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Changing Careers after Teaching

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Working & Careers > Changing Careers after Teaching


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Transitioning from teaching?

Jan 2014

I've been teaching for 12 years, and have a toddler. Most years, I have felt very happy with teaching. I like the performative aspect of it, the meaningful relationships I've had with (high school) kids, my intelligent and committed colleagues, and the independence that comes from having my own classroom's world and social ecosystem. I like the staff & student-community aspects, and think it's important work.

On the other hand, even though I had started feeling burnt out before I had my son, I stuck with it partly because it seemed like a family-friendly profession. Although my day starts early (I get up at 5 or 5:30am), theoretically I could be home by 4:00pm, and of course I have more time for 9 weeks in the summer (although I often take professional dev. classes or do work-related things even then). I am finding in practice, however, that I am basically working all the time. The second my child is asleep, I'm grading, lesson planning, or writing tests for 2-4 hours a night at least. I am also physically exhausted literally all the time. As an English teacher, I am not able to do my work during the normal school work day.

Even 12 years ago, teaching was a whole other ballgame. With PLCs and Common Core eroding some of the individuality of teaching, the constant pressure on grade transparency and API scores, and increasing parental demands, it's even less about teaching and more about paperwork and conformity. I have an absolutely terrible principal who demoralizes our whole staff. It also wasn't a big deal not to be making much money before, but now that I have a child, it would be nice to be able to rent or buy a house or bigger apt instead of living in a small 1-bedroom apt (my husband freelances [not in the apt], so he doesn't make a lot, either).

I have been thinking of transitioning into another job. I could go in two directions - find something (or make something) that is more independent and allows me to work at home (like freelance writing or editing) or enter the more traditional work force. I got a potential office job lead that would start right after school gets out to work in San Francisco at a 9-to-5 job that I'm not sure I'd like. It would pay much better than teaching, though.

I worry that I'll regret leaving my secure job with (theoretically) child-friendly hours, and be heading out of the frying pan and into the fire (either because we'd have even less financial security if I was self-employed, or because I'd be even less suited to a more traditional job). We are considering having a 2nd child in the next few years, too, if that's relevant. (3rd option: I'm not sure if I'd like being a SAHM, either, if my husband changed jobs).

I'd like to hear especially from teachers or former teachers who have thought about transitioning into other professions or have done so, and what those experiences were like. If you stayed, why? Did you regret it? If not, why did you leave? Did you regret it?

Thanks in advance. - Staring at a foot of papers I'm grading, and it's 5:00am on ''Winter Break''


I'm a high school history teacher and have a two year old. I have been teaching for 6 years, so you have been at it longer than me and I respect your feelings of frustration with the system and larger changes going on in teaching. At my public school we have been somewhat insulated from a few of these larger issues but they are coming fast. I can offer some advice I have gotten from older colleagues who are parents and also some things I have tried to make my life less crazy. I am planning to stay in teaching and don't have great advice about other options, but hopefully this is still of use.

I agree that teaching is lauded as a ''family friendly'' profession, and in some ways that comment drives me crazy. The grading is one issue (people don't realize that a large part of our job can not be done during working hours!) - the other thing that has been very challenging for me is the inflexibility of the school day - I go into a panic if it seems like my son might need a last minute doctor's appointment, or I have to take the day off because he is sick. Being at school at 5AM to write sub plans is stressful, but even more stressful if you are not sure you will get a sub . It makes me sad that it will be very difficult to be a regular volunteer when my son goes to school because there is no way I will be able to get that time off or work my schedule around it.

However, older colleagues at my school/department seem to see it as worth it: the 9 weeks of vacation where we really get to be part of kids' lives makes the stress about when and how to grade papers all worth it. They talk about all the family vacations they got to take, the connection they have with their kids, and the memories they have by having more time, at least for part of the year. The other thing that colleagues have made me more aware of is how schools are institutions that are more family friendly than the corporate world. For example, I was able to take a longer (but almost totally unpaid) leave when my son was born which I would never have been able to take at another job. Many people at schools are parents, and understand challenges of working and parenting - even if the structure of our profession is not flexible in the same way.

