How Teacher Shortages Can Actually Benefit Teachers
Finding and landing a teaching job can be a challenge depending on your area of expertise and where you want to teach. Finding a teaching job that you love can be even harder.
However, if you are willing to broaden your search and target specific high-need subjects, you can be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your teaching career.
American public schools are facing a teacher shortage crisis, particularly in subject areas like math, science, and special education. If you equip yourself with the skills and qualifications to fill these high-need positions, you can flip the script on the whole job-search process. Rather than competing against piles of qualified applicants, schools could very well be courting you.
By familiarizing yourself with the teacher shortage areas in your state, you not only increase your chances of finding a teaching position, you increase the chances of find a teaching position that you will love.
Where are the teacher shortages?
The simple answer is that every state is facing some sort of challenge when it comes to fully staffing their public schools. While each state has its own specific shortage areas, there are some common geographic and subject-area trends.
Within each state, schools in the greatest need are typically those that serve minority and economically disadvantaged populations. In most states, this means the most densely populated urban areas and the most sparsely populated rural areas have difficulty attracting and retaining the excellent teachers their students need and deserve.
As far as content areas are concerned, math, science, ELL, and special education tend to be the subjects in the highest demand; of course these needs will vary geographically.
It is easier to get a look from a hiring district when you come to the table equipped and willing to fill one of these higher-demand needs as opposed to more popular teaching specializations like elementary education, history, or language arts.
If you want options, fill your résumé with the teaching skills and certifications that will qualify you to tackle the most pressing needs of the schools in your search area; your marketability will increase exponentially!
The power of choice
One of the major reasons teachers leave their positions (or the teaching field entirely) is an overall dissatisfaction with their working conditions. Unsurprisingly, teachers are less likely to want to practice their craft in positions where they don’t feel supported, included, and valued.
That being said, many teachers just starting out in the profession fall victim to settling for “any port in the storm” when it comes to accepting a teaching position. While a job offer may be a much needed win in the short-term, it can also be a recipe for disappointment and dissatisfaction down the road.
A major advantage in applying for positions as a highly-qualified candidate in a teacher shortage area is that you can be a lot pickier about the positions you apply for (and consider accepting). You come to the table in a much stronger negotiating position; the school may very well need you more than you need the school.
In these cases, you can use the interview process to evaluate things like the curriculum, administration, professional development options, and the working atmosphere. In doing so, you increase the odds of accepting the position that is the best overall fit rather than simply taking the first offer that comes your way.
The financial benefits of teaching in a shortage area
Another key factor leading to teacher shortages has to do with the financial side of teaching as a career.
Teaching can be an expensive occupation to pursue considering the fact that teachers are required to possess college degrees, and in many cases, graduate degrees. However, when compared with other career paths requiring comparable levels of education, starting teacher salaries tend to fall towards the bottom of the list.
Opting to pursue a teaching position in a high-need content area or high-need school district can help make up for some of this income difference. Depending on your state, the socio-economic makeup of the district you work for, and the subject you teach, you could qualify for signing bonuses and various college loan forgiveness programs.
While finding a good fit is more important than finding the highest paycheck, the financial incentives are certainly worth considering, especially if you are looking to select a course of study or tackle a new certification.
If statistics are any indication, the need for teachers will continue to grow over the next decade. Whether you are just starting your teaching career or simply looking to make a change to a new position, consider the areas where your skills and expertise would not only be put to the best use, but where they are in the highest demand.
Sheldon Soper is a New Jersey middle school teacher with over a decade of classroom experience teaching students to read, write, and problem-solve across multiple grade levels. He holds teaching certifications in English, Social Studies, and Elementary Education as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of education. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also a content writer for a variety of education, technology, and parenting websites. You can follow Sheldon on Twitter at @SoperWritings.