Why You Should Consider a Career in K-12 Education

Why You Should Consider a Career in K-12 Education

8 minute read

Pursuing a teaching career path can be an opportunity to bring fun and creativity to your career. You can work with students throughout their academic journeys as they learn and grow, becoming active members of their communities and of the world. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons you might consider becoming a K-12 educator.

There's Never Been a Better Time to Become a K-12 Teacher

Not only are teaching jobs always in demand, but they also offer the opportunity for you to explore a wide variety of specializations. Maybe you want to become a history teacher or a math teacher. Both of those career paths – and many more! – would be open to you if you decide to continue on a teaching career path As Henry Adams, the American historian and author once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Teachers have the distinct privilege of helping students realize their dreams, supporting and guiding them as they work toward their goals. And with 120,300 job openings for elementary school teachers and 77,900 job openings for high school teachers projected each year, teachers will only continue to be needed.

Your First Step Toward Becoming a Teacher

The teaching career path isn’t always straightforward. You may already have credits in a specific field like math or English. Or you may not have gone to college at all. Before you embark on your education career journey, you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Figure out what you want to specialize in. Elementary school teachers should have a general knowledge of a wide range of subjects and be ready to support the emotional and social needs of young children. High school teachers, on the other hand, usually specialize in one subject and act as guides for their students’ transitions to adulthood.
  2. Find your state’s requirements for working as a teacher. In the U.S., no two states are alike when it comes to requirements for education careers. What coursework will you need to complete? Which certifications do you need?

Your dream of a K-12 education career is just the starting point. No matter your state’s requirements, StraighterLine can help you get started. We offer affordable online courses in almost any subject you’re interested in pursuing. Our courses are designed to fulfill prerequisites and general education credits for most education degree programs.

Things to Consider When Mapping Out K-12 Teaching Career Paths

Most teachers become teachers because they find it fulfilling and rewarding to work with young people. That’s obviously the most important part of the job, but there are a couple of other things to keep in mind, if you’re thinking about becoming a teacher:

What's the Job Outlook for K-12 Teaching Career Paths?

The median annual wage for elementary school teachers is around $61,400. The lowest 10% of elementary school teachers earned less than $43,950, while the highest 10% earned more than $99,420 in 2021. For high school teachers, the median annual wage is around $61,820, with the lowest 10% of high school teachers earning less than $46,090 and the highest 10% more than $100,310 in 2021. There are over 111,000 public and private schools in the U.S. Of those, 58% are elementary schools (K-5), 13% are middle schools (6-8), 18% are high schools (9-12), and 10% are K-12. All of them need teachers and staff like you!

K-12 Education Career Job Settings

Teachers generally work in the classrooms of private or public schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas of the country. Outside the classroom, certified K-12 teachers can work in education-related areas such as:

  • Tutoring 
  • Library services
  • Career counseling
  • Special education support staff
  • Government family services
  • Educational supply companies
  • Religious organizations

Where Will a K-12 Education Teaching Career Path Take Me?

The exciting news is there are so many K-12 education career paths you can follow that we can’t possibly list them all! All U.S. states require a bachelor’s degree to be eligible to teach K-12, although the degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in education. Once you have your bachelor’s, you’re free to choose your path! Here are just a few to inspire you on your teaching career path:

Kindergarten Teacher

Kindergarten teachers work with the youngest students in elementary schools, typically anywhere from 4-6 years old. For these classes, teachers may focus on: 

  • Games
  • Hands-on projects
  • Music
  • Art
  • Guiding children through important stages of social and emotional development

Elementary School Teacher

Elementary school is generally considered grades 1-5. At this age, students are learning the building blocks of math, English (or language arts), social studies, and science. They’ll usually learn in the same classroom, possibly leaving for art, music, health, PE, or STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Children this age need guidance on social skills such as responsibility, peer interactions, and following rules. Job duties may also include:

  • Administering standardized tests
  • Monitoring students for special needs or learning disabilities
  • Lunch or recess supervision
  • Parent-teacher meetings

Middle School Teacher

Middle school (grades 6-8) is a time of tremendous growth for students. Teachers are expected to build on the foundations made in elementary school and prepare students for the academic rigors of high school. Middle school is usually when students start moving from classroom to classroom throughout the day, which allows teachers to specialize in math, science, English, history, or other subjects. These teachers also:

  • Plan lessons 
  • Assign classwork and homework
  • Give and grade tests

High School Teacher

A high school teacher most often works in a specific subject area but covers a variety of topics within that subject. They may focus on teaching just English, math, science, social studies, history, or a foreign language. At the high school level, teachers have several groups of students throughout the day and must keep track of their needs and progress. Duties usually include:

  • Planning lessons 
  • Assigning classwork and homework
  • Giving and grading tests 

They may tutor students individually or in groups before school, after school, during study hall, or during lunch periods. High school teachers also often oversee extracurricular activities and student clubs outside of the classroom or help coach sports teams after school.

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers might work with any of the K-12 grades, either as extra support in public schools or as main classroom teachers in specialty therapeutic schools. The job differs based on the type of special needs student you want to work with. Some special education teachers:

  • Help children with learning disabilities
  • Teach children with behavioral, physical, or emotional disabilities

Should I Get a Master's Degree to Pursue a Teaching Career Path?

Some teachers can expect a salary increase if they pursue their master’s degree in education. The amount you make will depend on where you teach, what grade level, and what kind of school. A master’s degree may also lead to administrative opportunities or new avenues for career advancement in the field of education.

Required Certifications for Teachers Vary by State

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, each state has its own requirements for teacher certifications. Certifications also vary by the types of teaching career path you plan to pursue. Some common certification types include:

  • Early childhood education
  • Art teacher
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Physical education
  • Reading specialist
  • Special education

Some states may require additional certifications based on whether you are:

  • A first-time teacher
  • A teacher moving from one state to another
  • Renewing your certification
  • Looking to become an administrator or school principal

What Classes Can I Take to Get Started on My K-12 Education Teacher Career Path?

College grads and non-grads alike can follow a teaching career path! The classes you may need to take to prepare to become a K-12 teacher will depend on whether you’re just starting out or you’re finishing up more specific requirements. If you’re just starting on your degree, focus first on general education classes, like English Composition or College Algebra. These courses are often prerequisites for education degree programs or teaching certificate programs. If you’re further along in your education, you can turn your focus to more specialized courses. The courses you choose may depend on your state’s requirements, which college you choose for your degree, and if you decide to specialize as a teacher.  StraighterLine has a wide range of courses that can help you fulfill both general education and core curriculum requirements for your teaching career path EXPLORE COURSES

Fast Track Your K-12 Education Teaching Career Path with StraighterLine

No matter where you live, a bachelor’s degree is required for you to take the first step on your teaching career path in K-12 education. Fulfill your general education requirements and prerequisites with StraighterLine or explore a specialty that suits your chosen K-12 education career path.  With StraighterLine, you can take affordable online courses at your own pace. Transfer your credits to any one of our partner schools or through the ACE CREDIT service to over 2,000 colleges and universities worldwide to become a K-12 teacher in no time!

Check out our 65+ general education courses for transferable college credit today to get started on your K-12 education teaching career path.

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