It’s a difficult time for teachers, and many of them may be left with a little more time on their hands than they’re used to. While it’s perfectly fine to use this time to catch your breath and relax a bit, this is also a good time to evaluate your career and where it is you’d like for it to go. The process of becoming a teacher is already quite complex, but for those who wish to push farther, there’s a number of good options that you can get started on right away.
1. Earn a Master’s Degree
In some states, it’s necessary to start working towards a graduate degree within a few years of beginning your career. In most, however, a master’s degree isn’t mandatory—which can make you look all the better should you choose to pursue one. Master’s degree programs in education are often designed with the busy life of a teacher in mind, and can be done online or part-time so as to allow teachers to continue working while they study. Teachers with master’s degrees often see a pay increase as a result of their higher level of educational attainment as well. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015 claimed a $10,000 to $13,000 wage premium for teachers with master’s degrees based on median salaries across the country, which translates to a 20-25% increase in pay for most teachers.
There are a few options when it comes to earning master’s degrees, so it’s important to choose the path that’s best for you and your career. The first and most common is the Master of Education degree, which deals largely in the theory of education, pedagogy, and leadership. This degree also provides a fair amount of flexibility, as it can open the door to administrative positions within the school’s hierarchy such as the principal. For secondary school teachers who specialize in a particular subject, it may also be advisable to obtain a master’s degree in that area—a literature teacher, for example, obtaining a master’s in English. Often, these types of degrees offer concentrations within the program that focus on education, helping to turn your advanced knowledge of the subject into a form that’s easier for students to understand and learn from. Another option is the Master of Arts or Master of Science in Teaching; while it may sound similar, this is a degree that’s primarily earned by those who have yet to start teaching and can play a role in licensure. If you’re a student teacher whose classroom experiences have been disrupted by recent events, it may be a good choice to pursue an MA or MS in teaching.
2. Obtain National Certification
Another way to advance your career is to work towards a national certification, such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification. National Board Certified Teachers, or NBCTs, are highly regarded as accomplished and experienced professionals within their field. Many state school systems will even assist teachers in obtaining this certification through grants, loans, and other forms of funding, while other states may consider National Board Certification to qualify for state license maintenance. Working towards this certification requires teachers to perform assessments, assemble a portfolio, and meet National Board standards in their appropriate subject and student age bracket.
Once earned, National Board Certification can result in higher pay and greater responsibilities. A teacher with national certification is more likely to be entrusted with leadership and supervisory positions within the school, such as leading a science department. Just like with state licensure, NBCTs will need to maintain and renew their certification, and part of this process will involve a demonstration of continued progress in learning and growing as a teacher.
3. Develop Technological Proficiencies
With disruptions to the normal classroom setting and educational experiences around the world, many teachers have found themselves trying to construct online lessons and teach electronically for the first time. Unfortunately, many teachers seem to be unfamiliar with the technological options available to them, which has resulted in students being assigned large amounts of homework and textbook reading with minimal lecture-style input from their teacher—a situation that puts students with varied learning styles at a disadvantage. Technology offers many solutions to this problem, so long as teachers can learn how to utilize it effectively.
Take, for example, the use of online platforms like Blackboard to disseminate assignments to students. The software has a number of uses aside from simply sharing documents, including hosting video meet-ups, presentations and slideshows, and access to interactive content which can help students learn by doing, just like they would in a classroom. Becoming proficient in these technologies is not only essential to succeeding in the modern era of teaching but also can help you to stand out from those who are slower to adapt. For those so inclined, there are even certifications available to be earned to prove this proficiency, as is the case for other similar systems. Being technologically proficient goes beyond just specially made teaching software, however. Teachers also need to have an understanding of ordinary office software, such as word processors and spreadsheets, as well as communication methods like email.
Whether you’re early in your teaching career and still working on meeting the requirements to be a teacher, or you’ve been at it for years, there’s always a way to grow and improve as a teacher. Graduate degrees are a fantastic choice for those who have yet to earn them and can help shape your career towards the direction you’d most like for it to go. National Board Certification is another choice that can help to demonstrate excellence in education, allowing you to undergo a stringent learning and testing process in order to be recognized for the quality of your teaching. Lastly, in a modern world so dominated by technology, understanding the tools at your disposal can be vital to continuing to deliver that quality education, even from a distance.