A few things that have helped me - and you have probably tried things like this, so it may not be helpful...the work never ends... - I set rules around when I stop working and what I work on. I try to only take grading home and try to make my lesson planning fit into my prep periods I have in the day. For grading, I know that working at night would lower my quality of life, so twice a week I work from 4:30-5:30 AM at home grading before getting ready for school . And then I carve out some time on a weekend day. This has helped keep me a little saner (albeit a little more behind than I used to be).

Good luck, whether you decide to leave or stay! High School Social Studies teacher


Alternatives to teaching with afternoons off?

Dec 2013

I am a special education teacher, but I am not teaching in the classroom. I have a child, and would love to have as much time with her as possible, but also need to make a living in the bay area (gotta love that bay area rent). There is no other family but myself available to spend time with my child, and as you all know - paid childcare isn't cheap! I love teaching, but am trying to figure out what else I can do that would allow me to be present at least some days after school. Work as a consultant? Help families in the home? If so, what sort of credentials would I need? What sort of protection/insurance would I need if I were to start doing private work with individual families? Is there even a market for this? I just want to set up a lifestyle that's manageable and have a job that is flexible, and it seems like there must be a market for my particular set of skills, if only I could figure out how to go about it. mid life career slump


You could offer tutoring services at a student's home or your own place. My friend was a public school teacher for 15 years. After that job ended, she offered after-school tutoring services to local students. She charges $25 to $45 per hour depending on the subject. 101Gigs is a micro freelancing website where people sell all kinds of gigs. These gigs are offered by artists, freelancers, local service providers, and regular folks with different talents and skills who are looking to earn some extra cash online or offline. http://101gigs.com/ sherry

Want to work in a youth leadership/empowerment program

Oct 2011

Hello Everyone!, Hi my name is Ari and I am new to the network I recently relocated to the Bay area from NJ in August and am in the process of a career change. I am a certified elementary and special education teacher as well as a personal trainer and sports performance coach. I want to work with disadvantaged youth in a youth leadership/youth empowerment program in the East Bay. I currently work part-time at a day school in El Cerrito in the after school program and also volunteer two days a week at Park Day School in Oakland as an assistant teacher. My question is, does anyone have any advice on who I should network with or how I can get involved in some of the non-profit youth organizations in the East Bay working with youth empowerment? Thanks so much for any advice and your help. I'm glad to be a part of the network.


ari, please see www.youthempowermentseminar.org they are doing wonderful work in bay area high schools in at-risk areas. they've had wonderful results. Reduced rates of violence, and suicides. Increased grades, improved sleep, lower stress. (sj merc news did a front page cover story on them). - Good Luck on wanting to do such important work. GK
Dear Ari, YMCA just opened a Teen Center in Berkeley. they are on Addison and Martin L. King. They have wonderful programs for teen empowerment. You can find their info on the internet. It is called YMCA-PG&E Teen Center. Here is the Youth Programs director's contact. Much luck. Youth & Teen Director Paul Milsap pmilsap@ymca-cba.org 510.665.3234 Gladys
Play Works is a great program. anon
Hi Ari, If you would like to work with an East Bay organization that reduces youth violence and develops youth leaders, please check out http://www.youthalive.org/ ''Based in Oakland, Youth ALIVE! believes that urban youth have the innate capacity to stop the violence plaguing our communities. Every day, we nurture leadership and life skills of young people affected by violence because addressing the root causes of violence saves lives.'' Have a smooth career transition. Sherry http://www.abundantjoyoflearning.com/ creating happy learning memories for children

From teaching to the healthcare field?

