Teaching skills are transferable to a wide variety of markets. Leading classrooms and developing young minds requires huge stores of patience, empathy, strategic thinking, and communication ability that can translate to any number of careers—if you know how to sell yourself.
I talked to ten teachers who have successfully transitioned to other careers in order to create this guide. Almost all of them wanted to share one key piece of advice to other teachers thinking about switching jobs: value your skills and know how to explain how they'll be valuable to hiring managers.
But let's hear it from them directly, before I go into specific careers and jobs for ex-teachers (and a few case studies about why teachers are perfectly qualified for them):
- "People assume teachers are babysitters and don't acknowledge our ability to multi-task, pivot on a moment's notice, persuade others, create something from nothing, and manage people," says Danielle Bayard Jackson, who was a high school English teacher before transitioning to a career in public relations, where she now runs her own PR agency focused on women and minority-owned businesses.
- "You and your experience are incredibly valuable. Do not sell yourself short. If a firm or organization even remotely talks down to you for having been a teacher—walk away. Your incredible efforts and discipline absolutely can and should be celebrated," says Michael O'Gorman, who taught elementary school before leaving the classroom to work in central administration at the NYC Department of Education.
- "Realize that you have amazing interpersonal skills from being a teacher that are 100% needed and desired by employers, even if they don't realize it," says Renata France, who worked as an art teacher before teaching herself programming, becoming a team lead and senior developer at an agency, and then transitioning this year to a senior technical product manager role. She's currently developing a career consulting practice to help other people find their paths.
If you're a teacher thinking about switching jobs, start by clarifying what kind of next career you're looking for. What aspects of teaching did you like? Do you want to stay in the world of education, but contribute to it from outside of a classroom? Or do you want to switch industries entirely? Were you a subject-specific teacher who wants to stay in that lane—like a bio teacher who wants to become a lab researcher—or will you need new training for your new career? Define your appetite for change and go from there.
If You're an Ex-Teacher Who Wants to Stay in Education
There are plenty of opportunities for teachers within the world of education that fall outside of traditional teacher responsibilities.
1) School administrator
Why it's a good idea: If you liked the planning and operational aspects of teaching, a career in administration could be great for you. You could work within a school itself, like as a principal, or with your city or state's department of education.
Median salary: $71,949
Case study: Michael, who you heard from above, notes the most useful teaching skill that he deploys in his new role doing urban planning and strategy for the NYC Department of Education: "Empathy and perception. Being a teacher requires you to pay very close attention to your behavior and emotions and the behaviors and emotions of others. You have to be constantly in tune with the energy in the room to know how to keep moving forward. This has paid significant dividends in my work now."
2) Academic advisor / counselor
Why it's a good idea: You know what students need to successfully fulfill requirements and pursue their goals, whether that's at the high school or college level. A role as an advisor or counselor will allow you to help lots of students grow and develop—but without ever having to make a lesson plan.
Median salary: $41,567
Why it's a good idea: You'll still be helping students, but on an individual basis, meaning you can focus specifically on what each student needs to succeed. Depending on whether you set up as an independent contractor or take shifts with an existing tutoring company, you may have significant control over your schedule, too.
Median wage: $18/hour
Case study: Emily Wilson, who was an elementary school teacher who transitioned to tutoring and now runs the Huntington Learning Center in East Boise, Idaho. "The transition to being a center director at a tutoring center has been interesting but no less rewarding. I still have flexibility to teach students in the way they learn best. The biggest difference is the variety of students that I work with. It's fun to teach phonics to a kindergartener and then work on an essay with a fifth grader," she says.
If You're an Ex-Teacher Who Wants a New Career, But Without New Training
Skills like adaptability, organization, time management, public speaking, and empathy, which teachers have in spades, are infinitely useful in many a business role. Which is to say, teachers should be able to write a cover letter highlighting their abilities and transfer right into one of these roles, no extra learning necessary.
1) Content marketer
Why it's a good idea: You understand people. How to motivate them, inspire them, coach them, and instruct them. That translates well to a field where you need to convince people to do or buy certain things, especially through the written word.
Median salary: $50,759
2) Project manager or coordinator
Why it's a good idea: Running a project might feel like nothing after running an entire year's worth of lesson plans, activities, and individual development. PMing or coordinating will lean on your organizational expertise and allow you to design and run systems across departments.
