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School Yourself on Education Careers

From the contestants on "American Idol" to presidential candidates, individuals are thankful for their teachers -- those individuals who committed their lives to education.

The wonderful thing about choosing an education program is the opportunity to make a lasting impact in an individual's life, from those in their early years to senior adults who are lifelong learners. Education degrees offer a variety of ways to get the training to be a teacher and motivate others to learn!

More than 7 million Americans are employed in a variety of teaching roles, according to 2008 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including:

  • About 3.5 million kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and secondary school teachers
  • About 1.7 million postsecondary teachers
  • About 1.3 million teaching assistants
  • About 457,200 preschool teachers
  • About 473,000 special education teachers
  • About 115,100 vocational education teachers
  • About 96,000 adult literacy and remedial education teachers

Add to that numbers of administrators, support staff, and others who work in learning profession, and it's the second largest industry, representing more than 13 million jobs.

As teacher retire and student enrollments climb, there's a need to fill the teacher void in traditional classrooms and even in online education programs. The government projects more than 12 percent growth -- or 1.7 million new jobs -- through 2018.

It's a great time to pursue a career in education. The government stimulus package included: $77 billion for reforms to strengthen elementary and secondary education, more than $30 billion to address college affordability and improve access to higher education, and $5 billion for early learning programs.

Choosing to be a teacher requires having a passion for helping people learn. You also need to pursue an education degree program focused on teaching a certain age group or specialty, such as math, English, history, or collegiate- and professional-level courses and training.

To determine if you want a career in education, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I enjoy working with kids, teens and/or young adults?
  2. Do I love learning?
  3. Do I thrive on helping others learn new things?
  4. Do I have strong written and oral communication skills?
  5. Do I like to collaborate with individuals who love learning, too?

If you found yourself saying, "Yes!" then education may be the right career for you.

It's a field needing a diverse group of people willing to put in the time and energy to make a difference. Although the challenges are many, you can see changes in people's lives, leading to a rewarding career in education.

Education Degrees
Education degree programs vary in length and scope, depending on your focus. But overall, being a teacher in a public school setting requires a bachelor's degree and licensing or certification by states. Some states reach out to folks who have been working in other professions and have a degree to complete a licensing program that enable them to get into the classroom to fill a crucial void in subject areas.

In addition, there are opportunities for advancement and salary increases (the average public school teacher salary in the U.S. was $54,319 in 2008-2009, according to the National Education Association), by earning master's and doctoral degrees in education. Certificates also are offered by universities in areas such as teaching distance learning.

New Degree Spotlight

Those in the education field are watching Harvard's new Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.), a three-year education degree program that is unlike anything ever offered because it integrates the fields of education, business, and public policy.

The degree began in fall 2010, with 25 students. Its goal is to: Attack the problem of failing U.S. schools by "developing a corps of education leaders: men and women trained to lead school districts, nonprofit organizations, mission-based for-profit organizations, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations, all key players in the changing education landscape."

Students in the tuition-free education program will get a year of core curriculum taught by faculty from Harvard and followed by a year of elective courses from across the university. The third and final year is a year-long residency with one of the more the 35 partner organizations, from public school systems to Teach for America, seeking to improve and transform K-12 education.

Special Skills in Education

If you've been in a classroom setting or have children who are in a classroom today, you know that it takes a special person to work in education. The knowledge you attain from an education degree program is crucial, but here are five key skills educators need:

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Ability to analyze problems
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Knowledge of the content and ability to break down the information to make it accessible to beginning learners
  • Ability to derive creative and efficient solutions for teaching and learning

Inside Look at Education

Jennifer Fisler, director of the Teacher Education Program at Messiah College in Grantham, Penn., helps prepare future teachers for a career in education.

"Teaching offers graduates the opportunity to invest in the lives of others," she says.

The demand for teachers provides reasonable job security, although there are spots where budget cuts have caused job losses. Teaching also allows people to learn about content areas of interest and myriad opportunities for problem solving, in order to help others be successful students, Fisler says.

Education degree programs like the one offered by Messiah College focus on providing students with multiple experiences in K-12 classrooms along with relevant coursework to make best use of their time and work with young learners. She says students should look for education degree programs where candidates identify their own areas of professional strength and compile artifacts to demonstrate their expertise in those areas.

When students go through their education program, they create a portfolio that helps them articulate ways they anticipate being able to contribute to a team of educators in schools.

Spotlight on 5 Education Career Paths

1. Adult literacy teacher

Degree needed: At least a bachelor's degree; some programs require a master's degree. Colleges and universities offer master's degrees and graduate certificates in this area.

Hiring outlook: Faster than the national average, with 15 percent growth in adult literacy and remedial education jobs through 2018.

Average salary: $22.26 (median hourly wages)

2. Postsecondary teacher

Degree needed: Typically, doctoral degrees are required for full-time, tenure-track positions at four-year colleges; two-year colleges often require master's degrees for full-time positions. Part-time or temporary jobs may only require a master's degree or may hire doctoral candidates.

Hiring outlook: Opportunities abound. Jobs for postsecondary teachers are expected to grow by 15 percent through 2018

Average salary: $58,830 (Median annual earnings)

3. Self-enrichment teacher

Average salary: $17.17 (Median hourly wages)

Degree needed: Degrees aren't always required, but an expertise and training in the topic from art to dance to photography to poetry to time management -- is essential.

Hiring outlook: Robust, with a 32 percent increase in self-enrichment education positions expected from 2008 to 2018.

4. Special education teachers

Average salary: $50,020 (median annual wages)

Degree needed: At least a bachelor's degree, with specialized courses in special education. Some employers also desire individuals with master's and doctoral degrees.

Hiring outlook: Above average, with a 17 percent increase in the number of special education jobs from 2008 to 2018.

5. School teacher (Kindergarten to high school)

Average salary: $47,100 to $51,180 (Median annual wage)

Degree needed: At least a bachelor's degree; teachers also attain professional certifications, master's, and doctoral degrees.

Hiring outlook: A+. Jobs for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers are expected to grow by 13 percent between 2008 and 2018.

Fun Facts about Education

1. The oldest U.S. public school is Boston's Latin School, which was founded on April 23, 1635. Its graduates include five signers of the Declaration of Independence - Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine, Samuel Adams and William Hopper.

2. Until the 1930s, most Americans only completed eight years of school.

3. 76 million people were enrolled in school, from public schools to college (as of October 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau).

4. 100 percent of public schools in the U.S. have Internet access, up from 50 percent in 1995.

5. Sunnydale High from TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was chosen as the scariest high school in a poll by the Paley Center for Media (with locations in New York and Los Angeles).