May 2009

After 8 years of teaching elementary school, I am considering a career change. While there are aspects of teaching I do enjoy, I had a hard time with finding a balance between work and home life (having hours of work to do when I came home, phone calls to make to parents, having energy for my OWN children, etc.) I also got tired of the constant cut backs and the lack of funding for education that makes so many teachers feel undervalued and burned out with such a lack of resources and too many students in a classroom.

The healthcare field has always been a calling for me. I'm 35 so figure I should probably make a decision soon. I would love to become an RN, but I'm intimidated at the length of time I'd have to go back to school. I already have a Master's in Education, but my background is language arts, so with all the science/math prereqs, it would be another four years or so of schooling. The medical/dental assistant schools are less than a year and would be much more manageable with young children at home. While I know Medical and dental assisting are on a very different level than nursing, both for pay and opportunity, I like the idea of working with people, being part of a team, and having a stable job (healthcare always seems to have jobs despite the economy.) Medical assisting does appeal to me a bit more because I would like to work in a hospital or dr's office and would be quite comfortable taking vitals, giving shots, rooming patients, etc.

I know that dental or medical assistants don't make much (even less than teachers) but since we have been able to live on my husband's income alone, that isn't a huge factor right now. Can anyone who has experience with these fields (or other medical fields) give any advice? Pros and cons? Should I just bite the bullet and go for nursing school? Any advice would be helpful! Debating


My advice it to become a CNA (certifed nurse assistant), it only takes about 3 months to get a certificate and it's fairly inexpensive. It's a decent job, hours can be flexible and you'll get the human interaction that you crave. Since you state that you don't really ''need'' the extra income you could go to school part time for your nursing school pre-requisites. I recently got my RN and it took me 4 years to do the pre-reqs because I only took one or two classes at a time. It was definately worth it. Some hospitals will even pay you to go to school. The difference in pay is incomparable. Go for the RN

From teaching to Museum Education

March 2008

I am looking for jobs that I can take my elementary school teacher skills and art background - and would love to work in a museum setting. Does anyone have information on how I might find a job in this area? Thanks - Valerie


Have you ever considered working in museum education? We can always use people with classroom experience and a good working knowledge of kids' developmental and educational needs at different ages. Museums have all different kinds of focuses (foci?), so you should have no problem finding one that meets your interest, be it art, science, history, environmental education, zoos, or children's museums, and we have tons of all of them in the Bay Area. If you're interested in pursuing this, I'd be happy to talk with you. Also, there's an organization called Cultural Connections which sponsors periodic get-togethers of local museum educators; the next one is on April 14 at the Headlands in Marin. You can get information on their website, www.cultural- connections.org (yes, the hyphen is part of the URL). If you want to take another route, you could consider educational research. I know someone who went from the classroom to WestEd a number of years ago and has been very happy. Good luck with your decision. Lauren
I too went from teaching to musuems. It is great work and you are already used to the low pay! I suggest looking on the websites of the musuems where you would like to work. But don't be too narrow. I was an Anthro major and I work in a science musuem so look at all types of musuems. Also look at the websites of musuem associations like those listed below. They all have ''job banks''. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about what musuem work is like. Feel free to email me. Good Luck!
www.childrensmuseums.org
www.aam-us.org - American Association of Musuems
www.westmuse.org - Western Musuem Association
www.calmuseums.org - California Associations of Musuems
www.astc.org - Association of Science and Technology Centers
Sue

Career Advice for preschool teacher

Jan 2008

I am a credentialed preschool teacher with an AA degree. I have worked for the same wonderful preschool for 7 years and love my job. However, I am realizing that financially, being a preschool teacher is difficult. The poor pay-scale of the child care field is becoming an issue as my partner and I are raising our own family and making ends meet in the Bay Area on a preschool teacher's salary is very stressful (my partner also works, but it would help our situation greatly if my salary were more than 30K per year). I am wondering if I should go back to school (this will be financially difficult for my family, but could be worth it if I will make more money with a BS or BA). Or, perhaps there is a career counselor who would know how to transition from being a preschool teacher to something fulfilling that pays more (or is this impossible with only an AA degree)? Has anyone out there made such a transition? Any suggestions are appreciated. Possible Career Switcher


