Want Job Security, Good Pay, and Plenty of Time Off Right Out of College?


Source: Flickr / dcJohn.

Although the job market has improved over the past few years, it's still not great, especially for recent college graduates. In fact, almost 11% of 2013's graduates are currently unemployed. If you graduated in the past few years, you may have found out your "dream career" is tougher to get into than you thought.

However, there is one great option you may not have considered yet: teaching. Now, I know what your thinking, and I've heard all of the excuses. Maybe you're worried you won't make a decent salary. Maybe you have no idea how to teach and assume you'll be no good at it. A lot of people dismiss the idea of teaching for a variety of reasons, but there are some very good reasons to give the profession a closer look.

About the salary...
We've all heard how underpaid teachers are, and in a lot of ways, it's true. Especially if you have a degree in a technical or scientific field (chemistry, mathematics, computer science, etc.), it's probably true you could make more money elsewhere.

However, when you consider how much you actually work, teaching has one of the best starting salaries of any profession. Teachers only work 10 months out of the year, and get much more time off around the holidays than in other professions. In total, teachers generally work about 190 days per year, as opposed to about 250 for other jobs. Many teachers also work less than 40 hours per week and about 37.5 (7.5 hours per day) seems to be the normal contractual requirement.

Consider the following graphic of starting salaries for selected college majors, and how the gap narrows when you think of the salary on an hourly basis. All of a sudden, teachers' pay seems a bit more competitive.

Many teachers choose to work during their summer break, which can help equalize the salary with other professions. On the other hand, it may be worth the lower annual pay to have two full months off every year. How many of your accountant or engineer friends have such a benefit?

Job security
One of the best reasons to get involved in teaching is the job security. The unemployment rate for certified teachers is just 4.1%, well below the national average, and many states still offer continuing contracts, or "tenure" to teachers after just a few years on the job (three years in most cases).

The trend lately has been toward abolishing tenure for new teachers in some states, but most still offer it. In 39 states, tenure is automatic after three years, and 8 more award tenure based on performance. Even if the state you work in does wind up eliminating tenure, teachers already employed are usually grandfathered in.

Do you have student loans?
There are two big benefits teachers can take advantage of in regards to their student loans. The first is the teacher loan forgiveness program, which can forgive up to $17,500 for teachers in low-income schools after five consecutive years of employment.

Also, teachers can qualify for the potentially more lucrative Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, under which any remaining balance is forgiven after making 120 qualifying monthly loan payments (10 years) while working in a public service job.

Depending on how much student loan debt you have, this could be a huge salary bump. In fact, I have a friend who is set to have almost $60,000 in loans forgiven after his 10th year of teaching. This benefit is like getting $6,000 more in salary each year for a decade!

But I don't know if I'd be good at it!
Here's a little secret they don't tell you in college: nobody is a great teacher their first year. In fact, most veteran teachers will freely admit it takes several years before they really "got it." When I first started teaching, my employer told me the main thing he looks for are people who are "young, smart, and energetic", and with this combination, the teaching will take care of itself!

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 5:03 PM, segarolow wrote:

    Thing is.. I know six Teachers that are out of work....

    Cut backs....

    And eight others that are only working 20 Hrs are less a week.

    Don't count on a Job...

    Good luck...

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 5:10 PM, wrkingmya55off wrote:

    I agree that teaching is a rewarding job, however you totally misrepresent the time a teacher works weekly. I and most of the other "good" teachers work close to 60 hrs each week. We can't grade 155 students papers in our 45 min plan so you either stay after school or take it home with you. You will also be required to do some "voluntary" time.. monitoring lunch duty, chaperoning dances etc this is expected, although no one ever comes right out and says it.

    Your performance as a teacher will also depend on how well your students do on the mandated state tests..

    You are judged on your student's test scores as part of you yearly evaluation.

    You also are not including the summer continuing education requirements to maintain our certificates. In the summer we also rewrite our lessons to stay current and up to the standards the legislators demand as well as our administration.

    Almost every teacher I know including me has a second job that they do throughout the year and in the summer just to get a reasonable yearly income.

    You fail to mention the lack of respect from media, parents and the students themselves which is why many teachers are quitting... and why there are openings.

    I would appreciate an article that reflects the TRUE job of a teacher instead of the "presumed" job of a teacher.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 6:30 PM, time15 wrote:

    This article is all wrong. I work in a school, and it takes 10 years to make $70,000, but that includes all the after school trainings you have to take. Teachers have to manage their classrooms, and teach along with making sure the students get good grades. Some of the parents you do not want to meet in a dark alley, and its an all white system. Also loan forgiveness has changed to 10 years, before they pay back half of your student loans.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 6:47 PM, Vitabrits wrote:

    LOL teachers work less than 40 hours a week? Unless you work in elementary school, those assignments don't grade themselves! I have a few teacher friends and they work about 60 hours a week which spills over into the weekend.

