Many people feel drawn to a job in education, but not everyone aspires to be a classroom teacher. Luckily, there are many careers in education to consider—and not all of them require juggling a classroom of 30 students. If you're contemplating which teaching specialization is best for you, here are some questions to ask yourself.
1. Do Students with Disabilities Inspire Me?
Many teachers are drawn to jobs in special education because they're inspired by people in their lives who struggle with disabilities. Many special education teachers may have a child or family member with special needs, and chose the field because of their own first-hand knowledge and experience. Others pursue a career in special education simply because they see it as an opportunity to make a big impact with a population in need.
With over 13 percent of children in United States public schools identified as having a disability, special education teachers are in high demand, which means specializing in this field can make job searching easier. Special education teachers often work with smaller groups of students at a time, but may have large caseloads of students for whom they are responsible. Special education can take a variety of forms depending on the specifics of the position. These include co-teaching with a general education teacher, supporting students during lessons in their mainstream classrooms, teaching small groups of students in a resource room, or teaching students in a self-contained special education classroom.
2. Do I Enjoy Working with Students from Other Cultures?
For many children, school can be an intimidating place—but it can be even more daunting if you don't understand the language. This is the reality for an estimated 4.6 million students in the United States who are English language learners (ELL).
ELL teachers have the opportunity to make children feel welcome and connected to a new school, culture, or country. They help children understand and interact with their new environment, and teach them to communicate in a new language. ELL teachers are passionate about language and culture, and enjoy the opportunity to have rich cultural experiences—without having to travel abroad.
Much like special education teachers, ELL positions offer a variety of settings depending on the school, program, and number of ELL students. In some schools, ELL teachers co-teach or assist in general education classrooms. In other settings, ELL teachers function more like special education teachers and may pull students out of class to work in small groups.
3. Do I Have Passion for a Particular Subject Area?
Many professionals are driven by their passion for a particular subject. Sharing your love or expertise in subjects such as math or science—and inspiring similar passion in your students—can be incredibly rewarding. Finding ways to make your teaching relevant is key to successfully cultivating your passion in others. Incorporating the latest teaching techniques and technology will help engage your students.
Those who wish to specialize in a particular subject area will typically pursue a career teaching middle or high school students. However, there are also opportunities for subject specialization at the elementary level; for example, some schools might have a specialist teach science for multiple grade levels, or hire a reading or math coach to be in charge of supporting classroom teachers' instruction.
4. Do I Want to Be the Boss?
If you've worked in schools, you've probably seen a few things you'd like to do differently. Pursuing a career in education administration is a logical step for those who like the idea of managing staff and running a school. These professionals aspire to be in leadership positions such as assistant principal, principal, or superintendent, which typically offer higher pay and more responsibility.
Assistant principals are often responsible for student discipline, scheduling, and implementing school initiatives. They may also be the first to handle issues with parents or staff members. In addition to providing direction, a vision, and leadership for the school, principals handle many administrative tasks, manage school budgets, and oversee all staff and programs. A superintendent has even more responsibility; being in charge of multiple schools is a challenging job, but it offers the opportunity to make a profound impact on a community.
There are many specializations and careers in education. Understanding your skills and preferences will help you select the right one.