You love to teach and you love making a difference for kids. You can’t imagine working in any other field but education. But what happens when you start to feel burned out by the profession or want a different challenge? What other meaningful careers exist in education besides classroom teaching?
I’ve created this list of alternative careers for teachers based on what I’ve learned from the educators I interact with online and in ‘real life’. I’m not saying the jobs are easy to find or obtain, and I’m also not promising that any of these jobs are an improvement on a classroom teacher’s salary—many will actually earn you less money. However, they are viable alternatives to being a classroom teacher that allow you to use your degree and experience to teach others and make a positive difference in their lives.
1. Teach GED or life skills courses in a prison or youth detention center. The salary is usually lower than a classroom teacher’s, but every prison teacher I know is a former public school teacher who wouldn’t go back to his or her old position for a million bucks. Often they’re working only with inmates who want to be in the classes, and since there are always deputies around, discipline and respect issues are nearly non-existent. Having done prison ministry in women’s jails for many years, I can vouch for the fact that teaching inmates is extremely rewarding, and you have the added bonus of knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of dozens of children by improving the future of their parents.
2. Start your own tutoring business. Working for an established tutoring company usually doesn’t pay much, but if you build up your own clientele, you can make serious money. I know one educator who tutors children in small groups from 4-6 pm four days a week and makes more than she did as a classroom teacher. If you want help developing your own tutoring business, I highly recommend the Tutor House and Teacher’s Guide to Tutoring —there are tons of great resources there.
3. Become a preschool, HeadStart, or daycare teacher. Working with babies, toddlers, or preschoolers may be a good option for those who want to stay in a classroom teaching position but need a change from working with older children. You’re likely to have smaller class sizes and an assistant, and if you teach in a daycare, you may get to leave in the evenings with little if any work to bring home. Typically you can expect early childhood positions to pay a lower salary than K-12 jobs, but not necessarily. I spent 3 years teaching at a HeadStart that was part of the local public school system, so I earned a regular teacher’s salary. It was a lot of work and the data and documentation for preschool/PreK/HeadSart often does rival that of the older grades, but it was extremely fun and rewarding, and a different type of challenge than teaching older kids.
4. Facilitate teacher training courses for a college or university. You’ll need a doctorate to teach undergrad courses at most schools, but if you have a masters degree, you may be able to find work teaching at a community college. It’s also worth looking into online universities–just be sure to check out the compensation and make sure it’s worth your time, as some of them pay as little as $1,200 per semester-long course.
5. Teach home-bound kids. Most public school systems have a small crew of teachers they call on to teach in the hospital rooms or homes of children who are gravely ill and unable to come to school. These educators often get paid a regular teacher’s salary but only work with kids one-on-one. I know of three teachers who have this job and LOVE it!
6. Become an instructor for online K-12 schools. I’ve heard this is a competitive industry and it’s a tremendous amount of work, just like classroom teaching. However, the demand for online teachers grows every year, and it’s a terrific way to do what you love AND work from home.
7. Sell your teaching materials on TeachersPayTeachers. You’ll need to have tons of original ideas, a talent for graphic design, and a passion for spending a LOT of time blogging, networking, and doing social media promotion. It’s no get-rich-quick scheme, for sure. But with a lot of hard work, you can join the ranks of a growing number of TPTers who are able to do it full time. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out Teaching Blog Traffic School.
8. Contract as a teacher for homeschool kids. As more and more parents decide to homeschool, the market grows for specialists to teach the subjects parents cannot. I know of a group of homeschoolers who hire PE, art, and music teachers once a week to teach those subjects to their kids. Another homeschooler I know hires math and science teachers to instruct her children in the advanced concepts she is not comfortable teaching.
9. Become a nanny. Several acquaintances of mine are former teachers in New York City who now work for extremely wealthy families and make a decent living. They enjoy being around kids and helping with homework/tutoring, and they get a few nice perks, like traveling with the children and parents on exotic vacations. The nanies who earn the most often have special education certification and work for the families of kids who have autism or disabilities.
10. Do educational consulting. There are so many different avenues to explore: conduct professional development in local schools, do online webinars, work with teachers one-on-one through instructional coaching, etc. I’ve done (and continue to do) all of these things, both as an independent consultant and as a freelancer who works for an NYC-based consulting company. You can find more resources on the Becoming an Educational Consultant page or check out Educational Consulting School.
11. Pursue non-classroom positions within the school system. In addition to the obvious assistant principal and principal positions, you may be able to find an opening for a special education coordinator, guidance counselor, speech or occupational therapist, math or reading coach, school psychologist, Title 1 teacher, or central/district office roles (such as curriculum specialists.) Most of these jobs require special schooling and certification, but if you have a connection and know that a position will be opening up, you might want to pursue the additional training. I also know teachers who have gotten certified as speech pathologists and reading coaches and then re-located to other parts of the country to find a position. If the work is something you really feel passionate about doing, the move might be worth it!
12. Create curricular materials for an education company. You know all of those wonderful websites, books, and teaching resources you use to enhance your teaching? Chances are, a team of current or former educators is working behind the scenes to design them. Some of these jobs are full time and some can be done online part time. This partial list of education companies that hire teachers can get you started.
13. Become a museum educator or guide at a local attraction. Former teachers are highly sought after for these positions because they are excellent at managing large groups of children on field trips. Explore the children’s museums, historical sites, etc. that are near you.
14. Start your own after-school program or activities camp. You can find work as a teacher or coordinator at an existing after school program to get your feet wet, then branch out and create your own business. I have a friend who founded his own company and now runs an after-school sports camp Monday through Thursday from 3-5. He rents out space at his school and makes excellent money teaching the kids how to play sports. I can imagine this would be possible with a variety of after-school activities, so if there’s something you love doing and sharing with kids, an after school program might be for you!
15. Look for random education opportunities in your local job listings–some of the coolest jobs are the ones that you didn’t even know existed! I found the part-time Educational Editor position for BrainPOP Jr. on Craigslist back in 2009, and I’m still with the company today! There are all sorts of organizations looking for experienced teachers to lend their expertise to products, blogs, seminars, and so on. I frequently see listings in New York for teachers to consult on curriculum development projects and grant-based work. There are also openings for hospital family education coordinators, technology trainers for local businesses, and other jobs that rely heavily on the speaking, presentation, interpersonal, and instructional skills that teachers bring to the table. Go to Monster.com or another job listing site, choose ‘search by industry’, and select ‘education.’
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