In this episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I’m going to identify the top five roles in education, talk about them, and list out some of the hard skills and soft skills that can help you have a leg up for these positions.
Why Do Education Companies Hire Former Teachers?
I remember my very first week working at an education company in 2017. I started to meet all of my colleagues and in this role, the majority of them were also former teachers, something completely foreign to me, and it was really eye opening to me as well. I started to meet other former teachers in other departments of the company.
I started to realize that there is this entire world of possibility out there. So many different career trajectories or paths that I could potentially take. Not just that average teacher career path that most of us know about of being a teacher, staying at the district, maybe becoming a tech TOSA or becoming a principal.
When I was completely burnt out and looking for that new role outside of the teaching, I felt like I had no direction. I had no one that I could use as an example of where teachers went when they left the classroom. But immediately, I now had exposure to all of these educational professionals who had established themselves in a new field and it was so inspiring to me.
So let’s first talk about why education companies hire so many former teachers. If you’re looking for a change, it’s the easiest for you to pivot into an industry where you’re already going to have some relative experience and potentially a strong network.
For example, let’s say you want to pivot from teaching to marketing. Well, education has a product where you already have a lot of experience with the client base. You would know what teachers like and don’t like with more ease than someone with a marketing background that has no education experience.
After a few years in a marketing position at an education company, you could take that experience marketing and then pivot into a totally different industry, but breaking into an industry in marketing when you have no experience, let’s say potentially the healthcare industry, is going to be a little bit more challenging. Once again, I never want to say anything is impossible, but I do want to make an emphasis on it will be a little bit more challenging.
Another reason why education companies hire so many former teachers is because they share the same values. One important factor for me was I wanted a job where I felt intrinsically motivated. I valued finding a role where I knew I was making a positive impact and education companies are mission-based.
Yes, all companies need to show a return on investment in order to fund and complete their mission. So yes, even in this mission-based company, there are going to be sales roles and there is going to be talk about revenue. I want to talk a second about this, because in a past episode that I had with Luke Owings of Invited MBA, he had this great quote.
He said, “Businesses are a little bit like magic. They’re manifested out of nothing. You have to start it with the value, you start it with the mission, you start it with the people that you’re trying to help. But then you have to understand the terms of revenue, the terms of profit and the terms of ROI of your time in order to understand how to make it grow and fulfill that mission.”
Now many of you listening probably feel the same way that I did about wanting something that you knew made a difference. While you’re exploring new career options, maybe you can’t see yourself in any field but education.
But if that’s more to do with imposter syndrome or self doubt, I encourage you to recognize that as well. I have so many reasons why I recommend looking into positions at education companies.
For starters, you’ll earn recognition as a subject matter expert. Hiring managers are going to recognize that as well. Trust me, not only have I personally worked for some of the top education companies after I’ve left teaching, I’ve done plenty of interviews with hiring managers and CEOs, and I can confirm. But that’s only part of it.
You’re still going to need to know how to translate your experience and leverage yourself as the best candidate for this non-teaching role in education. These roles are highly competitive now that so many teachers are looking to transition.
In this episode of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I’m going to identify the top five roles in education, talk about them, and list out some of the hard skills and soft skills that can help you have a leg up for these positions. My philosophy about there are no one size fits all answers applies here, too.
Not every teacher is going to be a good fit for all five of these careers. It’s important to have the clarity to know what you like and don’t like, as you start to pinpoint your direction. I also want state here that not all the skills that I list are mandatory.
They’re only suggestions if the field or position is competitive. I also want to state here that not all the skills that I’m going to talk about are going to be mandatory. They’re only suggestions, especially if the field or the position is competitive. I encourage you to keep applying while you’re working on these things and you may not need to do all of them.
Top Position at EdTech Companies #1: Professional Development Trainers
Professional development trainers focus on delivering teacher trainings or admin trainings. At an education company, your job might entail working with a team to develop and modify training resources, to help teachers implement a product or a system into their classroom routine.
So, a PD trainer can be called a variety of things, like in my own case, I was called an educational consultant, but it can also be called a training consultant, a training manager, it could be called a PD specialist. In some cases it can even be called an implementation specialist. To keep it simple, I’m just going to call it a PD trainer.
Often PD trainers spend their time working onsite, giving presentations, and leading training activities to help teachers understand how to effectively use a tool or resource. You might lead teachers or admin through systems and processes or teach them new tools or skills for the classroom.