I am a former preschool teacher. I loved my work, but was also not making enough money. For my birthday a few years ago, my mother paid for career counseling with Toni Littlestone, who is in the Albany/Berkeley area. I was so confused and conflicted, I really needed coaching, advice, and help, so I went to see Toni and worked out a new life plan. We started with assessment, and I learned so much. One thing I learned is that I am somewhat a physical type of person, and someone who likes to help people. I like to go on hikes, do yoga, and work in my garden. Moving around with the preschool kids worked well for me, and jobs in an office sounded like torture. I know my choice would not be for everyone, but I decided to re-train as an aesthetician and hair stylist. At first, I had value judgments about that, but in the career counseling process, Toni helped me explore my deeper needs and values, not just my snap judgments about people's career status in the world. Now, I make well over $60,000 a year, cut hair for all ages (including kids), do facials, scalp massages, etc, love talking with all my clients, and truly enjoy my work. I could make more money, but I prefer to work only four days a week. I go to trainings and conferences, and like learning new things. I also explored becoming a lab technician, a physical therapy assistant, a baker, a labor and delivery nurse, a child life specialist, and a children's librarian. All those careers sounded good, too. The choice was hard, but I am happy. After my mom paid for all those sessions with Toni, I have to give her haircuts and facials for life, but that's no problem! Good luck with your search. happy with my career path
Hello! I am a career counselor in Moraga and also teach a class in Career Transitions at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. It seems like you could benefit from some information about teaching careers and salaries, so you might want to start by looking at the U.S. Dept. of Labor website for information on teaching careers: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos069.htm There are certainly other careers you could do, and to make a career change, you really need to assess your transferrable skills, interests, values, preferred working environment, etc.. I would be happy to work with you if you're interested in career counseling. Or, take my 6-week class on Tuesday nights starting March 4 at DVC! My phone number is (925) 376-5885, and my website is www.mothersinbalance.com. Best of luck! Yvonne
You don't have to get any more schooling to become a nanny, and you can make considerably more. For instance, preschool teacher wages = absolutely cannot support yourself longterm on one income, whereas you definitely can as a nanny (assuming you don't take the lowest paid slave positions! Those people want nannies but can't afford it, so they try to weasle you into taking less than it takes to live on. Just say no). I've always thought it was interesting that you need no schooling or qualifications to be a nanny, and so much to be a pre-teacher, and yet nannies make considerably more, while having a lovely, low adult:child ratio. Now, if you thrive on the chaos of 20 kids, nannying is not for you. Don't get me wrong; it's still quite challenging at times, but the daily rhythm is really different and can be a lot more mellow. I would never work at a pre-school, for the simple reason that the pay would mean I'd need to live in my car. I've been a nanny for many years. I love it and recommend it
Hi. I just switched careers from working in an office to nursing. I started when my child was 10mos old. It was very hard but anything is possible if you want it bad enough. I just wanted to say that the community college system is great & maybe you can find a counselor there to guide you. Also, many can get their tuition waived with the board of governor's award. My husband was working & we qualified, you may too. Check it out: http://www.peralta.cc.ca.us/apps/pubs.asp?Q=1 Good luck! career switcher
I have noticed that nobody answered the advice wanted by the preschool teacher who was looking for a change in career. I can understand this situation perfectly well, as I am a preschool teacher myself. I am a single mom with a child. Although I like my job, I am not completely happy because of the financial stress generated by the poor salary. To survive in the bay area with a preschool teacher salary, I have to share my appartment with a roommate and also have to do occasional babysitting. Even dogwalkers make more money/hour walking dogs than we do taking care of children. It is a shame that we are paid so little. My advice is, since you have a AA degree, I think that it should be possible to transfer to teaching in elementary schools with better wages and long vacations. But I don't know how to proceed. Maybe Bananas could help you with that. Good luck. Being there too

Is there life after teaching?

