With a degree in Education, you might be searching for jobs for teachers, but do you know what other opportunities are available to you? If you had majored in Education forty years ago, you would have earned the most popular degree at that time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Today, despite a steady decline in the number of Education graduates, it is still one of the top ten most common fields of study for college students.
What are your options today as an Education major? We checked in with two people with backgrounds in the education field, who are passionate about helping college students find their calling. Kaitlyn Maloney is the Recruiting Specialist for New England Center for Children, and Dr. Robert Shindell is President and CEO of Intern Bridge, Inc.
Common misconceptions about majoring in Education
Education majors often do not realize the variety of opportunities they will have when they graduate. Many students envision themselves in a teaching role. And while jobs for teachers can be found across the country, Dr. Shindell of Intern Bridge says that vision is very limiting to college students. He says the most prominent misconception is that “the only thing one can do with a degree in Education is to be a K through 12 teachers. Although many students who major in Education do envision themselves entering the teaching profession, some come to the realization, after engaging in student teaching, that being in the classroom is not where they were meant to be.”
Even if you loved your student teaching experience, you might still be limiting your job search in another way. Not all jobs for teachers are created equal. Maloney at NECC thinks that one misconception about majoring in Education is that “individuals are expected to teach in a large student to teacher ratio.” Not true. There are plenty of opportunities to work more individually with your students. Another misconception she sees is that Education graduates expect “to find a position quickly and make a high paying salary.”
Skills that Education graduates tend to have
Both Maloney and Dr. Shindell point to many skills that Education graduates have. It is important to recognize these skills in yourself so that you can describe your abilities to a potential employer. Maloney’s observation may sound familiar to you:
Individuals who graduate with an Education degree tend to be very organized, have a good foundation for understanding the population they are working with, and knowledge of state regulations for IEP documentation.
Most post-secondary Education programs provide students with rich hands-on experiences that help them develop the skills they need. In fact, says Dr. Shindell, the skills you develop in college are likely transferable to many different workplaces. “For example, effective writing and presentation skills are essential for teachers but also highly valued skills in any profession.” Another skill he points to that tends to be overlooked, and which is completely transferable, “is conflict resolution and classroom management.” He remembers his own college courses on those subjects and says, “I still use the skills I learned in that class in the workplace today!”
The ability to manage conflict is unfortunately a rare soft skill that employers covet. Consultants in leadership and management earn big salaries for training in this skill. As an Education graduate and job seeker with this ability, practice how to describe examples of when you’ve resolved the conflict and managed difficult and emotional situations.
Skills that Education majors need to work on
Chances are, if you have majored in Education, you have a passion for helping others. There is a flip side to every strength, and Education grads, says Maloney, tend to lack professional boundaries and interpersonal skills. For example, every employer has an internal structure or hierarchy that must be respected. Sometimes the drive to help everyone, all the time, can cloud those boundaries.
Overconfident or underconfident? Our two experts point out seemingly contradictory problems with Education grads. Maloney, at NECC, says Education grads need to work on their humility. Dr. Shindell at Intern Bridge, however, sees a lack of confidence. I would venture to say that these are two sides of the same thing: self-awareness. Without solid professional experience under your belt, you may not know your own strengths and weaknesses very well. You may not feel qualified for a job but you know you have to market yourself. Thus, you might end up overstating your abilities. It is important to get some experience under your belt to increase your self-awareness. Find an internship, a volunteer position, a committee, or a club at your school, where you can discover who you are in new situations and where you excel.
Dr. Shindell goes on to say that Education grads also need to work on “effectively articulating how their education degree can be transferable into areas like sales, marketing, communication, human resources and public relations.”
How Education majors can build necessary skills
If you want to become more employable, your first visit should be to the Career Services department on campus. Maloney reminds students that Career Services can help you with:
- Resume building
- Mock interviews
- Cooperative learning opportunities
To boost your self-awareness and self-confidence, Dr. Shindell has this advice:
Find a mentor
Consider finding a mentor “who took their education degree in a direction other than teaching K-12,” suggests Dr. Shindell. “They may be able to provide information and stories from their own experiences that you can use!”
A mentor can be a professor, your advisor, a supervisor from an internship or job, or a community leader. You don’t necessarily need to formalize the mentor-mentee relationship, but your mentor should consent to be available regularly to give you advice. A 30-minute phone call or a meeting over coffee every couple of months can bring needed clarity to your job search and career plan.
What makes an Education degree worth it
For students who go into teaching positions, the preparation you get in college is necessary. If your goal is to “provide the best education possible to your future students,” says Maloney, you can’t do that without your Education degree.
Dr. Shindell has seen Education graduates find careers far beyond the classroom, and he still thinks their degree was worth it. He offered this story: “What made my Education degree worth it was when I recognized the versatility of the degree in the marketplace. I remember interviewing for a sales job after I graduated. The interviewer asked me, ‘Why should I hire you instead of the 10 business majors I interviewed for this job?’ I responded with, ‘What is sales?’. As he scratched his head, I said, ‘Isn’t the foundation of the sales educating your potential customer about your products and services and why you are better than your competitor? Who better to do this than someone who has been specifically trained in teaching?’ My answer must have impressed him because I was offered the position.”
Salaries for jobs for teachers and other education related roles
As you search for jobs for teachers or other education related jobs, Maloney advises that you find “ a diverse environment where you can utilize the skills you have learned and a place to help you grow professionally and personally.” Don’t discount jobs that are not obviously related to education. “From public relations to communications to sales to client services to human resources, the core skills developed by studying education and the educational process are highly valued in the marketplace,” says Dr. Shindell.
These are national averages, provided by glassdoor:
- Teacher Assistant: $28,055
- Elementary Teacher: $47,225
- Bilingual Elementary Teacher: $51,044
- Training and Development Specialist: $58,380
- Instructional Designer: $61,731
- Community Health Educator: $46, 796
- Guidance Counselor: $51,228
- Juvenile Correctional Officer: $38,619
- Admissions Counselor: $42,332
- Curriculum Designer: $59,139
- Exhibit Designer: $48,236
In addition, consider jobs in education research, education lobbying, textbook writing, adult education, museum education, and teaching abroad.