The teaching field is a popular one — many people are interested in becoming teachers but, equally, many end up quitting their jobs.
In fact, from 1987 to 1988 and from 2015 to 2016, total K-12 student enrollment (in public, private and charter schools) has increased by 20 percent. And, during the same period of time, the teaching force has increased by 64 percent, which is more than three times the rate of student enrollment. This is according to Richard Ingersoll, an education and sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education who has studied nearly three decades of federal data on teachers now from 1987 to 2016.
While many people are studying to become teachers and embarking on teaching careers, many others who are already teachers are leaving their jobs in pursuit of other interests or opportunities. So why do teachers quit, and what are your options if you're one of the teachers looking to quit?
Let's dive in.
5 common reasons why teachers quit
Teachers quit for a gamut of reasons. Here are five examples of reasons teachers have left their jobs.
1. They don't earn enough money.
The National Education Association reports that the national average public school teacher salary for 2017-18 was $60,477, which is a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year. That said, the salary range for teachers is quite wide, depending on where they work: public, private or charter schools. Some teachers may earn a lot more than that, while others may earn a lot less — and those who earn less may feel that the field isn't lucrative enough to sustain their lifestyle.
2. They work too long of days.
Many teachers don't just leave when the school bell rings. They have to stay after school to plan lessons, spend extra time with some students who need help, attend meetings with the education board, engage in school activities like sports and community events and so much more. For many, the long hours and the work that isn't left at school can feel overwhelming.
3. They decide they're interested in pursuing another passion.
Teachers may decide that they're interested in pursuing other passions, perhaps a career in the field that they're teaching. For example, if they're teaching English, maybe they want to pursue a writing career. If they're teaching psychology, maybe they want to go back to school to get another degree and pursue a psychology career.
4. They burn themselves out taking school issues home with them.
Some teachers get especially close with their students, some of whom may have family issues at home that are hard for those teachers to witness. It may feel stressful to have such students or deal with other issues with students at school — and that stress may follow them outside of the workplace. In short: Teaching is a tough job to leave at the door. And that can lead to burn out.
5. They simply don't get the same fulfillment from teaching anymore.
They may not feel the same joy from teaching anymore. While many teachers go into the profession because they feel fulifilled helping others, the career might not satisfy them in the same ways anymore. As such, they're simply ready for something new — the next chapter.
What percentage of teachers leave the profession?
Ingersoll's latest report, using 2015 to 2016 data from the National Teacher Principal Survey suggests that almost half of all new teachers leave teaching jobs within the first five years of their careers.
Specifically, 44 percent of new teachers leave teaching within five years. In fact, teachers leave the profession at an even higher rate than many other professionals, including police officers, his research finds. That's a lot of teachers who leave for a gamut of reasons, including the aforementioned ones.
What are the next steps for teachers who want to quit?
Teachers are equipped with a lot of valuable, transferable skills. As such, they have a lot of other opportunities available to them. Here are some next steps for teachers who want to quit.
Want to quit, but rather stay
If you're a teacher who wants to quit, but would rather stay, here's what you can do:
- Determine why you want to quit. Is it your pay? Is it because of all the after-school hours you're working? The colleagues in your teaching department? The students? Their parents?
- Talk to a higher-up who can address the reason(s) that are causing you to want to quit. Maybe they can address any workplace culture concerns that are affecting your happiness, help work with difficult students or talk with pesky parents.
- Give the job a few more weeks or months. Once you speak with someone to address your concern(s), give the job an honest second chance. If you still feel like quitting later on, you can cross that bridge when you get there.
Want to quit, and ready to leave
If you're a teacher who wants to quit and is totally ready to leave, here's what you can do:
- Again, determine why you want to quit. Is it the hours? The school itself? Your colleagues? The students? Their parents? The subject you're teaching?
- Once you've pinpointed what exactly is making you unhappy or unfulfilled, and you know that there's nothing you or anyone at your work can do to fix or improve the situation, you'll want to start searching for what else is out there. We've said it before: Quitting before having another job lined up is risky business.
- Have a conversation with your supervisor about your intentions to leave, since you'll want (and may even be required) to give them as much notice as possible.
3 career-changing options for teachers
Again, because teachers have so many transferable skills that are applicable across industries,
1. Human Resources Professional
Because teachers know how to help their students succeed by helping them to tap into their strengths and developing their knowledge, they'll also make great human resources professionals. Swap the students for employees, and the job responsibilities aren't that far off.
Part of the job of a teacher is to coordinate lesson plans, projects and field trips. Former teachers can do just that as an event planner to help clients throw memorable events. They can use their planning and organizational skills they've developed in teaching to help clients of all kinds — both businesses and individuals.
This is a great career choice for former teachers — especially former English teachers. That's because the essence of an editorial job is teaching a writer how to improve their written skills. Editors work with writers to tap into their creativity, utilize their strengths and correct their weaknesses, which is ultimately how teachers operate.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.