With that said, you should be comfortable with public speaking and also with creating and presenting, using digital media. PD training is a lot like teaching. It just involves teaching different content to different audiences rather than students.
The soft skills you’ll need are attention to detail, independence as you’re often sent into the trenches on your own, optimism, and a sunny outlook, and comfortability with public speaking. To have a leg up on others looking for these similar types of roles, you may want to focus on some hard skills, like training other teachers, to be able to put it on your resume.
If you can’t lead the PDs at your school, ask some of your teacher besties if you can just train them on something that would help save them time that they want to learn. Make sure to get a few trainings under your belt so you can write about it on your resume. You may also want to focus on your graphic design, nothing too fancy.
This can be something as simple as using Canva or PowerPoint, but first impressions are everything. A well-branded and aesthetically pleasing presentation is important to companies and you can use it inside your interview or on a portfolio if they ask for one.
You may also want to volunteer to become an education company’s ambassador or go through some of their train-the-trainer kind of programs, just to see how other companies model it and to be able to put it on your resume.
Last, you might want to learn video editing using a program like Camtasia. That way you can show how easy it would be for you to create resources, to leave behind for districts, even after you’re done with an in-person training.
Top Position at EdTech Companies #2: Sales Positions
My second role that I want to talk about is sales. Sales roles vary in title, and they may be called something like a BDR or a sales associate. Many teachers are intimidated or simply turned off by the idea of a sales position and the truth is sales departments are where many education companies are hiring. That means that you’re missing a big opportunity while many struggle to land a position in more saturated roles.
For example, they may only have one opening for an instructional design position, but 30 open sales roles and sales roles can be very lucrative. Most of the time they’re less sales-y than you may think, but I do want to be totally transparent, they usually involve a lot of phone calls.
Sales roles involve building relationships with schools and districts, so you need to be able to be somewhat confident and also passionate about whatever company or product you are talking about. That way you can feel good about what you’re doing and you can earn that school’s trust as they can come back to you for product recommendations that meets their specific needs.
Sales roles that education companies are all about identifying the problems, gaps or needs, and posing a specific product as the solution. And if you feel icky about the idea of being a pushy sales rep, fear not. Sales at many education companies are more focused on just picking the right product for the customer based on factors like data and demographics.
It may be similar to many of the conversations that you have with your grade level team about what online technology tool is the best fit for your fourth grade team. But to be successful in sales, you do have to be okay with rejection. This is something that can develop over time.
You may not have to feel good with it right now, but you might get a lot of secretaries hanging up on you before you ever reach your principal.
You have to be the type of person who’s comfortable with just shaking it off and keep going. So think of how you were at your school. Were you the teacher who was unafraid to send out multiple fires to ask for donations for the school dance? Did you circle back with parents multiple times if they ghosted you and you needed an answer after a parent teacher conference?
Those are actually some quick indications that you may have the grit to be in a sales position. In order to get a leg up on this position, you may want to mention some of the last points I made, if they’re relevant to you. You also might want to put a heavier emphasis on how you kept excellent notes and records of interactions.
Sales positions often need a very meticulously kept and organized contact log. You also want to display how confident you are in your interviews. So you might want to take a couple of quick tutorials on Excel. Maybe watch some training videos on YouTube, on a tool like Salesforce and maybe some objection handling or strategies on making cold-calls on LinkedIn Learning.
Before I move on to number three, I also want to give a quick shout out to one of the Teacher Career Coach members, Claire, who actually works in a sales position at an education company and she helped me draft this.
Top Position at EdTech Companies #3: Customer Success
Now the third position at an education company is customer success. A customer success manager, or a CSM is more than simply answering questions and putting out fires, which is actually often the role of a customer support team.
At its core, a customer success manager is about building relationships with other schools and districts to ensure that they’re happy with the product, they’re utilizing it to its full capability, and they may continue to use the product year after year.
The specifics of a customer success role are going to vary from company to company, but generally speaking, it’s a proactive role that ensures customer satisfaction and success. Tasks can range from onboarding new clients to securing renewals of current ones.
A big part of a CSM is ensuring the customer is using the product to its full potential. That might involve running training or providing support during the onboarding.
In order to get a leg up on these types of positions, you’re going to want to talk about your experience with building strong relationships with parents, how you handled their objections, how you may have negotiated with staff members, your skills with conflict resolution and with empathy towards other people.
You’ll focus on how you know the ideal customer, which is schools and districts, how you know their pain points, and how you know what they need to be successful. You’ll also want to showcase how you’re up to date with pedagogy and industry trends.
