoGoKid consistently building a larger student base. These companies also provide all lesson plans and don’t require grading, which can be a huge plus.
Freelance Teacher and Coach
Community organizations often hire teachers and coaches, but they may not advertise open positions. Reaching out to specific organizations can be an excellent way to find a new career related to teaching. If you’re artistic, theatrical, or musical, jobs may be available at your local children’s theatre, government’s parks and recreation department, or independent schools of performing or visual arts. Former science and math teachers may find the right fit in a science museum or a company that does science presentations for schools and private events. For the athletically inclined, coaching opportunities are often available through independent organizations or your local parks and rec department.
Online journals for and by teachers are becoming increasingly widespread, with teachers wanting to hear from their peers rather than “educelebs.” Some of the more popular journals are American Educator, We Are Teachers, and The Educator’s Room, but sometimes more “mainstream” publications hire education writers as well. These publications create content relevant to teachers, from how-to guides to opinion pieces on current issues in education. Many periodicals don’t broadly advertise for writing jobs, so reaching out to them directly may help, as may being active on their social media pages before contacting the companies.
Lesson Plan Seller
Teachers Pay Teachers is a popular site for educators looking to sell lesson plans. Chances are you already have excellent tools in your classroom that other teachers need and are willing to pay for. While most teachers earn fairly small amounts, some report making over $100,000 per year on the site. Just be sure you’re not accidentally using copyrighted work, even for a small part of your plans!
Tutors can be employed by tutoring companies or individuals. They assist learners with their school work, enrichment activities, or standardized test preparation, either in person or online. In some cases, tutors work on specific subjects with their clients; in others, they serve in general academic assistance. The salary range is broad: tutors report earning anywhere from around $10 to $40 per hour as of 2020. Those who are self-employed often earn more than those employed by outside parties, but working for a company can provide more stability.
While we typically think of “homeschooling” as “parents as teachers,” this isn’t necessarily the case. For instance, in homeschool co-ops, it isn’t uncommon for groups of parents to hire educators to focus on specific subjects or activities they feel would be best run by an experienced professional. In some states, like Kansas, homeschools must be registered as private schools, and the educators must be “competent.” To align with state laws, parents may choose to “outsource” some subjects to experts in those fields. These jobs are typically part-time, and pay varies.
Respite Caregiver/Personal Care Aide
These are people who work in the homes of children or adults with disabilities. When working with young people, the job is typically after school hours during the school year, on weekends, and may become full-time over the summers. Similar to nannies, they may do cooking or light housework, but the majority of their time will be spent providing companionship and care for their clients. If the client has profound needs, these aides should be fully versed in and comfortable with providing appropriate care, such as changing diapers, feeding tube maintenance, and transferring to and from wheelchairs. These workers can be independent contractors or work for agencies. Salaries vary, with PayScale users self-reporting range of $19,345 to $35,410 per year and Zippia stating an average salary of $71,000. This major difference may be explained by part-time vs. full-time pay—most are part-time, particularly when working with youth.
FAQs About Changing Teaching Careers
Do other industries want to hire teachers?
Yes! Teachers inherently have skills that different industries desire. Having a growth mindset—the belief that personal development comes with hard work and dedication—is considered of the utmost importance by employers. They’re also looking for employees who can be creative, have excellent communication skills, and are experienced in cultural awareness. When writing your cover letters and resumes, be sure to emphasize these skills in addition to any job-specific abilities you have.
Additionally, parents often want nannies or respite caregivers to have experience and training in working with children.
What should I expect while job searching?
You may need to leave your teaching position without a job lined up due to contract rules requiring you to announce your intentions before the end of the school year. Your unemployment could extend beyond receiving your final paycheck from the school. You will likely have to turn job-searching into your full-time “career” during the gap, and there could be long waits between applying and hearing back. There also might be a good deal of waiting between first and second or even third interviews.
Expect stress and anxiety, even if you have a good financial cushion. This statement is not to scare you away from searching—these feelings are temporary and will likely go away once you find a job—but it’s good to be prepared to experience those emotions.
How do I spin my past experiences to apply to non-teaching jobs?
Phrase things in ways that avoid specific talk about children and students as much as possible (unless your new target industry or employment would find that particularly desirable, of course). If you’ve created lesson plans, you’ve developed skill-building sessions. If you’ve helped kids solve schoolyard problems, you’ve mediated interpersonal conflicts. Be sure to emphasize work that was not directly student-focused as well, like being a committee leader or developing district-wide initiatives.
Hiring a career coach may be useful. They can help you find your perfect career path, learn to create a “brand” for yourself, and assist in writing resumes and cover letters. This help may also be found through your alma mater’s alumni association if you’re a member.
How are non-teaching interviews different from teaching interviews?
Many teaching interviews involve one or two meetings and, perhaps, a teaching demonstration. Schools are often looking to hire quickly, so they may give you an answer in short order. Other industries, however, may put you through several rounds of interviews over many weeks or even months. Demonstrations of work are less common unless you’re applying for jobs in writing, design, or the like. Be sure to follow standard pre- and post-interview etiquette rules.
Will I be able to find a job with better pay?
Maybe. If you have spent your whole career in education, you may start in an entry-level position in another industry, which could pay less than your current job. Many nonprofits also pay less than teaching due to their restricted budgets. However, education is one of the lowest-paying careers, and it’s a career wherein promotions and pay increases are scarce. Other industries may have more opportunities to move up the ladder. It’s smart to ask about growth opportunities during your interview or offer negotiation conversations.
Should I quit teaching at all?
At the end of the day, this is a personal decision. But, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:
Do I feel like I am generally content as a teacher, or do I feel like I am merely surviving each day?
Could I be happy in a different school, or is this a universal problem?
Is there a way to change the things I am unhappy with?
Do I think I am the best teacher I can be with the way I am feeling?
Do I feel mentally, physically, and medically safe as a teacher?
What do I feel I am missing out on by remaining a teacher (work/life balance, higher pay, more respect, etc.)?
Notice that none of those questions are about your students. They may be the main reason you’re still attached to the job and have continued teaching despite your dissatisfaction with the career. Therefore, even though you may care about them, you must take your students out of the equation while making this decision.
Resources for Teachers Leaving Teaching
Often, teachers don’t know where to begin when looking for jobs. Teaching positions aren’t always posted on traditional job sites, so learning to navigate what options are out there can be intimidating. Some websites address individuals’ or common questions, both ones that are specific to former teachers and ones that are not, and resources that can help you create and sell your “brand.”