Teaching is one of the world’s most rewarding professions. It is a way to impart knowledge and help foster the success of the next generation. At its best, teaching is an intellectually stimulating profession and an integral part of the “affective economy.” In other words, it is about ideas, knowledge and caring.

Whether you choose to pursue teaching as a career, depends a great deal on your priorities and aptitudes.  After all, few teaching jobs will make you rich. Moreover, teaching, regardless of the subject matter, is a social profession — a teacher needs to have excellent interpersonal skills and a high degree of patience and empathy. If an individual is frustrated by people who don’t appear to share in his or her opinions, competencies or personal drive, teaching may not be an ideal career path.  For many people, however, teaching is a first career choice, and the only career they can imagine pursuing.

Annual Compensation for Teachers

At its best, a teaching career at a prestigious college or university will bring in an annual income in excess of $200,000, and carry generous benefits and ample vacation time. But this is by no means the norm. Most full professors make between $90,000 and $150,000 per year, and only achieve this compensation later in their careers. However, most college and university teaching is now performed by part-time professors who often teach throughout the year, struggle to make even $30,000 annually from a variety of jobs, and usually have no health benefits or retirement contributions from their employers.

Preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school teachers also report a wide range of salaries and working conditions. In some districts, teachers with seniority and additional qualifications, such as a graduate degree, make over $85,000 annually. Most elementary, middle, and high school teachers report an annual income in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.  In either case, many teachers typically enjoy health benefits and employer retirement contributions. By contrast, many teaching assistants and preschool teachers make far less than the average American, typically declaring between $20,000 and $30,000 per year.

Health and Retirement Benefits

Most full-time teachers, with the exception of preschool teachers, have some form of health benefits, and receive employer contributions to their retirement funds. This holds true for college and university professors, and most teachers with full-time jobs in the public school system. Private school teachers may or may not enjoy benefits. Preschool teachers are also less likely to receive benefits as part of their job. Most teaching assistants and supply teachers do not receive benefits of any kind, particularly not if they are employed on a part-time basis.

Current Job Prospects and Projected Growth for a Teacher

Depending on the grade level and subject, teaching may or may not be a safe career choice to pursue at this time. While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth rate in postsecondary teachers over the next decade, there is already a surplus of qualified college and university level teachers, particularly in the arts and humanities.

In some disciplines, such as English, less than half of graduating PhDs are expected to ever obtain full-time teaching appointments at the university level. Jobs for elementary, middle, and high school teachers have a projected growth rate that mirrors the national average of 12% over the coming decade.  However, in some metropolitan areas, the surplus of qualified teachers means that certified teachers, even with master’s degrees, often work on a part-time basis or as teaching assistants for many years before finding permanent jobs.

As a rule, at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, qualified candidates who are willing to relocate to less desirable locations outside major urban centers, may be more likely to obtain permanent jobs immediately following graduation.

Quality of Life

Measuring one’s quality of life is never a simple task. It may contain things such as leisure time, commute time to work, home ownership, and the ability to make long term plans. Once again, depending on a person’s teaching goals, their quality of life may vary considerably.

If an individual can find a full-time permanent job, teaching can prove to be one of the most secure jobs available on today’s job market. School teachers with many years of seniority, or tenure, often enjoy just as much job security as college and university professors.

For all the stories about bad teachers with “jobs for life,” in today’s economy, there are also a growing number of great teachers will little or no job security. If a person owns his or her own home (or has the potential to eventually do so) or enjoys ample leisure time, is typically contingent on whether or not he or she holds a permanent full-time, or temporary and/or part-time teaching position.

So, does teaching offer a high quality of life? For some, a career in teaching offers a high-level of job security, a decent income, robust benefits, and of course, generous vacation time. At some levels of the education system, a teacher may even be eligibility to apply for paid leaves. But, most of all, a teaching position — at any level — is both rewarding and satisfying.

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