Want a Stable Job in Any Economy? Become a Teacher

Public and private schools will always be in need of good teachers. The Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts a stable job situation and a growth of about 12 percent for teaching jobs between 2006 and 2016. Job growth will vary by region, and it will be accelerated by the unprecedented number of teachers who are expected to retire in that time period—as well as the large turnover among new teachers, particularly in at-risk districts.

If you’re considering starting a career as a teacher in the next few years, here are a few things to keep in mind.

You’ll need to get licensed. If you want to teach in a public school, you’ll need to get licensed after you earn your Bachelor’s degree. Requirements vary by state, but licensure generally requires going through a training program that can last one or two years.

You’ll also have to pass the Praxis I and II. The Praxis is a state-level standardized test that you’ll need to take before and after entering a certification program. The Praxis I tests basic reading, writing and math skills, and is taken before entering a teaching education program. The Praxis II tests candidates on the subject they’ll be teaching. Although state requirements differ, in most cases you’ll need to pass a Praxis II exam for every subject area you plan to teach.

Look to a high-needs area. If you’re considering teaching, it would be smart to start your career in a high-needs urban and rural area. While teaching positions in these districts can be considerably more demanding, there are often key incentives to teaching there. Some school districts will pay off some or all student loans, while others will pay for the licensure process. In some high-needs districts, new teachers will be allowed into the classroom before they earn licensure, provided they are enrolled in a licensing program.

Consider getting licensure online. Especially if you’re already working as a teacher in a high-needs area—but even if you’re working at another job and planning a transition to teaching—you’re likely to have a much easier time earning your professional teaching license if you take some or all of your classes online.

There are teacher licensing programs available for all grade levels, as well as Bachelors’ degrees in education that include licensing and certification. If you earn a Bachelor’s and then go through the licensure process separately, it could take you as much as six years to get in the classroom—but with a Bachelor’s in Education that includes licensure, you could go through the certification process as you earn your Bachelor’s—knocking off as much as two years from the time it takes to be classroom-ready.

Get licensed in a high-needs subject. It’s true that teaching jobs are stable in general. But that doesn’t tell the whole story—not all teaching positions are as stable as they seem. Unfortunately, teachers in art and music are often the first cut when schools have budget problems. Teachers in English and other humanities subjects generally have a more secure outlook, but they tend to be paid less and have fewer job prospects than their colleagues in more high-demand subjects, such as math, science and language.

Math and science teachers are always in high demand—especially science teachers in chemistry and physics. Language teachers are becoming more in-demand as well, and so are bilingual and ESL teachers—due to an increased influx of students who speak English as a second language in communities that serve large numbers of immigrant families.

Academic positions at post-secondary colleges are becoming more and more difficult to come by—and in a financial environment where students are having trouble getting loans, college budgets are particularly hard-hit. Because of this, teaching at the college or graduate level isn’t as stable a prospect as teaching at the K-12 level in a public classroom.

Getting licensed in a subject such as language, ESL, math or science will mean you’re in demand in most school districts—even those with no problems attracting teachers. If you choose to work in a high-needs district, you’ll likely get the best deals in terms of tuition reimbursement and other incentives.

If you’re looking for a career that won’t let you down when the economy gets tough, teaching deserves a second look. Good teachers are always in need, and with the right certification and licensure, you’ll be able to make a positive difference in children’s lives.