Teachers Tell Researchers They Like Their Jobs

By Vaishali Honawar — August 01, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Ninety-three percent of teachers reported satisfaction with their jobs 10 years after entering the field, according to a new survey that also found attrition rates for teachers were actually lower than for other professionals.

The report, released this week by the National Center for Education Statistics, surveyed 9,000 graduates who received their bachelor’s degrees in various disciplines in the 1992-93 school year. Nearly 20 percent of those graduates entered the teaching profession.

The findings from the survey debunk several long-held views on teacher pay, turnover, and job satisfaction. For instance, it found that only 18 percent of those who entered teaching changed occupations within four years of getting a degree. Given that other professions experienced attrition rates between 17 percent and 75 percent during that period, the number of career-switchers from teaching was on the low end of the scale, according to the data. More than half those who became teachers were still teaching 10 years later.

Teacher advocates and unions have long claimed that turnover among new teachers ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent within the first five years.

“The take for a long time was that there is this incredibly high attrition among teachers from schools,” said Mark Schneider, the commissioner of NCES, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. The report, he said, shows that teacher-turnover rates are actually lower than those in other professions.

“I understand why schools and school districts are upset about losing teachers, but it is part of the normal sorting process” in a dynamic job market, Mr. Schneider added.

The survey also stands on their head some commonly held beliefs about teacher salaries. Teachers’ unions have often cited low pay as a major reason for teacher dissatisfaction. But only 13 percent of those who left teaching by 2003 gave it as the reason for leaving. Forty-eight percent of those who remained in the profession said they were satisfied with their salaries.

Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group in Washington, called the findings “explosive.”

“What was surprising is how cheery the [teachers’] responses were,” she said. Education groups, including the unions, she contended, often cite teachers’ unhappiness in order to pressure districts and states for concessions.

Spokesmen for the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers said they were unable to comment on the report before the story was posted.

Racial Differences

The report’s findings are based on the NCES’ survey of baccalaureate-degree recipients conducted between 1993 and 2003. Participants answered questions via phone and the Internet and during in-person interviews. The report was prepared by MPR Associates in Berkeley, Calif.

Of those surveyed who were still teaching 10 years after earning their degrees, 90 percent said they would choose the same career again, and 67 percent said they would remain in teaching for the rest of their working lives.

The rate among African-American teachers, however, was significantly lower, with 37 percent saying they would choose to remain in the profession, compared with 70 percent of white teachers.

Nearly 20 percent of black teachers said they would leave if something better came along, compared with fewer than 10 percent of white teachers.

Ms. Walsh said the higher rates of dissatisfaction among black teachers could be due to the fact that more black teachers teach in high-poverty schools.

The study reaffirmed that attrition rates were higher among male teachers. While women (29 percent) were more likely to leave for family-related reasons, men (32 percent) usually left for a job outside the field of education.

A candidate’s age when he or she attended college also appeared to play a role in attrition rates: Those 30 or older when they obtained their degrees were more likely than younger graduates to remain in teaching.

Those who earned better grades in college were more likely than those with lower grades to remain in teaching.

The study offers a window into how college graduates perceive teaching. For instance, nearly half of all bachelor’s degree recipients in 1992-93 said they had never considered teaching or taken any steps to become educators.

Lack of interest, having another job in hand, and inadequate pay were the most commonly cited reasons for not pursuing teaching.

Math, science, and engineering graduates were among those most likely to leave teaching jobs to work outside education.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal House Republicans Say Schools 'Stonewalled' Concerned Parents
Previewing their agenda, GOP members prioritized 'parents' rights' in the first education committee hearing since taking control of the House.
4 min read
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington on Nov. 3, 2021.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington last fall. Foxx is the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Education and Workforce committee.
Alex Brandon/AP
Federal Biden Calls for More Mental Health Care at Schools in State of the Union
Biden focused much of his annual speech on the mental health and well-being of children and youth.
6 min read
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal USDA Clamps Down on Salt and Sugar in Proposed School Nutrition Guidelines
It marks the first time the federal agency is calling for limiting the amount of added sugars in school meals.
4 min read
Young boy in a school lunchroom cafeteria line and choosing a slice of pizza to put on his tray which includes an apple.
SDI Productions/Getty
Federal Q&A Boosting 'Pathetically Low' Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
The progressive senator from Vermont spoke with Education Week as he prepares to chair the Senate's education committee.
6 min read
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, in late January.
Susan Walsh/AP