Top Position at EdTech Companies #4: Project Manager
The fourth role on my list is a project manager. Project managers delegate responsibilities. They help everybody stay on project timelines and they guide people to the tools that they need to meet their company objectives.
Additionally, they often keep up communication with key stakeholders. Long-term curriculum mapping, putting together a huge fundraiser, going on a field trip, all of these take some project management skills. Project managers oversee a variety of projects from design to curriculum, and they give the final deliverable.
Therefore, this role requires strong organization and communication and team building skills. Not only do you have to manage your direct team, you’re also going to need to collaborate with various departments. It’s going to be useful to be comfortable with a few project management technology tools like Asana or Trello. And they’re very easy to learn just by watching YouTube tutorials.
Project managers rely on these productivity tools to help them set goals, determine timelines, delegate responsibilities, and manage their tasks. Like a team leader or a department head, they don’t just oversee the workflow, but they often support their team when issues arrive.
Look into this position if you’re highly organized, love working on teams, love planning big projects, creating timelines, and just leading others. If this is a direction you’re really passionate about, you may also want to take up a certification like the PMP, just to get a leg up on the competition.
Top Position at EdTech Companies #5: Marketing Roles
My last suggestion is not actually a specific career, but more of a department direction and one that I was really passionate about only after I left the classroom and saw it in person. That’s marketing.
Marketing roles are all about engaging a target audience and building strong relationship with the promise of delivering value. When it comes to marketing for education companies, you already know probably a lot about their target audience, which is once again, school districts and schools.
If you were working as a copywriter for a company, you may be writing blogs towards IT professionals or you might be writing blogs geared towards teachers, which takes some knowledge of the different target audiences and differentiation.
If you’re managing an education company’s social media, you may be creating graphics, even using Canva that are useful to teachers that grab their attention and make them want to learn more about this product. Many teachers follow education influencers or TPT sellers on Instagram that use similar tactics.
So, you’re probably more familiar with this than you know. You will need to learn some industry specific skills required for success here, but you have that invaluable asset that non-teaching candidates don’t. You know how to speak to their target audience because you were their target audience.
You know their pain points and desires and you also know what not to post on social media or in a blog because it can be tone deaf to teachers. If you can begin building your knowledge and skills in the realms of graphic design, copywriting, and social media, you’ll be a powerhouse candidate for marketing in an educational company.
You Don’t Have to Pick Your Forever Career
To wrap up, I do not want you to limit yourself only to these five possibilities. Instructional designer, learning designer, UX designer, and software engineering are also very real potentials for former teachers. These however are paths that will take work to bridge the gaps in your skillset.
You may have to take multiple online courses or potentially a boot camp. Don’t forget, there’s always a chance for you to pivot once you’re in a new company. It’s so common for former teachers to switch departments or get promotions quickly after landing their new roles and getting their foot in the door.
So know that in other careers, unlike teaching, you don’t have to pick your forever career. These are just the starting points of your next journey.
Where to start
If you’re just beginning to think about leaving teaching, brainstorming other options is a great place to start. But if you’re like many others, teaching was your only plan – there never was a Plan B. You might feel at a loss when it comes to figuring out what alternatives are out there.
Start with our free quiz, below, to get alternative job options for careers that really do hire teachers!
Taking the First Steps to a New Career
If you’ve already taken our quiz, it may be time for the next steps. I want to help you get some clarity in the options available to you. To know EXACTLY what you need to do (and not do) in order to get your foot in the door.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see teachers make is that they try to navigate this process alone. Often, they put off “researching” until the very last minute. Which sets them up for a very stressful application season – trying to juggle teaching, figuring out a resume, researching jobs, and hoping to nail down some interviews before signing next year’s contract.
You don’t have to do this on your own.
If you are considering a career change from teaching, I have a resource that can help you today. With the help of an HR expert with over 10 years of experience, I’ve created a guide to support you in the early stages of your transition out of the classroom.
In the Career Transition Guide, I’ll walk you through the factors to consider and answer those first-step planning questions including:
- A compiled list of over 40 careers that teachers can transition into
- An overview of how to read job descriptions
- How to evaluate the risk of leaving a full-time teaching job for the unknown
- Example translations from classroom-to-corporate resumes
- A checklist of everything you’ll need to do for your career transition (so you know you aren’t missing anything!)
- and more…
Take the first steps on your path to a new career now for only