When people think about schools, they often think about teachers — but many other individuals dedicate their careers to helping kids learn.
Some of these essential people include school board members, education consultants, researchers, administrators, education policymakers, vendors who deal with curriculum materials and resources, and education technology professionals. These span a broad range, and it’s important for parents to know a little more about all the people who contribute to children’s education — including and beyond teachers. Here are a few top careers open to people interested in making an impact in the education space.
A teacher must create lesson plans for classes, set up activities, communicate with parents, grade assignments, assess progress, take attendance, attend and participate in professional development sessions, and manage classroom behavior. From early childhood through high school, teachers instruct classes of students on everything from the alphabet to literary analysis, numbers to nonlinear algebra. In traditional settings, this involves one-to-many instruction at the head of a classroom.
The availability of these jobs differs by region as well as subject matter. Current trends indicate a demand for additional teachers in special education, math, science, foreign languages, and career and technical education.
According to Payscale, the average teacher’s salary is $53,150. Elementary school teachers may make slightly less than this, while special education teachers at the high school level (many of whom have additional teaching credentials) may make closer to $60,000.
This will vary (often greatly) on a state-by-state and district-by-district level, however. And not all salaries are minimal; some schools pay teachers an annual salary of $140,000.
Other considerations include years of experience and degree(s) earned. Subject matter also plays a role: Math or science teachers are sometimes paid more than English or social studies teachers because STEM teachers are slightly more difficult to come by. Teachers at public (and most private) schools receive health insurance and a funded retirement plan.
The salary medians for professionals with a master's or doctorate in Education Administration range from $75,000 to $320,000 depending on the location, degree, and qualified job position. (
A Doctor of Education (EdD) or PhD can advance a career even further than a master’s—meaning more responsibility and better pay.
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Every district has a school board charged with addressing education-related issues effectively and efficiently. The board members also hear matters that, though related to education, may also be relevant to the public. In addition, they vote on pertinent items, such as annual budgets.
Depending on the locality, school board members may be appointed by the public or a local government official, such as a mayor. School board members have to be reelected or reappointed, but term lengths and limits depend upon the bylaws of a given area.
School board members typically hold bachelor’s degrees, and they must reside in the locality in which they serve.
According to the National School Board Association, about three-quarters of small district members do not receive any money, and fewer than two-fifths of board members in larger districts earn what the association calls a “modest salary.” School board members tend to see their positions as volunteer service, and they generally seek out these roles because they want to make a difference in their communities. That said, some benefits, such as health insurance, may be available in some localities.
Researchers conduct reviews of school districts, individual schools, or colleges and universities. The scope of their jobs may range from an individual department to an entire facility. Their first priority is to provide feedback on ways to improve academics, from lesson plans, resources, equipment, and curricula, through delivery and assessment methods.
This varies, too, though research jobs are scarcer than teaching jobs. Researchers can be self-employed, work in the private sector, be employed by a college or university, work for a school district, or hold a government position.
Typically researchers hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and most have earned a master’s degree or higher. They usually have had prior experience in a given academic area, typically the one in which they’re doing research. Usually researchers have vast experience in data analysis. In some instances, researchers can have a joint role as both researcher and consultant. Their role may include presenting their findings and recommendations to policymakers, board members, administrators, or teachers.
According to Payscale, the median salary for researchers is $67,365. This varies significantly, however, depending upon whether an individual is employed by the government or works in the private sector. Other deciding factors include years of experience and degrees held. Generally, researchers receive health insurance and a funded retirement system.
In broad terms, there are two types of consultants. The first is one who works as an expert, providing feedback to schools and districts based on their performance. The other type helps families obtain information on colleges, career prep, and post-high school life. Usually these professionals work with high school seniors — getting them ready for college, advising on essays, standardized tests, and other pertinent tasks that need to be completed by a student’s senior year.
Individuals who consult for schools are often retired educators and public school administrators who want to continue making a difference in the lives of children. These professionals are typically hired by a larger firm that will, in turn, be hired by a school district to help pinpoint district weaknesses and guide staff members.
Educational consultants who assist families are hired directly by the families wishing to know more about the college progress. These employees may work for a larger company and may serve multiple families in a particular area.
Typically consultants hold a bachelor’s degree, but most of these professionals have a master’s degree or higher.
Payscale reports that the median salary for an education consultant is $64,189, while GlassDoor says the national average is just over $75,000. From these figures alone, we can see that salaries vary greatly; a few considerations include experience and type of degree earned. Consultants are usually entitled to health insurance and a retirement plan through their employers.