Median salary: $73,555
3) HR specialist
Why it's a good idea: Chances are you're good at understanding people, navigating systems, and advocating for an individual's best interests. A role focused on enabling and supporting people will draw on your empathy and help highlight the human part of a company.
Why it's a good idea: Relationship-building comes easily to you, and you're a great communicator who has an organization system for everything. Helping clients get press and maintain their social image will let you flex those skills.
Median salary: $45,961
Case study: Danielle, quoted above, who now runs her own PR agency. She realized PR was right for her when she identified her skills and interests: "I like to write, read, talk to others, and be on the move. I also like to create creative presentations and teach people things. That's when I landed on public relations. I write press releases, create unique campaigns for my clients, and I read tons every day to stay on top of the latest trends in my clients' industries."
5) Career coach
Why it's a good idea: You know how to connect with people, help them articulate their goals, and create plans to achieve them. Coaching individuals on how to reach their career aspirations should come naturally to you.
Median salary: $43,270
Case study: Emily Eliza Moyer, who now runs her own career coaching practice after working as an elementary school and then in sales for Remote Year. "Teaching gave me the foundation for almost everything I know about being a leader, manager and coach," she says, and highlights that her path from teacher to coach followed the same driving passion: "Becoming a Career Coach has felt like my true purpose coming to life. Helping professionals find their purpose so that they can actually love the work they do (and in turn, their life) is what I'm meant to be doing."
Jobs for Ex-Teachers Can Be Anything, Really
The specific jobs I've talked about above are good starting points for teachers who are exploring their options, but really, teachers can transition to absolutely any job they want—including starting their own businesses. Teachers have a huge set of highly useful skills that can apply across disciplines. Take a look at these ex-teachers for inspiration:
- From literature teacher to video game tester: Piotr Jasinski's previous experience teaching high school lit was highly transferrable to his current job testing video games for Lionbridge, a marketing, testing, and globalization company. Says the Lionbridge team: "Our hiring managers appreciated Piotr's gaming skills, but were truly awestruck by the attention to detail he had developed as a teacher, having focused for so many years on the individual needs [of] each student. This transferrable skill helps him find games' errors."
- From social studies teacher and coach to insurance agent: Randy Wolfe wanted to transition out of teaching to a bigger salary that could better support his growing family. He was passionate about helping seniors, so he started his own insurance agency, QuoteMyMedicare.org, where he uses his teaching skills every day. "My previous experience as a teacher helped me to develop a lot of patience, which is very important when dealing with seniors."
- From music teacher to director of his own music school: Adam Cole wanted to pursue his dream of running his own music business, Grant Park Arts. He leaned on his teacher-developed skills as he started off: "Being a teacher means learning to prepare for worst-case scenarios with a highly-developed plan. It prepares you to present yourself as strong and confident in any situation. You also develop a good sense of what people are like, what they're hiding, and how your relationship with them is going to pan out, which is invaluable in hiring."
Ex-teachers, go out and prosper. And remember that whatever job you end up in will be lucky to have you.
Teachers Pay Teachers and PowerToFly came together to discuss one of the most powerful tools in life: education. The PowerToFly team were joined by the leading marketplace for educational resources, Teachers Pay Teachers, and we dove into how tech is shaping the future of education, where engineering and education intersect, and how you can get involved.
Speakers from Teachers Pay Teachers included:
- Randi Gray, Senior IT Manager
- Jillian Silver, Tech Lead
- Linda Wang, Senior Product Marketing Manager
- Charlotte Weiskittel, Group Product Manager
- Danielle Leong, Data Engineer
- Michelle Cummings, Vice President of Content
Tech-Savviness Not Required
Apps make the digital world go 'round.
In fact, if you have a smartphone, you probably spend over 87% of your phone time in apps. Some call it a tech addiction, others call it a modern necessity. What's clear is that we can leverage app time to our benefit and if done right, build skills, save money, and live more fulfilling personal and professional lives.
The real question is, which apps are worth the download? I for one, am not a fan of multiple pages of apps, folders get confusing, and since I can't delete the basics, I like to keep my app downloads to must-use only.
In the spirit of saving your valuable time searching the web for what to download, we've curated this list of 12 PowerToFly approved apps that you don't need to be "tech-savy" to download and use. Give them a try, and let us know which apps you think we should add to the list!
The Skillshare App.
