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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

August 8, 2017

Teacher shortage presents major job opportunities.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Tennessee Department of Education, more than half of Tennessee’s school districts reported that Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) are not producing enough teachers to meet staffing needs in world languages, math, science, and English as a Second Language (ESL).

State data paints a similar picture, confirming there are several subject areas in which Tennessee has a teacher shortage. ESL, world languages and science are at the top of the list, with smaller shortages reported for other subjects, such as math and social studies.


Those thinking about pursuing degrees in teaching can significantly increase employability, and potentially salaries, by earning degrees in subjects that have more teacher demand than supply.

So, what should aspiring teachers in Tennessee know before enrolling in a teacher preparation program?

Staffing needs vary by district, so do your research before enrolling in a degree program.

Aspiring teachers often know which district they prefer to teach in before enrolling in a degree program. Although Tennessee’s teacher shortage in ESL, world languages and sciences is widespread, it fluctuates across the state, and some districts have shortages in other subject areas.

Use online resources available through the Tennessee Education Association and the state Department of Education to learn more about specific districts’ staffing needs, and then determine what type of teaching degree will maximize your chances of securing a job in any given district.

If teaching is your second career, use prior experience to earn a degree quicker.

Many educators transition into teaching after working in other industries for years or even decades. The hands-on knowledge they accumulate in that time makes them desirable candidates for teaching positions – especially those in STEM industries. But working a full-time job while pursuing teacher licensure is often unfeasible.

Fortunately, there are excellent programs available for adult learners. WGU Tennessee – an online, nonprofit university launched by Gov. Haslam and the state of Tennessee – is designed primarily for working adults.

The university’s competency-based learning model measures proficiency rather than time spent in a classroom, allowing students to use existing knowledge to move through degree programs quicker.

“After earning a degree in chemical engineering and working in sales and marketing for 35 years, I decided I wanted to use my knowledge to teach high school science,” said Arby Dickert, an alumnus of WGU Tennessee. “I was able to earn a degree and complete student teaching in less than a year, and was quickly hired to teach at a high school where I live in Knoxville.”

You want to teach in Tennessee, but don’t want to teach a subject that has a teacher shortage.

If you’ve always been passionate about teaching a subject that has more staffing supply than demand, you’ll greatly increase employability by making yourself available for supplemental educator duties.

Coaches, band directors, club leaders, bus drivers and others not only earn supplemental income, they also add value to school districts. If you plan to teach a subject that has more staffing supply than demand in Tennessee, assume that you will compete with a highly competitive field of applicants. By offering to take on supplemental duties, you will likely increase employability.

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