There is usually one principal at a given school, and an institution’s size will determine how many assistant principals there are. Associations such as the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) state that although many administrators have retired recently or will retire soon, there will be no shortage in principals or assistant principals; that said, the organization is concerned that the candidates who will fill these vacancies may not be qualified.
The principal of a school is like the CEO of a company. They are responsible for the whole school — from the students to the staff to the grounds. An assistant principal serves under the principal and has several departments or areas to oversee, such as curriculum, discipline, or operations.
These professionals usually start their careers in the classroom. Most of them have a master’s degree or higher, typically with an endorsement in administration and supervision.
In a given school, the principal will typically earn the highest salary, followed by her administrative team. The Houston Chronicle explains that the “median-earning half of elementary and secondary school administrators reported salaries of between $70,840 and $107,900 per year.” The same article cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which noted in 2011 that “postsecondary school administrators earned an average of $46.72 an hour and $97,170 per year.”
These individuals are in positions either to influence or propose education-related laws or regulations. State or federal members of Congress fall into this category, as do local school board members, school superintendents, curriculum specialists, and members of state or federal department of education. This group of professionals stays abreast of current research and crafts proposals, regulations, and legislation. Education policymakers often consult with lobbyists in major organizations, such as the National Education Association or the NEA Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), about matters pertaining to their fields.
In government positions, every election cycle brings new job openings, though the number of candidates varies from year to year and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Incumbents may face a number of candidates or run unopposed.
School superintendents generally sign multi-year contracts with school boards. The state and federal departments of education hire for non-elected and non-appointed positions on an irregular basis, and jobs may arise whenever an existing employee leaves or retires.
Policymakers tend to hold a minimum of a master’s degree, often in the field of public policy or education, though exceptions exist.
A policymaker’s salary ranges from $50,000–$60,000 for entry-level positions. Senior policymakers often make more than $100,000. The salaries of elected officials and government employees are typically out of taxpayer dollars. These positions typically come with benefits packages, as well.
Many types of vendors assist educators in the classroom. Some of the ones you may have heard of include Texas Instruments, Dell Computers, Smart Board, and School Outfitters. These companies are responsible for providing the latest gadgets, resources, and materials to classroom teachers and administrators. They often attend professional education conferences and provide services to instructors and administrators in the school building.
Vendors must be knowledgeable about their competitors and the benefits of their products to their customer bases. In many cases, vendors travel extensively and may be away from their homes and families for extended periods of time. Vendors, however, also make it possible for teachers to focus on delivering their lessons.
Vendor organizations may hire for positions ranging from sales associates to IT professionals to customer service representatives to factory workers. This information may be found on job sites or social media platforms like LinkedIn.
These differ from company to company and from position to position. For example, if someone wants to work in IT for an education vendor, that person would need vast computer experience and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. To be a factory worker who assembles and ships desks, by contrast, a candidate would probably need a high school diploma and some relevant experience.
Depending on a number of factors, salaries can range considerably. Usually, employees have a base salary, which is supplemented by commission dollars. In some instances, vendors receive bonuses when they meet certain quotas. They typically also receive benefits from their employers.
Schools — and organizations and individuals — rely heavily on technology. Some education technology companies provide a tangible product, like a computer, graphing calculator, tablet, smart board, or copier. Others, such as Microsoft, Blackboard, Pearson, Khan Academy, and Coursera, create software or Internet platforms to aid in learning. Both types of companies play important roles in facilitating classroom (and at-home) learning.
Hardware-based companies employ computer and network engineers, IT professionals, and salespeople (to name just a few). Companies that deliver software and Web-based products staff programmers, designers, engineers, and customer support representatives. As this field continues to grow, so, too, will demand for these (and future) specialists.
Most employees at ed tech companies hold a bachelor’s degree or higher; qualifications vary by position. Companies may hire education specialists who work as writers, researchers, editors, data scientists, software developers, Web designers, marketing professionals, and sales associates.
Depending on a number of factors, salaries can range widely, and ed tech professionals usually have access to vacation days, health insurance, and retirement packages. Take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for more information on pay for specific jobs in the field. According to this index (as of 2012), software developers earned a median salary of $93,350, while computer and IT managers made an average of $102,950. Programmers made $74,280, and Web developers $62,500. Sales associates made around $46,000, but depending upon their levels of education, experience, and specialization, they make much more. For example, those working in technical fields had a median salary of $91,830 in 2012. Editors made about $53,900 a year, though this may also have a wide range based on several variables. Professionals working in marketing have a broad pay spread, too, with a lower limit of $44,000 and an upper limit (for experienced managers) around $120,000.
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