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Most College Students Interested in Teaching Never Make It to the Classroom

By Sarah D. Sparks — July 10, 2019 1 min read

How likely are those who consider teaching to actually make it into the classroom? New federal data highlight a leaky pipeline for would-be teachers in college.

The newly released Baccalaureate and Beyond study tracks about 29,000 U.S. students who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2015-16. A year later, nearly 4 out of 5 of graduates had started a job, and fewer than half were in full-time salaried positions. Male graduates were making on average $41,600 a year, while women earned $37,400 a year, and about 75 percent had jobs that included benefits.

That would seem to put teaching in a competitive position compared to other professions when taking salary and benefits into account. But the devil is in the details. The National Education Association, the largest U.S. teachers’ union, estimated starting salaries for teachers were $38,700 in 2016-17 and rose to $39,250 in 2017-18, generally full-time salaried positions with benefits. Teachers with only a bachelor’s degree started out earning just about that average salary, while teachers with master’s degrees started out earning about $3,600 more.

Who considers teaching?

More than 41 percent of new graduates in the study reported that they had at least considered teaching as a career in college, but less than 17 percent actually ended up in the classroom a year later. That trickling pipeline for new teachers exacerbates recruiting challenges at a time when the number of schools unable to fill teaching posts has tripled.

A breakdown of those new graduates highlights trouble spots:

One other interesting tidbit: A year after finishing their degree, a higher share of graduates who were single but supporting children or other dependents actually went into teaching than graduates who were on their own or married. That may explain why more districts are offering child care benefits as a tool for hiring and keeping teachers.

Photo Source: Getty


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Do you have a question about education research, or just want to know what the evidence says about that pesky instructional problem? Let me know! Drop me a line at ssparks@epe.org, or

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.