    The pay especially for starting teachers is abysmal and unless you snag that masters, your pay will remain pretty flat until you do.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 7:24 PM, Taz wrote:

    Teaching is a noble and rewarding profession at certain schools and student ages but it is not one that will provide enough money as a sole job or primary wage earner for a family. Moreover, every single teacher I know complains about constant interference from administrators, parents and bureaucrat politicians.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 7:33 PM, Plan2Prosper wrote:

    Another thing not mentioned is the school politics.

    A longtime friend with whom I attended high school and college graduated with a degree in chemistry and then became a teacher because he wanted to make a difference. (This was the mid-90s, when the economy was much better and new graduates had more choices.)

    He is smart, hard-working, and (I thought) gets along with virtually everyone. If I had children, I'd have wanted for them to attend his classes. Unfortunately, he worked at a private (secular, if that matters to anyone) school and other teachers who felt threatened by his ability pushed him out after a single year. He then attended pharmacy school and is doing much better in that profession... a loss to the kids.

    I suppose I may not have the full story, but the conclusion remains that even those who might make great teachers can have a difficult time of it.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2014, at 8:22 PM, HaHaHa1 wrote:

    Next time you post "facts" about teaching, you may actually want to ask a teacher to get the facts!!! Works less than 40 hours a week...NOT!

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2014, at 12:22 AM, brjustice2000 wrote:

    I don't know where you obtain your facts, but you are living in Neverland!!!!!!!!

    My first year teaching, I easily worked 60+ hours a week. Most years of teaching were the same. All the hours are not at school, many hours are at home - grading papers, preparing lesson plans, preparing materials for use. I expect that you will tell me that I got a planning period to do my lesson plans as well as the pre-planing and post-planning week at the beginning and end of the school year. You are sadly mistaken. My planning period was often taken because there were not enough substitute teachers and someone had to cover the class. I went in the week before pre-planning to get my classroom ready - put it back in order from what was done to it over the summer by custodians and others who did not care as long as they got their task done such as clean, paint, or something else. Bulletin boards had to be done both inside the classroom and outside the classroom. Pre-planning and post-planning are misleading terms because it should be pre-meetings, post-meetings, training sessions at county level, almost anything except pre-planning or post-planning. Those two months off in the summer, were often interrupted by required training with little notice. Once I was given notice to be the principal of summer school with less than 2 weeks of school left, and to top it off I was told that I would not be paid. I had planned the family vacation, already paid for the resort at the beach and would lose the money if I cancelled with less than 3 weeks to go. I asked if I refused would I ever be considered for a leadership position. The answer was a head shaking NO. I had already signed a contract for the next year. I fulfilled my contract and left that system. All the people who think that teachers have it so great are misinformed. Oh, my 60+ hours does not include the parents who thought I was at their beck and call because they were a tax payer, and when a parent would call me after midnight, I refused to discuss with them because I got at up at 5 am to get ready and then drive to work.

    Having said all that I have, what I really miss now that I am retired, is working with students and see them grow as they learn. That part of teaching was awesome. My hat is tipped in respect to teachers, but I would never recommend it as a profession because teachers aren't supported. The last county I worked in, I had to buy the ink for the printer, the paper for the computer, xerox machine, expected to donate money at the school, and too many other things out of my pocket. My wife keep two grade levels of children in the intervention program in supplies because we were both working and could still pay our bills after her spending that money. We both miss working with the students, but none of the administrative abuse!

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2014, at 7:00 AM, TMFKWMatt82 wrote:

    Thanks everyone for your comments.

    I freely admit that teachers have work to do beyond their standard work day. But, so do accountants, engineers, scientists, etc. All of my engineer friends from college definitely have "homework".

    Also, every state is different, i.e., more or less "teacher-friendly". Some states do a much better job of giving teachers their well-deserved job security!

    Again, thanks for reading!

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2014, at 9:44 AM, bostonwolf wrote:

    You folks who are debating the facts of the article read the author's bio blurb right?

    Where it states he was a high school math teacher for several years?

    He also very specifically factored in the large amounts of added time off teachers get as opposed to the rest of the work force.

    Having to work 60 hours a week (which I sometimes do now anyways) and I get two months off every summer?

    That's not a bad deal at all.

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