Reasons for Becoming a Teacher

Thinking of becoming a teacher? Every teacher devotes his or her life to education for reasons as individual to them as any other part of their identity. Still, it usually isn’t the money or the three-month summer vacation. Reasons for becoming a teacher are deeper than that. And while each individual’s reasons are personal, almost all teachers are united by the desire to impact people. High-needs schools in the United States have budgetary concerns and low teacher retention, and students continue to drop out at alarming rates. So, what’s calling you? Why do you want to teach?

Reasons to Become a Teacher

There is a demand for teachers in this country, and a person is called to become a teacher in response to that need. Why do people become teachers? Every professional has a slightly different answer; the range of diverse experiences, communities and schools means that no teaching career is identical to another. But there are common threads. An Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) survey found that 80% of educators teach because they enjoy working with children and three-quarters of teachers were motivated by a desire to make a difference.

Below are just three of the ways teaching as a career can create a positive ripple effect through communities.

1. To Improve the Quality of Education

One reason to become a teacher is to impact the education system. The proportion of Americans who have a great deal of confidence in public schools has steadily declined over the past 50 years, according to 2017 Gallup polling.  If you recognize the need to improve the quality of education in this country, then you may become a teacher to affect change. There is a lot of work to be done, but it is the collective effort of thousands of dedicated teachers that will make the most difference.

School administrators and government officials have an impact at the legislative level, but it is teachers who directly affect students in the classroom—that is, after all, where learning takes place. You won’t be able to improve the quality of education for every student in America, but you will be able to for your students. The importance of being a teacher cannot be overstated. Helping just one student can make the job worth it, but over a long and productive career, you have the chance to help thousands of students.

Essentially, becoming a teacher lets you take part in shaping the next generation.

2. To Give Back to Your Community

One of the reasons for becoming a teacher is to contribute to your community in a meaningful way. Teaching is one of the most direct ways to make an impact, and if you are driven by the desire to help those around you, being a teacher is an invaluable contribution.

Perhaps you grew up in a high-needs area and are personally connected to the struggle of students who come from low-income neighborhoods and go to schools with little funding; this sort of perspective allows you to recognize how much of a difference a devoted teacher can make. Maybe an amazing teacher changed your life when you were younger and you want to share that with a new generation of students. Many people cite a favorite teacher as a source of inspiration in their decision to pursue a career in education. 

3. To Change the Lives of Students

Teachers do more than teach, and their impact extends far beyond the classroom. As a teacher, you are more than just an educator–you are a mentor, a confidant and a friend. One of the most common reasons to become a teacher is to make a difference in the lives of as many students as you can. Taylor Mali, a renowned poet, education advocate and former teacher, describes this impact in his spoken word poem, What Teachers Make.

He says, “I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could, I make a C+ feel like a congressional Medal of Honor. I make an A- feel like a slap in the face. … I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be. … I make a difference.”

Teachers have the potential to interact with students at all stages of development and from all walks of life. A great teacher wants to help students along this path and to play a part in shaping the person they will ultimately become. If you want to help a child struggling with low self-esteem and problems at home, then become a teacher to encourage them and help them realize their potential. Becoming a teacher lets you impart life lessons they will never forget and puts you in a position to influence their decisions, behaviors, strengths, weaknesses and imagination. Becoming a teacher lets you take part in shaping the next generation.

Reasons Why Someone Might Fall Out of Love with Teaching

The ATL survey also revealed some of the reasons why teachers leave the profession, despite their commitment to students and communities. Teacher burnout is a frequent reason: three-quarters of respondents cited heavy workloads as the reason they are considering leaving the job. Respondents said they wanted more time to plan lessons, a better work-life balance and proper mentorship from experienced teachers to help keep them in schools. 

Education as a career includes more than teaching in the traditional classroom setting. For former teachers, or those who believe in the mission but aren’t sure if teaching is for them, there are other careers that help affect change and build from similar backgrounds. 

  • School counseling: Counselors guide students through academic, social and emotional dilemmas every day. People who want to become a school counselor learn about ethics, human development and psychology. It’s also possible for teachers to transition into counseling roles.
  • School social work: Social workers in schools are there to help students tackle problems that teachers are not qualified to guide them through, like complex family issues, trauma and mental illness. Getting a degree in social work requires field experience.
  • Library science: School librarians help educators and students navigate everything from the internet to traditional textbooks—they are there to guide students along a pathway to information. People interested in this career can obtain a Master’s in Library Science (MLIS).

The Benefits of Being a Teacher

The demand for teachers is a tangible need—the job outlook for teachers at all grade levels over the next decade is growing at the average for all occupations. However, when teacher quality indicators like certification and experience are considered, the teacher shortage is more pronounced. A 2019 report from the Economic Policy Institute projects that in 2025, the demand for new teachers will exceed the supply by about 200,000 positions. The gap could translate to job security, especially for highly qualified teachers with sought-after certifications and advanced degrees.

Teachers also have access to many of the same benefits as other careers, though it can vary widely from district to district. Summer vacation and school holidays are a known perk, but the two primary teacher unions (the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers) are also responsible for negotiating salaries and additional benefits, such as medical, dental and vision insurance coverage and pension.

Considering a Career in Teaching? Explore these Degrees

An EdD is great for people in the education sector who are already working full time but wish to bolster their credentials in pursuit of career advancement. Coursework will vary significantly from program to program, but you can expect core classes related to leadership, curriculum planning and learning theory.

An MAT degree is for current and prospective K–12 teachers looking to earn their initial teaching license or additional certification as a means of career advancement in the classroom. Prominent curriculum themes include the role of diversity in learning, technology incorporation in the classroom, and common core integration.

Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) programs prepare teachers to work with second- or foreign-language students in the United States and abroad. This field requires professional training, usually in linguistics or English.

An MST degree is for prospective teachers seeking initial teacher certification or current teachers looking to advance in the classroom. Prominent course themes might include incorporating technology into the classroom, specific subject matter specialization, and the role of diversity in learning.

An MEd degree is designed for licensed educators who already have their teaching license and are seeking additional certification(s) and experience or for individuals looking to work in the field of education but outside the classroom.

Interested in developing your skills as a teacher? Explore online education short courses designed to give you an in-depth understanding of various skills in teaching.