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Choosing a Career in Teaching

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There are countless reasons to choose teaching as a profession. You may be pursuing teaching because you feel strongly about impacting student learning and development. You might be attracted to the autonomy that comes with having your own classroom. Maybe you were inspired to choose teaching as a profession because of a particularly influential teacher or mentor. Other reasons include: passion for a particular subject matter, a desirable work schedule, or the variety that comes with teaching.

Many new teachers, while they enter the profession with enthusiasm, become frustrated or disillusioned early in their careers when realities of the classroom do not align with expectations. Engaging in career research early in your academic program may help ensure that you are prepared to enter the field of teaching with clear knowledge of the challenges and benefits of the field. Prepare by immersing yourself in the field before and during your teacher education through multiple forms of career research.

Here are some steps you can take to deepen your knowledge of the teaching profession and clarify expectations for what a career as a teacher may be like.

• Career Research. Use reputable online research tools like the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/) or O*Net Online (http://www.onetonline.org/). Both sites contain general, objective information on careers including details on what the job is like, how to pursue work in the field, job outlook and average pay. Research teaching and explore related occupations, too.

• Informational Interviews. While you've most likely been a student in a formal classroom setting, have you taken the time to speak with teachers about the behind-the-scenes aspects of the job? Ask a trusted teacher if you can arrange a personal conversation to learn more about what it's like to be a teacher. Be prepared with a series of questions to guide the conversation. Ask questions like: What are the best parts of the job and the greatest challenges? What is a typical day or week like? What skills or abilities are most helpful in the classroom? What tasks do you perform outside of classroom instruction? Conduct multiple informational interviews for greatest benefit.

• Classroom Observation or Job Shadowing. Observation is a requirement in most teacher education programs but that doesn't mean you need to wait to observe until it's required. Seek out opportunities to observe or shadow in new and different environments to gain a diverse perspective.

• Related Work Experience or Volunteerism. There's no better method of research than experiencing something first-hand. Test out the teaching profession by taking on related work or volunteer roles. Tutor in a K-12 setting or at your college or university. Intern or volunteer in an educational capacity at a local non-profit. Take on a leadership role with a campus organization.

Education can be a highly rewarding profession! Ensure it's the right fit for you by investing time and energy into career research.

Marcie Schumert
Assistant Director, Career Development
Webster University, St. Louis, MO

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