Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is Teaching Still a Viable Career Path?

One of the worst questions I'm asked nowadays are questions along the lines of "What should I major in?"  To which I have no good answer--I don't know what I'd do in this generation's shoes.  About the only "safe" majors are probably finance/accounting.  A few seem to be trying to go into teaching, to which I offer two main pieces of advice:

1.  Get a degree in the subject you want to teach, not a degree in education of that subject (if applicable).

2.  Get a second major or minor or in some way, shape, or form, start preparing for "Plan B", because there's nearly a 50% chance they'll need it within five years.

I offer this advice for one main reason:  teacher turnover is insane.  The reasons are myriad, but they probably all fall under "burnout" (or "stress", financial or otherwise) in some fashion (whether it's being blamed for all of society's woes, the attacks on their benefits, or what have you).  And it got me thinking: 

Is becoming a teacher a viable career path anymore?

No one goes into teaching for the pay; it's always been (way, in my admittedly biased humble opinion) too low.  But at this point, after stagnation and massive increases in health care costs, is it really viable to go into teaching as a career?  I see it more as a second income for couples at this point; I could not in good conscience recommend it as a "primary" (sole income) career path for college-bound students.  Update:  Though this may finally make it worthwhile; $10,000 bachelor's degrees in science and math education.  (Though I'd still recommend a backup plan.)

Like most middle-class salaries, teaching salaries have stagnated (below).  But again, given that they were already low, has teaching fallen from "middle class" (financially) because of the constant erosion of their salary by rising health care costs?

Average teacher salaries (constant dollars):  (Note:  I wish I had an "average salary" for teachers' first five years; I imagine these figures below are greatly skewed up by the fact that the teaching population is aging.  The current average age is ~41, which means these figures are probably for teachers averaging 15-20 years of experience.) with graphics!

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