Career Switch-Teaching

Updated on September 24, 2012
N.B. asks from Ashburn, VA
13 answers

I am looking into a career switch. I found a teaching program at a local University. It is a 1 year "career switch" program. I would be interested in teaching Biology to high school students. I am currently working full-time as a scientist but would like to spend more time with my children. Has any mom's gone out there gone from something other then education into teaching? What do you know about the Praxis II exams? As well as other Virginia licensing exams for teaching? Also, do you think this type of 'certificate' program will get me an actual career as a teacher? It's something I'm considering at the moment but I don't know anyone that's gone through this type of change. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I would think if you are wealthy enough to afford to be self sufficient when it comes to salary you could do it. Otherwise plan on downsizing and doing without a lot of basic needs being met. Teachers don't make very much.

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answers from Washington DC on

Hi N.! I can't really answer your questions about this type of certificate program. I did it a little differently (went to GMU for 2 semesters, student taught for one semester, then finished my masters by taking 2 more classes). I also did this a LONG time ago (1997-1999). I do remember taking the Praxis exams and don't remember them being a big deal.

I've always heard that Science and Math teachers are much needed. Maybe you could ask around a little to see if this is still the case. Special Ed is another area where they always need people.

I LOVED teaching, but decided to stay home with my kids once the second one was born. Why? Besides the fact that I wanted to be with them, it didn't make much sense to put them in daycare and have almost my entire pay check pay for it. I've gone back as a substitute for the past 3 years. At this point I can't even imagine going back full time yet. Mostly because of the time involved, which leads me to....

One thing that sort of struck me in your post - you want to teach because you want to spend more time with your kids. I don't want to discourage you at all (because teaching truly is an awesome and rewarding profession - most times) but I worked A LOT when I was teaching. I'd be at school at 6:30am, kids came at 7am, kids left at 2:15pm, I left at 4 or 5pm. I'd pick up my daughter, do the whole evening thing, and once she was in bed I'd be working again - usually from about 8-10pm. Every single night. It was exhausting. I usually put in about 5-8 hours of work each weekend as well. Of course, I was teaching English - with all the reading and paper grading that goes along with it. Maybe Biology would be different? I don't know. I just want you to be aware of how much WORK teaching really is! Of course, you do get the same holidays and summers as your kids, and that is a wonderful thing!

Keep us posted as to what you decide to do. It's an exciting possibility for you!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

"I am currently working full-time as a scientist but would like to spend more time with my children." If this is your main motivator, teaching is NOT the answer!

I have my license to teach secondary social studies. I stopped teaching after I did my student teaching, because I could not fathom being the type of teacher I wanted to be, and also being the type of mother my kids deserved. Some people are able to do both incredibly well, but, especially for a new teacher, your home life will be consumed with your teaching duties as well--lesson planning, grading, communicating with parents. It is like having 2 full-time jobs. Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, but that is what I can tell you from my experience.

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answers from Boston on

If you truly love teaching, great. Some schools are adding more science and math, but others are really cutting back due to pressure not to actually teach science. (Creationism, for example). So it depends on your area what the jobs are like, both in public and private schools.

Don't think you'll have a lot of spare time though. You have a much longer day than the students, and you will spend evenings and weekends doing lesson plans, grading homework, creating and grading tests, assigning and evaluating projects, setting up the science fair, doing team meetings and parent conferences, submitting grades on deadline, and (in high school) writing college recommendations. You will have union dues and possibly union meetings. I'm not anti-union but you need to know it's part of the deal.

A lot of schools like teachers who have been in industry, so it CAN be a positive, but you also need classroom management skills and a lot of background on special needs, ADD, and other issues that your students will face.

You have to LOVE teaching and be willing to give up a lot of free time and quite possibly spend your own money on supplies and materials. It's wonderful if you adore it, but if you're looking for a full-time salary for a 10-month job or a day that ends at 2 PM, this isn't it. Teachers are overworked and underpaid even in good school districts, so do it because you are committed and truly love it.

I've done other things and also have taught, and it's been a good experience because I love to teach and I love my 2 specialties. But you need a good backbone and a sense of humor and the ability to de-stress.

If you like your current job, you could consider asking for a reduced workload, perhaps 4 days a week or perhaps shorter days. Don't know if your company allows that but there may be some that do. If you have some seniority there, they may want to keep you and be willing to negotiate.

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answers from El Paso on

As a general rule, math and science teachers are much more greatly in demand than any other teacher. That being said, biology is the "easiest" science subject to get certified in because it's primarily memorization and no math. So, Krista's statements hold true.

The type of program you're talking about is likely (from your description) an alternative certification program. MANY secondary teachers go this route. Not a big deal at all, and won't hinder your ability to get a job in any way.

