Many teachers view teaching as a calling and spend their entire careers in the classroom. Others discover a few years into their educational career that teaching isn’t the right fit, and they want to do something else. There are any number of reasons teachers might opt to transition out of teaching, but one thing that many have in common is a lack of clarity about what they want to do next.
The good news is that the skills you gain from working in schools are easily transferable to a wide range of fields. Depending on your areas of specialty, your other experience and your interests, you could conceivably move into just about any field from teaching. If you aren’t sure what you want to do, consider some of these options.
Many schools, school systems and businesses hire education consultants to help solve problems and improve performance in various areas. For example, a community college may work with a consulting group to improve student retention and graduation rates; the consultants help identify pain points, set goals and develop strategic solutions to meet those goals. Teachers with experience in the classroom and administration are ideally suited for these roles as they have unique insights that non-educators may lack. To become an education consultant, you need to have a solid background in education theory, administrative principles (an online master’s degree in educational administration can help with that) and highly honed skills in communication, assessment, providing feedback, coaching, and strategic management.
As the number of businesses providing training and development to employees increases, there is a growing need for individuals who can provide training. Businesses want trainers who can help their employees develop or improve skills, and that typically requires someone with a teaching background who can engage adult learners. Corporate trainers might work within a specific organization, providing training to new and established employees, but there are also jobs available with consulting or educational firms in which you would work with employees of a variety of organizations. Some companies, in particular those in software or technology, have trainers on-staff who travel to customers to deliver training. And of course, if you have expertise in a specific area, you can always provide freelance training, setting your own rates and schedule.
Librarians do a lot more than just sit behind a desk and remind you to be quiet. Today’s librarians are essentially information scientists, helping people locate and make the most of resources. Depending on where they work – there are specialty librarians, including reference, law, children’s, circulation, etc. – librarians may do everything from plan and acquire collections, manage databases and networks, conduct research and plan community outreach events. Teachers are often well suited to this role as they typically have great communication skills and plenty of patience, as well as a thirst for knowledge and excellent research and organizational skills.
Human Resources Professional
Human resources is a broad field. What we call HR might include recruitment, retention efforts, benefits and compensation administration, conflict resolution, safety, learning and development and a host of other areas of specialty. While some HR professionals are generalists, handling these and other functions for a company, many are specialists, working in one specific area. A Brookings Institute study found that human resources is a common destination for teachers leaving the classroom, often because many of the skills that are necessary for successful teaching (communication, patience, confidence, problem-solving, conflict management, flexibility) are also required in HR.
Writing and publishing are also common destinations for former teachers – and not just those who teach English or language arts. Many companies need technical writers to create instructional manuals and other materials as well as writers to create marketing content, internal communications and more. Not to mention, someone has to write textbooks and standardized exams. Becoming a writer allows you to share your in-depth knowledge and use your teaching skills to share your passion while also flexing your creative muscles.
Last but not least, teachers are often very well suited to becoming entrepreneurs. If you have an idea for a business, you can put your teaching skills to work in making it successful. Teachers tend to be great problem-solvers, decision makers, communicators and organizers — all qualities of successful entrepreneurs. Teachers are also generally flexible and familiar with working within budget constraints, both key aspects of running a business. Even if you start with a side hustle in your new career, you’ll probably find that the transition from teacher to business owner isn’t all that difficult.
Ultimately, you need to think about what you are passionate about and what excites you about a new career. Your time as a teacher has given you a plethora of skills, and it’s up to you to determine how you want to put them to use.