If you are thinking about leaving the classroom, you may be asking yourself, “What can I do with a teaching degree… other than teach?”
Many teachers that I talk to worry that changing careers will mean heading back to school for advanced degrees. Additionally, they worry that more education will mean student loan debt – sometimes on top of what they already have. When/where/how will you find the time for all that anyway?!?
Spoiler alert: You do NOT have to go back to school to change careers from teaching. In this blog, I’m going to debunk that rumor and give you three actionable steps to begin your transition out of the classroom and into a new career.
What can I do with a teaching degree… other than teach?
Teaching is such an education-focused career. We first have to get our bachelors and certification, and any kind of pay increase usually depends on more education. You may already have multiple teaching degrees, your masters, or be working toward a National Board Certification while you are teaching.
The path for many teachers is clear from very early on. After high school you likely went directly to college to major in education. From there you either went on to an internship or for a masters degree and then right into the classroom. Then, your options are staying there for 20+ years or going into administration. There’s not a lot of wiggle room for career advancement. Generally, it’s a clear, direct path from age 18 to retirement.
When teachers find themselves unhappy in their careers, many struggle to see a different path. You might be wondering, Do I have to start all over?
This is especially difficult if you’ve been teaching for many years. You’ve been in that pipeline for a long time. It’s understandable that you don’t want to go back to the beginning and start all over again.
If you’ve been working for a few years (or many more), what you may be missing is that you have credible work history. You have experience. What you need to do now is translate your experience into the skills needed for a new position.
What other jobs can I do with a teaching degree?
I should add a caveat here: Yes, in some very specific cases you will need other degrees. For example, if you are fresh out of college and have never held a steady position. Or if you are looking to transition into a career that requires a specific degree, like accounting or health care. People need to lean on their degrees when they have no previous relative work experience.
However most of the time, degrees don’t matter as much as people think. You have a degree, so most hiring managers will be happy to see that – no matter what your degree is in, teaching or otherwise. It’s more important to them that you have the transferrable skills needed for the job.
I have spoken with literally thousands of former teachers over the past few years. The vast majority have not needed to go back to school. Instead they focused on the requirements of the job and how their teaching experience translated into the skills required. Additionally, some have supplemented their skills by taking online classes or freelancing to fill in the gaps in their resume. This is called upskilling – more on that later.
Hear from Former Teachers
On The Teacher Career Coach Podcast, I interview former teachers that have gone into a variety of roles. They’ve gone on to become learning designers, instructional designers, UX designers, copywriters, software engineers, real estate agents, corporate trainers, government account managers, customer engagement specialists, training consultants, project coordinators, and work in EdTech sales. However, these are just a very small snapshot of the careers that you can go into with a teaching degree.
These former teachers share about their transition from teaching and what it took to land their new positions. Check out the graphic below with a long list of job titles and episode numbers that are on the podcast right now.
Listen to these episodes as informational interviews to see which stories resonate most with you. And then start reaching out to others in these roles (not just former teachers, focus on finding anyone with 3+ years experience in an industry).
You can find The Teacher Career Coach Podcast on your favorite podcast player or listen and read the transcripts here on the website at teachercareercoach.com/podcast.
First Steps to Leaving Teaching – Without Getting Another Degree
1 Determine what job you want
I find that many teachers expect the job path out of teaching to be as clear and linear as the path in. However, that is most often not the case. lf you’re looking for a new career direction, here is my best piece of advice: Don’t back yourself into a career-path-corner based on what others are pursuing or the most obvious choice. Focus on what excites you in your teaching career.
After teachers make the decision to leave, the next most difficult part is finding a new direction. This is especially true for teachers who feel teaching was their passion or “calling” since way back, even before they started working toward their degree.
- Do you like building and execution (UX design, curriculum design, software engineer, instructional design, project management)?
- Love writing and working with words (L&D, curriculum writing, marketing roles)?
- Are you passionate about numbers (data analyst, sales)?
- Does the intrinsic motivation of knowing you are serving others light you up (HR, customer success manager)?
Start exploring these big ideas and then examine the careers you are pursuing to see if they align with you. For more specific recommendations, take our Free Quiz: What Career Outside of Teaching is Right for You? At the end you receive personalized results based on your answers.
2 Translate Your Skills
Yes, your educational experience will translate into value in new roles. And yes, companies value your teaching skills and degrees. There are opportunities beyond the classroom.
However there is going to be competition, especially if you’re looking for roles at education companies. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible – it just means you’ll need to up your game and prove you’ve done your homework. The next step is to take a close look at the requirements for your new job and how your teaching experience translates into those skills.
