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How to Get a Teaching Job in Education: Tips for College and the Job Search Process

Updated on September 2, 2016
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Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.


I have applied for teaching licenses in 4 states and have completed extensive job searches for teaching jobs in two of those states. During my first search, I applied for over 100 teaching positions, had approximately 7 interviews, and ended up landing a teacher aide position two weeks before the school year started. During my second search, after sending out over 30 applications, I was fortunate enough to get hired in early July...but it was for a position that I wasn't actually qualified to teach, which meant that I had to start taking classes immediately.

Needless to say, I fully understand the frustration that many beginning teachers go through when they start their first job searches. No one wants to hire you when you don't have any teaching experience, but how are you supposed to get teaching experience when you can't get a job?

I wish that I had some easy answers to this paradox. Unfortunately, I don't. But I do have some tips that are applicable when you are applying to or in a teaching program as well as when you are completing your first job search and interview process. This tips will hopefully make you a little more successful with landing a desirable job. Whatever teaching position you are pursuing, I wish you the best of luck.

This article is primarily aimed at young college students who are getting their first post-high school degrees and do not have a lot of work experience. However, many of these tips will apply to anyone who is looking for their first teaching job.

Job Interview Tips Including Questions and Answers

Unless you can get a significant scholarship from a private university, it will not be worth it with the salary that you'll make teaching.
Unless you can get a significant scholarship from a private university, it will not be worth it with the salary that you'll make teaching. | Source

Public vs. Private School Options

Consider public school options unless you can get a great scholarship or have someone funding your education. Private education is not worth the loans for the salary that you'll be making as a grade school teacher. Your class sizes might not be as small at a public school as they would at a private school, but you will still have some smaller ones. Otherwise the education programs will be very comparable.

Universities with Great Teaching Programs

Ball State University:
1299 N McKinley Ave, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47304, USA

get directions

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater:
800 W Main St, University of Wisconsin - Whitewater Campus, Whitewater, WI 53190, USA

get directions

Northern Illinois University:
231 N Annie Glidden Rd, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA

get directions

Having multiple teaching certifications will make you more marketable.

Get at least two certifications. For example, if you're primarily interested in pursuing elementary education, consider going for special education, too, or a reading endorsement. Even if all of your certifications don't carry from state to state, having some credits will make it easier to obtain them again. If you do transfer states, at least one certification should carry over.

For middle and high school teachers, consider getting certified in two different subject areas. If you can get a job teaching multiple subjects to start, you may be able to move into a position solely teaching the more desired subject later on.

Do your research.

If possible, research the state or area of the country that you're interested in working after college. I know that this is not always possible, especially if you are relying on someone else,. For example, you may be waiting for a fiancé or spouse to also get a job or to get accepted into a higher education program. You can still research national trends and shortages. For example, there are almost always shortages of special education teachers as well as middle school and high school math and science teachers.

My experience teaching preschool summer camp throughout college was an asset for my initial teaching job interviews.
My experience teaching preschool summer camp throughout college was an asset for my initial teaching job interviews. | Source

The more job experience you can get, the better.

Take advantage of outside opportunities for teaching and/or working with kids. These options can include, but are not limited to, summer camps and classes, babysitting, being a nanny, tutoring, and/or coaching. Being a babysitter or nanny may seem like a step down if you did this work in high school. However, you will be surprised at the significant raise that you will get as a college student with some education classes behind you.

Outside work opportunities are a great method for building your resume and getting recommendation letters for job interviews. Without contracted teaching experience, you will need everything that you can get, especially work that is related to your field.

I used my teaching portfolios for almost all of my initial teaching job interviews.
I used my teaching portfolios for almost all of my initial teaching job interviews. | Source

A teaching portfolio can be a great asset for job interviews.

Make a great teaching portfolio. If this is a required component of your teaching program, do the best that you can with it. If it isn't required, consider creating your own. It will be a valuable resource, especially for the interviews for your first job.

Tip: Working teachers can be a great asset for job networking, too.

Take advantage of every opportunity that you have to shadow.

Shadow/talk with teachers in the field to gain real life tips. This is such an important topic to me that I wrote a separate article about it. My biggest complaint about all of my teaching courses is that they did not provide enough real life teaching skills. Working teachers may be able to provide insight on any of the following skills and more: keeping grade books, parent-teacher conferences, crisis management, co-worker relationships, and working with administration.

Be honest about what is most important to you during your job search.

Prioritize when job searching. Consider what your biggest priority is when you are looking for your first job and put that above all other factors. Here are a few priorities to consider.
Location: Research all of the schools in that particular area. Be realistic about how far you want to drive/commute.
District: if you'd really like to get into a certain school or district, get in any way you can at first (i.e. subbing, part time position, teacher aide). Putting in a year or two of hard work there may give you an edge at moving up there when a desired position opens up.
Money: if you need as much income as possible, apply for anything and everything. Consider other part-time options to supplement subbing or aide positions in case you don't get a full time position the first year out of college (i.e. before/after school programs, tutoring, coaching).

High School Science Teacher, Career Video from

When I started my undergrad degree, I never imagined that I would end up teaching special education.
When I started my undergrad degree, I never imagined that I would end up teaching special education. | Source

Be open to all a variety of teaching positions.

Keep an open mind. This is applicable during both your teaching program and your job search process. It is important to get experience with a variety of grade levels, subject areas, student populations, etc. in your teaching program. You may be surprised at the aspects of teaching that you do and don't like. During your job search progress, keep in mind that your first job won't necessarily be what you want to do forever. Don't let this stop you from taking it. I've seen the notion of holding out for the ideal grade, school, etc. hold a number of people back or significantly limit their options. You can't afford to do this when you are starting out.

Has the economy had an affect on your job options?

See results

Accept the reality of the tough economy. This is a lousy time to be job hunting in most fields. We don't know for sure if/when that will change. There will be a lot of baby boomers retiring over the next 10 years, which will increase the number of available teaching jobs. More so than ever, take what you can get for now. Hopefully it won't be that way forever.


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