Careers in Education

The inspiration, training, and success of students is the main focus of the educational field. Educators work to improve student success by finding creative ways to motivate students to learn. The possibilities within this field are diverse because of the range of options available. Educational institutions have different levels (elementary to post-secondary, not to mention pre-K!), can be private or public, liberal arts or vocational and each county needs a number of each type of institution to manage their entire population.

Pathways Header Education

The educational field boils down to three basic areas:

  • Teaching, the direct interaction with students to provide training and assistance in learning material; 
  • Administration, the support staff that helps teachers educate students by providing secondary services and assistance outside the classroom; and 
  • Policy-makers, those who develop the standards for educational institutions.

Educational careers are good fits for students who are passionate about a subject and want to pass on their knowledge to others. Students who like to tutor and can find numerous ways to explain material are also sought after in this field. Educators should be patient, excited about working with the broad spectrum of students in their institution, and able to constantly revisit material without losing their enthusiasm for the topic.  Most importantly, educators must be passionate about helping students succeed both inside and outside the classroom.


Teaching is the most recognizable career option within the education field. Teachers direct classroom learning and figure out how students can meet the learning outcomes and standards set by policy-makers. They build off of an established curriculum to create daily lesson plans that present materials in ways students with diverse learning methods can all understand. There are many options for teaching from the traditional K-12 or post-secondary professor, to teaching abroad or joining special service programs. Other opportunities exist to provide career and vocational training as well as instruction on new processes to businesses and their employees.

Your options should you choose teaching are many, and you can find schools that are focused on a specific teaching method (i.e. Montessori) or a subject (language immersion) or a population (“at risk”). Students should also consider teaching abroad either through formal programs, individual schools, or through the Department of Defense (teach on military bases overseas).  

A career in teaching usually requires a teaching certification and/or a bachelor’s degree for public K-12 schools. Private and charter schools may or may not require a certification. However please note that the job market for educators is becoming increasingly competitive, making it difficult to acquire a full time teaching job without being certified. There are numerous pathways to getting this certification:

Also some of the special service programs mentioned above provide alternative certification and may even help fund a future master’s degree.

For post-secondary positions, students will need at least a master’s degree for community colleges and lower level courses at universities. Full time faculty at 4 year institutions generally hold a PhD.

Related Jobs Include: K-12 Teacher (English, History, etc.), Special Education Teacher, Vocational Teacher, Professor (Post-Secondary), English as a Second Language Teacher, Pre-school Teacher


To create an environment conducive to learning, teachers need support outside of the classroom to help administer programs aimed at helping students and providing guidance to necessary resources. These staff members can enforce discipline, counsel students in distress, and provide career and educational advice among other things. Examples of support staff are often small in number for K-12 schools but post-secondary institutions have a large number of staff on-hand to provide support to students in various departments like Admissions, Advising, Student Activities, Counseling, Residence Life, and more. In addition to jobs within educational institutions, there are also opportunities within private and non-profit organizations.

A bachelor’s degree is usually enough to get entry level positions within the administration but to advance a master’s or doctorate degree is almost always required.  For K-12 schools opportunities exist as program coordinators, school clerks, and teaching assistants. Higher level administrative positions, like principals, and staff within the school county board, usually require at least 3 years of experience and/or a Master’s degree. In higher education, many positions in a schools teaching/writing/learning center as well as student affairs require an M.A. or M.Ed. but admissions is a great entry level job for graduates. Also the public affairs/communications/alumni offices are good places to work with a B.A. where you can put your writing skills to good use.

 Related Jobs Include: Advisor, Career Counselor, Program Specialist, Program Coordinator, Principal, Clerk, Academic Program Manager, Instructional Specialist


Education policy-makers help make, shape and influence education at the local, national or international level. Falling within the field of public policy, most people in this career field have graduate degrees (master’s, law or doctorate) in fields such as public policy, law, or education. Some professionals come to this field after first starting out in the classroom as a teacher.

In order to be successful in this field, you must have exceptionally strong verbal and written communication skills, proven skills at building relationships and coalitions with others and the ability to multitask and work under pressure.  Depending on the position, strong skills in research or statistics may be helpful or even required. Many, though not all, education policy jobs are located in the Washington, DC area.

Opportunities exist at the Federal level, working for a Federal agency or as a legislative affairs specialist to prepare agency officials for congressional briefings and hearings. Others choose to work as staffers in Congress (though they are typically generalists and work on many issues including education). Others work with industry organizations, tracking and promoting legislation that relates to the specific agenda of their organization. Think tanks and non-profit organizations employ many in the education policy field.

Remember that the public school system in the United States is funded by taxes, so there is a political element to education policy. A law background can be helpful if you are interested in advising state or federal departments of education or legislators as they come up with new education laws. Those with international interests and a background in comparative education may work with international organizations such as the United Nations to set common standards for education across the globe.

Related Jobs Include: Policy Analyst, Research Analyst, Program Assistant, Legislative Affairs Specialist

Alumni Within the Field

Yvonne Brown, 2003. English Teacher; Archivist, Toni Morrison Society; Executive Director, The Phoenix/Medina Writer's Project Inc.

"Follow your favorite writers whether they are alive or not. Get involved with their organizations and volunteer."

Yvonne Brown is no stranger to the likes of Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, and Edwidge Danticat, but rubbing elbows with famous people is not the only way her life is full of a love for English literature. A traditional career teaching high school English led to a posiiton with the Toni Morrison Society and more! Read more about Yvonne.

Jamie Openden, 2004. Speech-Language Pathologist, Teacher of Speech and Language Disabailities, The McCarton School; Blogger, Huffington Post; Founder/CEO Bignity Ventures.

"It is a fantastic way for me to blend two things that I am passionate about, and it has taught me that I was once far too rigid in my definition of what it means to be a writer.

Jamie combined her creative writing skills with a passion for teaching and social justice, leading to a rewarding teaching career and her own internet venture. Read more about Jaime.

 Coming Soon - Rohini Parikah

Getting Started

If you’re interested in a career in this field you can start preparing by:

Where to Learn More

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Education and Training - information about various positions within Education (Teachers, Instructional Coordinators, Teacher Assistants etc.) – also review the pages for Principals, Training and Development Managers, and Postsecondary Education Administrators.

National Education Association (NEA) - Professional organization for public education, from every level of education (Pre-K to Graduate programs). Great resource for current information about issues affecting education, tools for educators, and new ideas/innovations in the field.

Teacher-Teacher - Job board for teaching positions.

HigherEdJobs - Job board for teaching and administration positions in Higher Education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education - Information on Higher Education Field and Education Policy.

Idealist - a job board with a number of service positions, including teaching in the states and abroad. Search within the Education area of focus.

University of Maryland Career Center – Visit Careers4Terps, a jobs/internship database exclusively for UMD students; also see the events calendar for networking opportunities, and events.

LinkedIn – search for groups to join with the keywords “teaching” “higher education” “education.” Also you can sign onto an Education channel for news in the field.