Forty-two percent of college-educated adults would consider teaching as a career.
Aaron Eisenhauer/Southeast Missourian/AP/FILE
If you've ever thought about ditching your current job to become a teacher, you've got plenty of company. Forty-two percent of college-educated 24- to 60-year-olds would consider teaching as a career, according to a survey out Wednesday from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in Princeton, N.J.
That's good news as schools brace for a wave of baby boomers about to leave their whiteboard markers behind for good. Because of retirements, teacher turnover, and enrollment growth, schools will need to hire somewhere between 2.9 million and 5.1 million teachers between now and 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago estimates.
Tapping the potential of mid-career professionals and older adults seeking "encore careers" isn't easy, especially given their salary expectations. But education policymakers increasingly see it as essential.
School districts "won't be able to replace half their workforce unless they change the structure … to embrace these career-changers," says Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, a research and advocacy nonprofit in Washington. The changes needed, he says, include more collaborative work environments and a pay structure that credits experience in other fields and rewards job performance.
Most cite personal rewards
The new survey probed the motivations and concerns of the 42 percent identified as potential teachers from the original sample of nearly 2,300. It found that of those, nearly half would consider switching careers within five years and 3 out of 10 would find it very appealing to work with children from disadvantaged backgrounds or in a low-performing school.
The numbers are "wonderful, because those [types of schools] are where the greatest needs are," says Arthur Levine, president of the Wilson Foundation, which works to improve teacher preparation and close achievement gaps.