Education as a Field
The field of education is brimming with options and opportunities. People in the field of education can serve in a variety of roles, focus on a breadth of subjects and work in numerous settings. The field of education can offer professionals a great degree of flexibility, plenty of room for growth and wonderful opportunities to make a difference. Educators, in all of their different forms, can enjoy interesting and dynamic careers.
The Many Paths of Educators
As mentioned above, there are many paths that people interested in the field of education choose to follow. Some become teachers or principals at the pre-school, K-12, community college, four-year college, or adult education level; some work as researchers or curriculum designers; some work as coaches or counselors; and others work as school administrators. Within those paths, educators might focus on a specialization such as special education, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), or Multicultural Education. They might also focus their studies on a particular subject area such as social studies, math and sciences, literature and languages, or athletics. Educators can enjoy an immense amount of options and potential directions.
Where do Educators Work?
Educators can work in a variety of venues. Those venues might be public or private, mandated by the state or independent, large or small. They can include community colleges, four-year colleges, public colleges, or private colleges. They can be independently-run charter or private schools or state-mandated public schools. They can be in wealthy neighborhoods, working and middle-class neighborhoods, or impoverished neighborhoods. They can serve rural communities or urban communities. They can be focused on serving students with disabilities, students with specific talents, or students from other countries. They can be religious, political, or social. They can be established to serve any number of types of people and communities.
Who are Educators?
Because the field of education is so expansive, there is a myriad of types of people who work in education. There are, however, several traits that seem to accompany the majority of educators. You might be an educator if:
- You enjoy working with people
- You feel education is a critical part of a functional society
- You believe that knowledge is power
- You believe that curriculum can stimulate learning and growth
- You wish to improve communities and believe that providing education can be a great way to do so
- You enjoy working hard
- You enjoy having summer, fall, winter, and spring breaks (as is the case for many educators, but not all)
- You are comfortable standing in front of people and delivering “presentations” on a regular basis
What Does it Take to Work in the Field of Education?
The type of education, certification, and training required to become an educator depends upon your chosen field. The majority of educators, regardless of their fields, are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a subject compatible with their chosen fields.
Educators who wish to become “K-12” teachers (or teachers who teach at elementary, middle, or high schools) may be required to earn a state-mandated “teacher’s license” along with their bachelor’s degree. Licenses can typically be earned by attending certification courses and student-teaching, or by participating in an “alternative licensing program”. Many teacher certification programs are built into bachelor’s degree programs allowing students to earn both within 4 years of full time study. Students, who have bachelors’ degrees and wish to earn their masters’ degrees and become teachers at the K-12 level, may be required to earn their teacher’s license prior to beginning their master’s program. Earning a teacher’s license once you’ve already earned your bachelor’s degree generally takes one to three years of fulltime study.
Certification programs and licensing requirements vary by state in the United States.
Educators who wish to teach at the community college level are typically required to have a bachelor’s and master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience working with the subjects they would like to teach. Educators who wish to teach at the four-year college level must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree to teach lower-division courses and a Ph.D. to teach upper-division courses. Educators who wish to earn a tenure-track job at a four-year college or university are typically required to have a Ph.D. College-level educators are not required to have the same license as K-12 teachers.
The types of degrees and certifications required of administrators, counselors, and researchers depend upon where they would like to work, at what level of education and at what type of school. Some administrators, counselors, and researchers are required to have a bachelor’s degree while others are required to have a master’s degree or Ph.D.
Educators who wish to specialize in a particular area typically must earn certifications in addition to their degrees or complete a degree program that includes the required certifications. Check with your college or university to see what types of specializations and certifications are offered and to determine whether or not they’re offered concurrent with your program.