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?
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!