Education

Poll: Top College Students See Teaching as ‘Average’ Profession With Low Pay

By Stephen Sawchuk — April 29, 2014 3 min read

Today’s top college students tend to see teaching as a profession for “average” individuals that simply doesn’t pay enough, and one that has seen its prestige decline over the last few years, according to a poll and related policy analysis released today by Third Way, a centrist think tank.

“The teaching profession has a major image problem,” Third Way analysts Tamara Hiler and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky write in the analysis. “Unfortunately, this perception of mediocrity has negatively affected the national reputation of teaching, initiating a cycle of undesirable outcomes that can be felt throughout the profession.”

The poll data represent 400 online interviews with college students who are not majoring in education. The sample was drawn to reflect the national college student population and screened to exclude those with a GPA below 3.3. The margin of error is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

Given a list of characteristics of individuals in different majors, the respondents were much more likely to say that education majors were likely to be “nice” (44 percent) and “socially conscious” (43 percent) and “patient” (46 percent). Education majors were associated to some degree with characteristics like “smart” (37 percent), but not as much as those majoring in other fields like engineering (66 percent), business (47 percent), and physics (63 percent).

Majoring in education was generally not considered all that difficult by those surveyed, compared with nursing, math, engineering, and business, with only 9 percent of respondents labeling it “very difficult.” And perhaps most troubling, teaching was the top profession respondents said that “average” people go into (32 percent.)

It’s a little difficult to figure out how much of this is based on longstanding cultural perceptions about the prestige of different majors and professions vs. these students’ own experiences in their respective college departments, but it’s good food for thought, and worth considering in light of the higher prestige educators in other countries enjoy.

Almost half of those polled, meanwhile, said they felt that teaching has gotten less prestigious over the last few years.

The most consistent finding of all was related to pay. Thirty-nine percent of respondents named good pay or salary as something that makes a job high-status. Asked about education reforms that would make them more likely to enter the profession, the most common response was paying all teachers more, followed by paying high-performing teachers more, encouraging better school leadership, and offering student loan repayment. And finally, a quarter of those who said they decided against entering teaching said that the pay was too low and 39 percent of that same group said salaries would have to be better to become more attractive.

Would changing those things alter millennial teachers’ career paths? Maybe. Nearly a third of the 400 polled students said they had “absolutely no interest” in being a K-12 teacher, by far the most common response. But, to put that in context, 29 percent said they had no interest in being a doctor, 31 percent had no interest in being a web developer, 31 percent had no interest in being a lawyer, and 41 percent said they had no interest in being a stockbroker. Across the board, it seems to be easier for college students to identify what they’re not interested in doing than what captures their fancy!

In their analysis, Third Way analysts lay out a series of recommendations, beginning with creating a unified standard for teaching practice, providing teachers with loan forgiveness, and affording opportunities for teachers to advance and be paid more. They’re all ideas that are definitely circulating among the chattering policy classes these days. And as with all such ideas, the hitch will be in the how’s: how to navigate the difficult political currents shaping K-12 education, how to advance them into concrete policy, and how to pay for them.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.

Events

School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Branding your district matters. This webinar will provide you with practical tips and strategies to elevate your brand from three veteran professionals, each of whom has been directly responsible for building their own district’s brand.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Nearly two-thirds of U.S. school districts are using hybrid learning right now with varying degrees of success. Students and teachers are getting restless and frustrated with online learning, making curriculum engagement difficult and disjointed. While
Content provided by Samsung

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Clinical Director
Garden Prairie, IL, US
Camelot Education

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read