How to Become an Economics Teacher

Introduction

Economists are concerned with more than just money; they explore questions related to labor, land, investments, income, production, taxes and government expenditures. In short, they are concerned with how people use resources (human or natural) and with the implications of their actions. As a result, despite the fact that economics is often associated with mathematics, it is a highly interdisciplinary field that overlaps with other fields as diverse as history, law, health, education, political science and environmental studies.

Depending on the level at which one intends to teach the subject, the requirements associated with becoming an economics teacher vary considerably. To pursue a career in the field, aspiring economics teachers must be prepared to work across disciplines such as the arts, mathematics, technology and business. The education sector demonstrates a high need to attract qualified individuals to teach economics (especially on the postsecondary level); therefore, job opportunities are primarily abundant for those with advanced degrees.

How can I become an elementary and middle school economics teacher?

While concepts related to economics are sometimes introduced at the elementary or middle school levels (such as how to calculate the tax on a consumer product), economics is not a subject formally taught to students from kindergarten to grade 8.

How can I become a high school economics teacher?

Many high schools offer economics courses, typically as an elective with some schools offering the subject as a senior level business course. At the high school level, students learn about the difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics, as well as explore topics such as fiscal policy, trade, inflation and market fluctuations. Students who receive instruction in economics on the secondary school level tend to develop more positive attitudes towards the economic system and the subject of economics, thus increasing the type of interest that leads students to pursue economics as a major in college, and possibly a career in the education field.Economics

To teach economics at the high school level, teachers must hold a bachelor’s degree in economics or business, have completed a teacher-training program, and are certified to teach in their state.

Steps to qualify for an economics teacher position at a public high school include the following:

  1. 1. Earn a bachelor’s degree. Although some states require their economics teachers to hold a master’s degree, most expect qualified candidates to have at least a four-year degree, preferably a Bachelor of Science in Economics. When opting for an economics degree program geared towards a future in teaching, students take classes in microeconomics, macroeconomics and financial management, in addition to completing coursework related to education courses and subjects such as instructional methods, classroom management, and technology in the classroom.
  1. Complete a student teaching experience. One to two semesters are spent in a high school environment, where aspiring economics teachers gain valuable experience on how to interact with teenagers, manage the learning styles of older students, prepare class lectures and lessons, and eventually teach a class – all under the guidance of a teaching professional.
  1. 3. Obtain a teaching license or certificate. A state teaching certificate follows the completion of a student’s coursework for their major and teacher education program, which touches upon studying developmental and cognitive psychologies, and taking a methods course for teaching economics. In order to obtain a teaching license, candidates must pass all applicable professional exams and undergo a process that varies for every state.

For example, the state of Texas requires their certified teachers to have successfully completed a Basic Skills test requirement called the THEA (Texas Higher Education Assessment) exam, as well as satisfy any Content Area assessment requirements.

All teachers within the public school system must have a state teacher’s license. However, an economics teacher may find employment in a private school without a license or certification. 

  1. Earn a master’s degree. In addition to teachers earning a master’s degree shortly after being certified because of state requirements, others choose to pursue an advanced degree to increase their chances of getting hired, higher salaries, and qualifying for a wider range of job opportunities, such as assistant principal or a position at a two-year college.
  1. Maintain an active teaching license. In order to maintain an active teaching license, educators must participate in professional development activities, such as taking continuing education courses, to remain current in teaching methods and trends related to economics.

How can I become a college or university economics professor?

Depending on the type of college or university, college economics professors may be hired to offer core or elective courses as part of a degree program in economics, or to offer economics courses to students enrolled in business administration or another applied program in finance. For this reason, qualifications may vary.

In rare instances, some career schools hire teachers with a B.S. and career experience in economics to teach an introductory-level economics course. However, most two-year colleges seeking faculty to teach economics on a part-time or even full-time basis within the context of applied business or finance programs require faculty to hold at least a master’s degree in economics or business (such as a Master of Science in Economics). Four-year colleges, especially those with degree granting programs in economics, typically require faculty to hold at least a master’s degree in economics and in many cases, a Ph.D. in economics.

How can I become a university economics professor? 

In the majority of university settings, an economics professor is required to hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in economics in order to teach. It takes an additional six years after obtaining a four-year degree in economics or a similar field to earn a Ph.D. in economics. This is the highest level of education a teacher can reach within the field, which often leads to the most and highest-paying job opportunities for economics educators.

