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The field of education offers a wide range of career opportunities for liberal arts graduates both within and outside the classroom.  The field of education offers a myriad of professional opportunities for an individual. Within education, teaching is the area most often thought; however, there are opportunities in education administration, curriculum development, governance and leadership, and educational research and policy.  An individual can choose to work within a public or private education setting, ad it is not uncommon for young professionals to start their career in the classroom as a teacher; then use the knowledge gained from their teaching experience to expand into other professional roles in education.


Instructional Roles

Elementary, Middle/High School Teacher

This is one of the well-recognized roles in education. Individuals who are patient, innovative and organized may be well-suited for this career field. Aside from being knowledgeable in a subject area or a multitude of subject areas, other valued attributes a teacher should possess are: the ability to communicate, flexibility, and a collaborative spirit. They should appreciate working with youth, have great patience, enjoy public speaking, the ability to be firm and direct, possess compassion, explain concepts and ideas clearly, enjoy assisting someone to comprehend something they did not before, make plans which they can follow through, serve as an authority figure, and thrive on making a difference every day.  Additionally, teachers need to be adept working not only with students but also with administrators and parents. 

Post-Secondary/Higher Education Teaching

Postsecondary teachers educate students in diverse academic subjects and vocational areas that extend beyond the high school level. Teaching positions in colleges and universities require a PhD, and at minimum, a master’s degree for a community college. Aside from teaching, they also conduct research and publish academically. The education requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of academic institution. In additional to a degree, work experience may be important for obtaining a teaching position in a technical or trade school.

Special Education

A special education teacher works with students with disabilities defined by the American Disabilities Act as “An individual with a disability is a person who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; OR (2) has a record of such an impairment; OR (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.” The special education teacher, often working in partnership with the classroom teacher, adjusts the lesson plan to the students’ learning disabilities/style. The categories of disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) include: learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental impairment, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopedic impairments, visual impairments, autism (autism spectrum), combined deafness and blindness, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments.

Note: Certification: Individuals interested in teaching need at minimum, a bachelor’s degree coupled with appropriate teaching certification, through a traditional education program or via alternative route certification program, in order to teach within a public school.  For those who opt to teach in the private school, a teaching certification may not be needed.  Each state in the U.S. may have different certification requirements, so it's important to check ahead of time.  Learn more here.

Teaching Abroad

There are two common routes to teaching abroad; teaching English as a second language, and teaching subject matter to students in international and American schools abroad. The majority of international or American schools prefer to hire certified teachers with teaching experience. If you are interested in pursuing work in an American or international school abroad, it would be more beneficial to apply directly to the schools that match your preferences once you have received your teaching certification. There are also placement agencies that will work with college graduates to match them with internships in international schools.  Teaching English as a second language is popular among recent graduates, who look for a year or two of experience prior to enrolling in advanced degree programs. Students who complete a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification are more prepared and competitive in the international teaching market; although it is not required for all teaching experiences. Some individual teaching programs help students with TEFL certification through their training programs. Usually these teaching programs require a fee to participate.

Tip: If you are interested in being a teacher, consider volunteering as a tutor with an organization such as New Haven Reads or serving as classroom assistant at a local school.  You may also find value in serving as a club adviser or team coach, getting a position as a camp counselor, or attending local education-related conferences to learn about current trends and issues. It is also important to gain experience with the specific age group you are interested in working with.  Consider joining an education-related campus organization or engage within the administrative offices of the local school district. Depending on your area of interest, you may engage in museum education programs, outdoor field programs, or health education.  Gaining direct experience will help you to identify your interest area(s) and add to your current skill set. You may also already possess the abilities and experience for this field through your valuable, transferable skills. Do you hold a leadership position within a student organization, or serve on a committee? Do you assist peers as a student technology assistant, counselor, or course teaching assistant? If so, you are already demonstrating ‘teaching’ skills – possessing attributes such as: leadership, team-building, organization, planning, and training.

Non-Instructional Roles

School Counselor

Work with students to assist them to develop their academic achievement, personal and social development. They are an integral member of the education team and work with other members of the staff to develop programs to support and boost student success. School counselors are employed in elementary, middle/junior high, and high schools.

Reading Specialists

Certified professionals who are responsible for the literacy performance of students. They develop academic plans, provide assessment, and lead efforts to ensure the quality of the school reading program.

School Librarians

Assist students in finding information from a variety of resources and maintain the school library collection. A master’s degree in library science is needed as well as additional requirements depending on the school, such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field.

School Psychologists

Work in tandem with teachers and special education staff to assess a student’s needs and qualification for special education services. They work with parents, and may serve on committees to help determine the type and range of services that may be appropriate for the student. These educators are certified and licensed with a minimum of a master’s degree as well as national certification as required by some states.

Teaching Assistants/Associates

Work under a teacher’s supervision to provide students additional attention and instruction. A teaching assistant needs at minimum a high school diploma or an associate’s degree.

Education Policy

Education policy organizations research, analyze and distribute findings on strategic education policy issues. Research may be conducted at the local, state, and national levels to assess curriculum, student performance within schools, analysis of teaching methods, and strategies that may affect education in noteworthy ways to improve the excellence and adeptness of education. This field involves research, writing, data collection, and analysis.  Individuals who prosper possess not only a deep interest in, but also great understanding of, the field and may also be varied in their professional backgrounds such as: political science, economics, psychology, or sociology as examples of a few. It is not uncommon for professionals to begin their career in the classroom as a teacher; then use the knowledge gained from their teaching experience to move into such roles. Career opportunities can be at the local, state, or federal level as well as within an independent research organization.

Tip: Networking with individuals (through the Yale Career Network and LinkedIn) who are currently in the job that you are interested in is important. Learn about their career path and job responsibilities.  Professional organizations such as the American Council on Education, American Federation of Teachers, National Association of Independent Schools , National Education Association – to name a few, are great resources for networking  contacts and informational interviews. Some may post jobs and internships on their websites. These connections will be also valuable when you are ready to embark on your post-graduate job search. The key is to start engaging.

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