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answers from New York on

Don't do it. This field is saturated as it is. I am a school administrator and get tons of resumes each month.

Praxis is not a big deal. You take your content exam and move on. No, I don't think in this market that a "career switch" program will result in employment unless you have substantial experience AND exceptional transcripts.

Do a job search in your area and see what it looks like... probably pretty sparce. Unless you are a "specialist", there just aren't many jobs in education right now.

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answers from Seattle on

The Bad News:

Teaching in most public schools is a 60-80 hour work week. So keep that in mind... because "spending more time with my kids" isn't likely to happen (unless you work 80-120 a week right now).

Also... most schools have finished cutting art, music, PE, languages, and sports... and are moving on to cutting science (it blows my mind how much so many schools are getting rid of everything except reading and math. What century do we live in???)... but even for those that haven't... the job market is EXTREMELY THIN. Award winning teachers are often out of work and unable to find new work, much less new teachers.

The GOOD news:

Along with the decline of public schools, has come the massive increase in private schooling and homeschooling. I know MANY professionals who've hung up their coats and have started teaching PRIVATELY. In this area, mostly to homeschoolers. Rent a class, studio, or lab from a community center.. and then hold actual classroom (10-30 students) during the school day (and afterschool for enrichment for public school kids). Many of the people I know who are doing this are clearing 6 figures a year.

As I mentioned briefly, not just for homeschool students. As parents, we want the best for our kids even if we CAN'T afford the 20k per year pricetag for private elementary, or 35k per year for private highschool. But many of us CAN afford $500 a quarter for special classes.

I taught Microbiology for 6-12yos in this way, and it was a smash hit BUT, even teaching only 2-3 days a week... I was still putting in 40-60 hours a week in work. (The people I know clearing 6 figures typically teach 4-5 classes a day, 4 days a week).

Anyhow... just something to consider.

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answers from San Francisco on

Go for it if you want, but PLEASE consider that teachers say they are underpaid (I really don't know if they are nor not) and they are always whining and complaining about their salary, benefits, etc.

Teach if you want; but be sure to consider all of this. This is actually what kills me. People WANT to be teachers knowing that teachers have historically complained about their pay, benefits, etc. I remember my mother talking about it when I was in elementary school and I'm 53 years old! This is nothing new. So, do it if you want, but don''t complain about it later.



answers from Chicago on

A good friend of mine with a research PhD in science did a career switch teaching program. She is happy, but her salary doesn't even cover the costs of childcare. But if you are OK with not making much money and just want a job with great hours and benefits, then I say go for it!

I was going to do it, but my degrees aren't in high demand fields, so there are no quick 1 year programs I could do.



answers from San Francisco on

I have been teaching for 20 years.

Be sure you have the personality of a teacher first, before you do the program. Volunteer in the classroom if you can . Find a mentor. Ask yourself if you can handle the students and the parents and the administrators. How are you with discipline? Many folks who ask me about teaching have an idealized idea of what it is like. Two of my mom friends have tried this switch (one a chemistry major, the other a multiple-subject). One quit; the other has yet to find a full-time job.

Be very careful about this switch if you are doing it for more time with your kids. Most teachers where I live have to work summers. During the school year, we spend a big check of the week end grading and prepping. So, do your research.



answers from Minneapolis on

My neighbor switched from being in Marketing/Advertising to being a Special Ed teacher because she has three kids. Her work hours did go down and she did take summers off to be with her kids. It CAN work. Science/Technology/Engineering/Math are the hot subjects, along with Special Ed.

I would recommend doing research in your area, though, about employment opportunities, and talking with some people who are currently teaching if you can.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I would just make sure that there are actually jobs available when you graduate. I would do this type of program in a heartbeat but I would never stand a chance of getting a teaching job in Pittsburgh. PA teachers are some of the highest in the country so there is major competition. Its funny to hear of pay that doesn't even pay childcare when most teachers in my son's school make $95K a year.


answers from Columbus on

God bless you for wanting to be a teacher. My husband teaches high school science and I think he's a saint for putting up with those kids every day.

I know 2 teachers who recently did a similar career change, one was successful, the other, well, it was pretty bad. It depends on your mindset.

The one who failed, I think she expected the students would be impressed with her credentials, or excited to learn, or something along those lines. She was a brilliant scientist, but constantly frustrated with her students and could not keep order in her classroom. Most days she would end up in tears because the kids did not respect her. She quit at the end of her first year.

The other, she has similar frustrations with the students not wanting to learn, but she also had more reasonable expectations, and she's about 5 years in and doing pretty well. It takes a while to find a good balance and learn (trial & error) what kind of rapport works best for you, but as long as you know what you're getting in to, you'll figure it out.

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