April 2007

I just left the teaching profession and am not looking back. The problem is, what can I do now? I fear that employers will not fully understand what the job entails, and not consider my experience as transferable. Does it make sense to get a short term job in the attempt to stay connected to the world? I welcome any advice out there. Anon


I am also leaving teaching after 10 years, probably for good. We should talk (maybe form a group for mutual support...anyone else out there?). I am trying to transition to law enforcement because I have been a volunteer in it for 5 years and really enjoy the parts of it I have been in contact with. I am trying to explore the other parts before I make the final commitment. So, my suggestion would be to think about what really gets you going in the morning. What do you love to do in life? What kind of things excite you? How much money do you need to live on (that eliminated a number of choices for me)? How far is your maximum commute? And you could make an appt. with Toni Littlestone in Albany. She is a wonderful, empathetic, helpful career coach I worked with some years back. And yes, you do have lots of transferrable skills. Good luck! a high school teacher
I left the teaching profession about 10 years ago, and you are right, people won't understand all that it entails. One trick is to promote skills without overtly saying ''you don't know what it takes to be a teacher'' (no employer likes to be preached to).

I did take temporary work, in my case it worked out really well, after a couple of really dud assignments, I had one in a company that led to a full time position and rapid promotions. However during the interview process (for a different full-time job) I did have someone say ''I really like you, but I'm worried that as a teacher you won't know how to work a full 40 hour week'' (no comment needed on that!)

The other advice I have is the standard job-seeker advice. Everyone you know should know that you are looking for work. And, apply for everything that interests you. Promote different areas of your skills to match the position. I once hired someone who very effectively promoted her waitressing experience as applicable to a Client Services position for a technology company. Good Luck Past Teacher


It depends on what sort of career you're hoping to enter. With the strong organizational, content development and management skills that teachers develop in the classroom, they can be very attractive candidates. There's not much difference between a group of middle-school kids and a team of office workers! Former Teacher Who Made the Switch
I don't understand why you feel this way - I've never heard a person underestimate the hard, valuable service a teacher provides. I think teachers are somewhat revered.

That said, yes, you need to take a good look at all that was required to be a teacher, and figure out how that will transfer to other professions. Perhaps a single session with a life coach, or even getting the help of a professional resume writer. Maybe you just need to meet with someone in marketing or public relations - a spin doctor, to help you spin what you did into all the relevant things you'll do elsewhere. Best of luck!


I taught for five years, and it was a very difficult decision to leave. I had been living in Santa Cruz and was sure I wanted to leave the area but not sure I never wanted to be a teacher again. It was hard to find a job -- although for financial reasons I had to find one before the end of summer -- and I ended up taking something that paid less.

It was a hard adjustment because teaching has a very flat hierarchy, and I was used to using many different kinds of skills in the classroom. I found myself in a hierarchical corporate environment where I had to learn a set of skills (editing and print production) and do them over and over again.

Frankly I thought I was going to lose my mind. Sitting down all day was also a huge adjustment for me. I used to run up and down the fire stairs when no one was looking to keep from going nuts. My original plan was to work there for six months, but those were the dot com days. Everything crashed, and I was stuck there for two years.

BUT the good part of it was that I learned computing and editing skills which I was able to combine with my teaching and Spanish skills to get a job I really like. To be perfectly honest, I'd probably be making more money now if I'd stayed in teaching. One thing I hadn't realized is that in the corporate world they call a cost of living increase ''a raise.'' On the other hand, I just had a child, and I am able to work half time, and it really is half time. Nothing like the crazy hours I put in as a teacher. The other advantage is I can see how I could use what I've learned to go in several different directions. When you're teaching the only upward option is becoming a principal, which sounds like a living hell to me.

My advice is, if you can't find your dream job, find something halfway to your dream job to get some of the skills you will need. In the regular world, all you have to give is two weeks notice, you don't have to wait until the end of the school year, so if you want to change you can be more flexible about finding something else. And learn to negotiate for your salary; it's not something you ever have to do as a teacher. Good luck. anon


Teacher wanting a new career

March 2004

There was a really similar question in the last post, and I'd been thinking of asking it myself ina more general way.