Skillshare makes it easy to develop and finesse your skills by offering a catalog of informative videos and classes divided into four topics: Creative, Business Technology, and Lifestyle. Each video or class is led by an expert in that field. This app offers an opportunity to develop your skillset from anywhere, in order to enrich your career, feed your hobby, or learn something new just for fun.
Learn more and download the Skillshare app here.
The Acorns App.
If you're bad at saving and don't want to spend time and energy understanding the plethora of ways to invest your money, you need to download this app. With a $1 per month basic membership (there are two additional options, well worth the cost), you're enrolled in a "keep the change" program of sorts, where Acorn specialists invest your change and grow your financial portfolio. This app is perfect for someone who's looking for a straight up "set it and forget it" approach to finances.
Learn more and download the Acorns app here.
The YNAB (You Need a Budget) App.
Let's be real - budgeting is hard, and not all budgeting apps are created equal. Thanks to the small remote team at YNAB, it's a little easier with apps for all of your favorite devices (iPhone, Android, Apple Watch, iPad, Alexa AND their own API). The app costs $6.99 a month, but with a free 34 day trial and discounted student membership, it's worth testing out if you're looking to pay off a big debt or are not one for financial accountability (the average subscriber saves $6,000 per year!).
Learn more and download the YNAB app here.
The Cleo App.
Expanding from Facebook Messenger, Cleo, the AI Powered finance app is now available for your phone! A skeptic myself, I downloaded Cleo and was pleasantly surprised at how much information she could provide and how easy it was to use. Ask Cleo anything, like what your last five purchases were and if you can afford a double mocha latte. Be aware, Cleo is not compatible with all banks, so make sure to confirm compatibility before paying the membership fee.
Learn more and download the Cleo app here.
The Empowrd App.
This app places democracy in the palm of your hands! Empowrd simplifies civic engagement by giving you access to your elected officials, organizations, and bringing relevant news to your fingertips. Now you can take action to affect change with some research, reflection, and a couple of taps.
Learn more and download the Empowrd app here.
The Good Guide App.
GoodGuide provides consumers with product information to help guide more informed buying decisions. This app makes it easy to get advice while shopping in order to find better products through science-based ratings. With GoodGuide, you can:
- Understand the source for how product information was collected and become educated on the efforts manufacturers are making to be more transparent to the public about how they are making their products.
- Compare products on the market within a given product type or usage (example: shampoos).
- Find out whether a product contains ingredients with identified health hazards.
- Rely on their science expertise to interpret complex information about potential hazards of different chemicals
Learn more and download the GoodGuide app here.
The Good On You App.
We want to live in a world that's sustainable and fair. We all know that the global fashion industry has a huge problem with pollution, waste and human rights abuses. If you want to show the planet some love, you can download this app to discover ethical brands and see how your favorites measure up. Good On You was built by a group of campaigners, fashion professionals, scientists, writers and developers who united forces to drive change. Their manifesto is inspiring: Wear the change you want to see. Yes, please!
Learn more and download the Good On You app here.
Productivity & Accountability
The Mogul App.
Mogul is a company that caters to empowering women with relevant content, interviews, inspiration and more! Tiffany Pham established this online community in 2014, and to compliment their online platform, they've recently launched an app to empower its global community of women to take control of their day. The app helps you focus on taking action each day to reach your goals.
Learn more and download the Mogul app here.
The MindMiester App.
Ready to take brainstorming and note taking to the next level? MindMeister has an international team of 50 tech enthusiasts, working from offices in Munich, Vienna and Seattle. MindMeister enables real-time collaboration between an unlimited number of users. Together, they can structure their thoughts, plan projects, and create engaging presentations for both business and educational purposes.
Learn more and download the MindMiester app here.
The Flipboard App.
Flipboard brings a daily digest of social news to your fingertips. This digital newsstand is super user friendly, prompting you to select topics and magazines that interest you for daily reads. It arranges them in a browse-worthy cue for you to dive into and stay on top of trending news and media.
Learn more and download the Flipboard app here.
The Hopper App.
For the digital nomads out there or anyone who travels for work, is there anything better than knowing you scored the best possible deal on your next flight? Choose your itinerary and Hopper will notify you when you should buy and when you should pass. Your boss can thank us later. The app uses a prediction algorithm that processes trillions of data points, allowing them to make precise and personalized travel recommendations.
Before you jet set, read up on how you can be a good tourist by implementing ecotourism as you explore another culture.
Learn more and download the Hopper app here.
The Sweat With Kayla App.