In contrast to other fields in higher education, the demand for economics professors is often higher than average, and this is purely due to economics itself. After all, few universities offer salaries that are comparable to the salaries that economists typically make working in the private sector. For this reason, salaries, even for starting level professors in economics, are often higher than average, especially compared to other arts and social science disciplines.

The bottom line is that universities often need to lure highly qualified economists away from the more lucrative positions found in the field. Nevertheless, for economists who are primarily interested in research, the university is often a desired destination. To secure a full-time position as a university economics professor, one must hold a Ph.D. in economics, which involves completing extensive graduate coursework in economics, passing one or more field exams in economics, and having written and defended a dissertation on a topic in economics.

Economics professors are also expected to have published extensively in the field of economics in recognized journals (such as The Quarterly Journal of Economics or the American Economics Review), or hold the potential to publish extensively in the field, and to regularly present their research at conferences and annual meetings (like the World Economics Association). Once hired at a university position, professors are expected to carry out research, develop and teach courses to students at the undergraduate and graduate levels; recruit and supervise graduate students; and participate in the governance of their programs by serving on committees.

In the classroom, economics professors use class discussions, lectures and advising sessions during designated office hours to teach and interact with their students.

The ultimate goal of an economics professor is to earn tenure at a university to ensure job security. Tenure-track positions are not only becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, as fewer universities are now offering tenure positions, but the level of competition in extremely high amongst the small pool of economics professors on staff at a school. It is not uncommon to see economics professors teach at more than one school, start out as assistant professors, or teach courses in business before they are given a permanent position at a university.

What is the job outlook for economics teachers?

In regards to teaching high school students, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment growth at 6 percent for economics teachers from 2012-2022, which is slower than average. Geographic location will play a role in job opportunities for the field. States located in the West and South are expected to experience a faster-growing student population, and therefore, require an increase of qualified teachers to educate more classes.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education releases information that identifies states and school districts experiencing teacher shortages for various subjects. For the 2015/2016 academic year, Arizona demonstrated a need to fill economics teacher positions on the secondary level, while Idaho showed a demand to hire economics teachers for grades 6-12. Additionally, urban and rural school districts tend to demonstrate a high need to hire educators who teach economics.

As for postsecondary educators, the BLS anticipates faster growth of 19 percent for economics professor positons, as escalating numbers of students are enrolling in college to study career-related fields, such as business. Economics is a major that goes beyond the study of the nation’s economy and building an understanding of basic principles related to supply and demand. It is a field that deals with the management of money, time and other important resources. Economics teachers also teach their students the significance of the decision-making process as it related to finance, which can be applied to all aspects of their lives.

To stay competitive in the field, an economics teacher benefits from completing the highest level of education possible to qualify for the more desirable employment opportunities. High school teachers that continue to advance their education and earn extra certifications are some of the first educators to earn a promotion, salary increase, or qualify for competitive positions. A master’s degree in economics can lead to increased salary for a high school teacher.

College and university professors who consistently publish strong content are more likely to advance in ranks within a school, and become a tenured professor. However, some colleges and universities are no longer offering tenure-track positions, which mean adjunct and part-time postsecondary teachers will find the best opportunities in the job market.

What is the compensation for economics teachers?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median salaries earned by economics educators in 2014 (including those who taught classes and/or combined teaching and research as their job) were as follows:

  • Elementary and middle school teachers – $53,760 – $54,940
  • High school teachers – $56,310
  • Postsecondary teachers – $90,870

In addition to the place of employment, the location of an economics teacher plays a part in determining how much money he or she makes. Some states pay a higher average salary than others, as seen in the 2014 salary statistics reported by the BLS which identified the following as paying the highest annual mean salaries to postsecondary economics teachers across the U.S.: Massachusetts ($129,580), New Hampshire ($125, 710), New Jersey ($119,880), Rhode Island ($119,380), and New York ($117,530).

Those who possess advanced degrees, such as a Ph.D., generally earn the most money within the field. For economics teachers, the highest-paying industry for the occupation involves positions at colleges, universities and professionals schools which paid an annual mean wage of $108,220 to 11,360 professors in 2014. That same year, junior colleges hired 2,300 professors and paid them $72,890 annually.

In conclusion, economics teachers introduce students to topics such as inflation, profits, gross national product, financial management, and investments. The majority of job opportunities for someone with a degree in economics and an interest to teach are found on the secondary and postsecondary school levels. Those who have advanced degrees typically earn the most money, and qualify for positions at colleges and universities. The need to hire economics teachers and professors is high, as the education sector loses may qualified job candidates to more lucrative positions in business and the field.

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