I'd love to hear from any former teachers who've made a career change. What did you teach? What do you do now? Do you enjoy it? What, if anything, do you miss about teaching? How did you figure out what you wanted to do next? How hard was it to make the transition?

I love teaching (the creativity, the kids, helping adolescents love literature and writing) but am considering a career change for a variety of reasons. exploring other options


I hear ya! I taught for 9 years and loved most of it but couldn't stomach the lack of resources available. I felt my hands were tied, feet bound and I was asked to do my job. I saw myself becoming angry (more and more angry) at the political situation. After a LONG search, I decided to become a speech pathologist. I can still work with kids in public schools one on one or in small groups. The down side is it's a 4 year program at SF State or Hayward State. The good thing is I can still work with kids--- or if all services are cut for kids, this is a definate growth field. Good LUCK

From teaching to what?

March 2004

Hi, Are there any ex-teachers out there that have found a second career that they love? My circumstances are changing and I am looking at a career change. I love elementary aged kids, books, flexible schedule, chance to be creative, nature, movement and collaboration. I speak Spanish. Anybody have any ideas? Needs a change


It sounds like you would make an excellent children's librarian. Check out the program at San Jose State. Much of it can be done over the internet. Susan
Look into occupational therapy! You can work with kids (or any other age, if you feel like a change sometime), in a variety of settings - schools, hospitals, rehabilitations centers, home- based early intervention services, private practice clinics, ....

The work hours are often very flexible, great for working parents, and the pay, while variable, can be decent. Depending on the particular work place, ther is often lots of opportunity for creativity.

Entry level training is a bachelor's (or entry-level master's) degree. There is also Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant which requires just an associate degree. The pay is a little less, and you have to be officially supervised by an O.T., but the variety and flexibility are similar. R.K.


Hi, I taught high school for 5 years before my kids came along, and mostly loved it. I am lucky enough to be able to stay home with my kids, but started to have a craving to do something professional again. I wanted to have my own business, so that I could do as much or as little as I wanted, when it was suitable for my family.

I was shocked to find that all of my needs were met by becoming a consultant with The Pampered Chef. Because I run my own business, I can be creative. I am teaching people how to make their time in the kitchen faster and easier, so I am still using all of my teaching and personal skills. I have also expanded into teaching cooking classes for children, which makes me feel REALLY good. I am part of a larger team, so there is lots of training and collaboration opportunities available. That works well for me, because I don't like to ''re-invent the wheel.'' The Pampered Chef also has some extra incentives for consultants who speak Spanish...

Being my own boss is the best thing that I could imagine. If you are self motivated, running your own business might be something that you would enjoy. Maybe you could begin tutoring children? From your interests, it seems like you would enjoy some of the interpretive work at some of the East Bay Regional Parks. They have lots of wonderful programs for children to learn about environmental education.

Hope these ideas help... if you want to learn more about what I do, please visit my websites: http://www.pamperedchef.biz/michellestern http://www.whatscooking.info Michelle


Have you ever considered working in museum education? We can always use people with classroom experience and a good working knowledge of kids' developmental and educational needs at different ages. Museums have all different kinds of focuses (foci?), so you should have no problem finding one that meets your interest, be it art, science, history, environmental education, zoos, or children's museums, and we have tons of all of them in the Bay Area. If you're interested in pursuing this, I'd be happy to talk with you. Also, there's an organization called Cultural Connections which sponsors periodic get-togethers of local museum educators; the next one is on April 14 at the Headlands in Marin. You can get information on their website, www.cultural- connections.org (yes, the hyphen is part of the URL). If you want to take another route, you could consider educational research. I know someone who went from the classroom to WestEd a number of years ago and has been very happy. Good luck with your decision. Lauren
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