When the Job Market Is Tough

June 01, 2004 2 min read
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In the face of dwindling budgets, schools across the country are trimming their teaching ranks. Plans for teacher layoffs have recently been announced in California; Chicago; Cleveland; Providence, R.I.; Detroit; Washington D.C., and Indianapolis. In some districts, newer teachers are at the greatest risk of being laid off due to personnel policies.

At a time when others may be losing their jobs, the outlook for teachers looking for new employment can be discouraging. Along with budget problems, declining student enrollments are likely to keep the field competitive for the next few years, says Steve Head, director of educational placement and career services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

So what can job searchers do to increase their odds in a tough market?

“Most important is knowing what you have to offer and being able to articulate it to school districts,” Mr. Head wrote in an e-mail interview with CAREER COACH. In other words, understand schools’ needs and prepare to sell yourself as someone who can fill them.

Another tip is to be flexible. Mr. Head advises being open to adjusting your search criteria. “Don’t underestimate the possibility for refinements in your job search that can make a difference,” he said. This might include searching for jobs outside your district or state, since budgets and shortages often vary dramatically by region. “If you sit down and talk to people from other areas you may find your interest increased and the possibilities exciting.”

The American Association for Employment Education’s 2003 “Educator Supply and Demand” report, released last fall, shows that there is still strong demand for teachers in many regions of the countries, particularly in high-need subject areas such as mathematics, science, and special education.

For those facing an uncertain period of unemployment, the American Federation of Teachers advises using financial care and taking stock of opportunities. By assessing your monthly budget, it says, you can determine what latitude you have regarding salary and benefits. If it is workable, do not automatically dismiss an opportunity with lower pay than you would like, particularly if it shows potential for growth.

Despite the recent layoffs, long-term prospects for the teacher job market appear promising. Research conducted by the National Education Association in its 2003 report “Status of the American Public School Teacher 2000-2001" says that the current teaching population is aging steadily. According to the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, California alone has 100,000 teachers over the age of 50 who are expected to retire in the next decade. That means schools will continue to face shortages of qualified teachers, the CFTL says.


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