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Employment in a Tough Economy

Learn about different aspects of the educator job search process to help you better navigate the market.

By Dr. Mary Clement

The educator job market has become very tight, including layoffs in many districts. Because teaching employs so many people at so many levels, there will always be teaching jobs, but not necessarily in every teaching field and in every school. In a tough economy, the keys to getting a job include finding a position opening and having the right teacher certification/licensure. Next, your paperwork has to be perfect and your interviews have to be polished. Follow the steps in our job search series to guide your teacher job search.

Educator Jobs Supply and Demand

According to 2011 statistics from the American Association for Employment in Education, some shortages of teachers remain in the fields of special education, mathematics, sciences, bilingual education, English as a second language and Spanish. Adding one of these fields as a certification area to your credentials will definitely increase your employability. Additionally, schools in some geographic areas are hiring teachers—consider the Sunbelt states, isolated rural areas and some urban areas. And try an online search to determine which areas are still hiring large numbers of new teachers.

When jobs are available, your teacher certification—also known as teacher licensure—is critically important. You have to be fully certified/licensed for the state in which you plan to work when the job becomes available, and each state has its own requirements. For a complete list of states’ departments of education and their qualifying requirements, go online to the Department of Education website.

Where Do You Start Your Job Search?

Whether you are a new graduate or a teacher who has been laid off, your college career center can still be of service to you. Go to the career center or access their services online through your alma mater’s website. Colleges sponsor job fairs, so attend any in your area and in an area where you are willing to relocate. The center can help you write and edit your essential job search documents—the résumé, cover letter and portfolio—and may be able to offer you other services, such as mailing out letters of reference in a formal credentials file. Read the website to find out what your college offers before you make an appointment. If you have moved away from your college, you may want to try the career center of the college or university closest to you. The rules governing these resources differ at every institution. Occasionally online resources and on-campus events are free and available to the general public. Call ahead or check the website to determine if you are eligible to take advantage of these resources.

How Do You Locate Job Openings?

First, think about the state in which you want to work. Find that state’s online teacher job site by doing a search (like Google) for “teaching jobs in ________. Each state has a site, but they vary in how jobs are posted. For a good example, visit teachgeorgia.org.

National online clearinghouses feature extensive job listings. However, remember that these clearinghouses generally only list openings that school districts have paid to post. Do a web search for “teaching jobs” and you will get thousands of sites. For examples, go to teacherjobs.com, teaching-jobs.org, or schoolspring.com. Specialized professional associations have national websites with job openings specifically for educators. Check the one for your subject—math, reading or special education, among others. A social media site, such as LinkedIn, may serve you in your job search as well.

Districts often maintain their own websites and list job openings there. Check the districts’ websites every week in the fall semester and every day in the spring semester for jobs that start in August of the new school year.

What Else Exists Besides Online Job Searching?

Networking can help you find out about jobs that haven’t yet been posted, or that are available in districts that don’t post openings online. Consider reaching out to your college professors, the colleagues with whom you student taught and any employed educators that you know. Let them know you’re looking for a position. Memberships in a local chapter of the NEA and in a professional association, like Phi Delta Kappa or Kappa Delta Pi, give you an automatic network of teachers in your area and state. Of course, some districts still use newspapers to advertise jobs, but make sure you supplement your search in the classifieds with an online search as well.

Register to be a substitute teacher. This gives you another way to “get your foot in the door” of a school district. Schools often need substitutes late in the school year, when hiring is also taking place, so don’t hesitate to work as a substitute immediately after graduation.

What about cold-calling? Cold-calling means you wear a career suit and walk into a school district’s personnel office or a principal’s office with a cover letter and résumé in hand. With all the budget cuts and layoffs in today’s schools, most administrators consider this a nuisance and will tell the job seeker to go the district’s website to apply via the regular channels. It might only be considered acceptable in a very small district or one searching for teachers late in the summer.

What About Job Fairs?

There are basically two types of job fairs, those where recruiters come to campuses and those where candidates go to districts. Your college career center and the state websites can direct you to both. Campus job fairs are held well before most districts know their actual hiring needs, but you should still attend and always offer recruiters a copy of your résumé. Sometimes candidates get 5-15 minute screening interviews at campus job fairs. Recruiters are generally personnel directors and central office administrators, but may include building administrators.

At district job fairs, there are personnel directors, central office administrators, school-level administrators and teachers. You may get to talk with building-level principals and teachers in an informal setting. You may also be interviewed later in the day. Because of the economy, all employers are working to save time and money, and may interview you with a group of others who all want the same job—picture 4 candidates being interviewed by a team of 3 people. Or, you may get an individual interview with a team of teachers asking you questions. Be prepared for any type of interview in a job fair setting. Remember that the job fair is for a district, not just an individual school, so if you are at a large job fair and interview for a position, it could be for a job at any of the district’s schools.

Consider “online” or virtual job fairs. While not as common as campus and district fairs, they are growing. Go to aaee.org for an example.

What Do You Do When You Find a Job Opening?

Do your homework and learn everything you can about the district before you apply for a job, attend its job fair or sit down for an interview. Once you find a job opening, apply exactly as the advertisement instructs. Follow their directions explicitly to ensure a chance at getting the job you want.

Because of teacher retirements and student enrollments, schools will continue to hire educators. As the educator job market becomes more and more competitive, the jobs will go to those who are fully qualified and have worked diligently on their job search and interview skills. Using a college career center, online resources, and networks that you develop will increase your chances of locating a desirable teaching position and winning a job interview.

Finding a teaching job may take a year, so start early and use as many networks as possible. Be especially diligent about searching in June, July and August, as schools may be doing more late hiring than ever before.

Dr. Mary C. Clement is a professor of teacher education at Berry College, northwest of Atlanta, Georgia. Her research on the hiring of new teachers has received national recognition.

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