You’ll need to consider your experience inside the classroom and any applicable experience you’ve had outside the classroom as well. For example if you’re applying for a sales position, you might consider any fundraisers you’ve done and the role you played in meeting those goals. You may have helped make decisions on school or district-level purchases. And you probably have excellent presentation skills and know how to keep very detailed records.
There are many ways you can translate your experience, but it can be difficult to see how that can apply to the position you’re going for.
If you’re coming up blank, listen or read Episode 29: Writing a Transferrable Teacher Skills Resume, where our HR expert and professional resume writer, Alli, talks about how to utilize job descriptions as a tool to translate your skills and experience.
As you’re building your resume, you may find that although you have a teaching degree and a good bit of applicable experience, you may lack some of the skills required for your desired role. In this case, you may want to upskill.
Basically, upskilling is the process of learning new skills for your job. For teachers, this might be compared to taking professional development courses. But I hesitate in comparing the two because, as you probably have experienced, many of the professional development required by school districts does not align with skills you need to actually perform your job or become a better teacher.
The difference is that upskilling is coursework or building skills that are very specific to the role you want. Building skills that you can use on your resume and also in practice in your new role.
One way to upskill is to start working in a side-job that builds skills for the industry you want to work in. For example, I used my experience creating curriculum on TeachersPayTeachers as a stepping stone to land my first job outside of teaching as an educational consultant. Other teachers use freelancing as an opportunity to build skills. Some areas include copywriting, social media management, or virtual assistant. The skills you learn in a side hustle can directly apply to the experience needed to land the role you want.
Another, more frequently used way to upskill is taking online courses. Online courses can teach the specific skills you need for your new role. This may be learning how to use a particular software, directly learning management skills, or completing a certification that is applicable to your new role. Let’s talk about where you can find some of these courses.
For a more detailed explanation of the benefits upskilling or reskilling, plus skill builder recommendations for the top 7 career transitions for teachers see this post: Upskill and Reskill: Online Courses for Your Career Transition
Upskilling: Supplement Your Skills & Teaching Degree with Online Courses
There are a variety of online courses and certifications available that you can use to upskill for your desired role. If they are specifically applicable to your new career, they will look great on a resume as well as giving you the confidence and experience needed to hit the ground running. This list includes affiliate links. See our disclaimer for more information.
Aspireship – A combo training and recruitment agency that helps you upskill and get hired. Aspireship offers training and help with placement specifically for SaaS sales. Hear more about the program on the TCC podcast.
SheCodes – Coding workshops and classes designed specifically to help women grow their skillsets by learning the basics of coding. Free options available to get you started.
LinkedIn Learning – LinkedIn Learning offers over 16,000 (and growing) business, design, and tech courses which are self-paced, video-based, and on-demand. The popular professional networking platform additionally provides many short, introductory videos free-of-cost, courses that you can purchase individually, and a subscription option with a 30 day free trial.
SkillShare – SkillShare offers an incredibly wide variety of online courses that covers leadership, management, web design, productivity, the arts, and more. What sets SkillShare apart is their project-based courses and community which provides options for hands-on and collaborative learning. The SkillShare premium membership grants access to unlimited classes with a 30 day free trial.
Coursera – Coursera offers unique courses including video-based coursework, certification programs, and guided projects with instruction provided by over 200 universities, like UPenn and Oxford, and companies, like Google and IBM. The Coursera+ subscription grants access to over seven thousand courses and certification programs starting with a 7 day free trial.
Udemy – Udemy offers a huge selection of over 180,000 online, video-based courses and growing. Categories applicable for career-changers cover topics such as business, finance, marketing, and web development. These courses can be purchased individually (they often have courses on sale). Or opt for the Personal Plan which includes their selection of business-related courses with a 7 day free trial.
edX – This platform offers many free courses that may fit into your schedule and paid options that are self-paced. Courses cover areas such as computer science, data, business management, engineering, humanities, and languages.
Grow with Google – Google’s online courses and workshops are free. However, you will have to pay to take the certification exam and receive the final certificate. Courses offered include IT, data analytics, project management, UX design, and Android development.
Smart from Scratch – If you’re looking to start a business from scratch or build on your side hustle to grow your skills while earning some extra money, I recommend the Smart from Scratch course from Smart Passive Income. This is an excellent course created by one of my mentors, Pat Flynn, designed to help aspiring business owners turn their ideas into a business.
Next Steps to a New Career
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. 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.
You don’t have to do this on your own.
With the help of an HR expert with over 10 years of experience and a team of former teachers, I’ve created a guide to support you in the early stages of your transition out of the classroom. Tap the button below to learn more.