Founded and created by female entrepreneur and fitness guru Kayla Itsines, you can take time out of your workday to burn some calories and get your endorphins buzzing. This app also features healthy meals to satisfy a balanced appetite. Join millions of women around the world for a fitness journey!
Learn more and download the Sweat with Kayla app here.
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Julia Sonenshein, Skillcrush
College is an integral portion of the American Dream: It's theoretically what propels you forward into the middle class existence we were all promised. The reality is that that dream isn't attainable for all of us, especially not in a system that rewards the inherited privilege of some—accidents of birth, instead of merit. "Where did you go to college" seems like a standard—albeit boring—dinner party question, and assumes that college is a universal experience for all of us.
The truth is that it's not, and that assumption is a harmful one that rests on issues of race and class. Anecdotally, friends tell me that because they didn't go to or finish college, their experiences are frequently invalidated or looked at with scorn. Here's what they're tired of hearing, along with some real answers to common misconceptions.
1. Why did you drop out of/not go to college?
People drop out of college or don't attend in the first place for infinite reasons, but to name a few: the staggering cost, the need to take care of a family member, illness, pregnancy, they didn't want to. In short: not a one of these are anyone else's business.
Asking this question also assumes that going to college is the norm, and that to deviate from that path is therefore abnormal. In reality, this isn't the case. According to a 2015 US Census report, only about 1 in 3 American adults have a Bachelor's degree. College certainly isn't the only path to adult life—nor is it even the most common.
2. The college years were the best years of my life. You missed out.
While it's fantastic that you enjoyed college so much, those four years aren't necessarily a positive experience for many people. Marginalized people (especially multiply marginalized people, like, for example, women of color)—face significant challenges in college. Rape culture is real (says statistics, not this special snowflake; see the multiple federal investigations into the crisis facing campuses), and it impacts people of all genders. Racism is rampant in academia, and especially impacts Black students' mental health, according to a study by the JED Foundation and the Steve Fund. And college is often not accessible for people with disabilities. For example, my friend Andrew Fisher is Deaf, and he told me that as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College, he constantly struggled with the interpreters assigned to him by the school, who often weren't even certified in American Sign Language. "They would basically get people off the street," and he could miss weeks of information because of bad interpreting. "It was incredibly frustrating."
Even for those of us without marginalizations, college can still be a minefield. Roughly one-third of U.S. college students reported depression that impacted their ability to function in a 2013 study by the National College Health Assessment. And it's no surprise: My colleague Lauren Lang, a former college professor, says that in her experience, the enormity of the adjustment to college life, "academically, socially or romantically, and emotionally, can trigger depression and anxiety in anyone."
Maybe college was amazing for you, but it's likely it wasn't for everyone you know. What did they miss out on? Your experience—which, unless they look exactly like you, come from the same exact background as you, and have the exact same opportunities you've had in life, will look nothing like their experience.
3. How can you expect to have a career?
Here's the thing: You actually don't need college to have a full career. In fact, some economists are encouraging millennials to consider trade schools instead of a four year college, according to an NPR report. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, for example, have a median pay of $51,450 per year, according to 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $90,530.
And if you're looking to enter a booming industry with wild opportunity , online coding schools make it easier than ever to enter the tech workforce without a college degree, and at a fraction of the cost and time commitment. According to a LinkedIn report, 2017's top 10 most in-demand job skills are all tech-related. Tech salaries are serious—and don't require a four-year degree (especially if you're working as a freelancer).
4. When are you going back?
Like all of these questions, this one is rude and not your business—and assumes that not finishing college is some inherent failure that has to be corrected. A college degree simply isn't a measure of someone's worth, ability, or potential.
Aside from all that, there's one hell of an argument to be made that college might no longer be worth it. Consider that at the end of 2016, 44.2 million Americans owe a total of $1.31 trillion in student loan debt, according to the New York Federal Reserve—what Forbes calls a "crisis." Multiple major publications and institutions have run the numbers on college and found that for a staggering number of degrees awarded, the price tag is oftentimes just too high.
Is this post advocating against going to college? Absolutely not. If college is a goal for you and is financially feasible, then by all means: Go for it. This is only meant to make clear that college isn't the only option—and there's no shame in not having gone.
Interested in a career that doesn't require a college degree? Download the free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners. This 60+ page ebook will show you how—with only a personal computer and an Internet connection—you already have the tools you'll need to learn coding and design skills.