Wilson College Online Blog

How to Make a Career Change to Teaching

Written by: Wilson College   •  Apr 19, 2024
A Teacher Sitting at a Table With Three Kindergarten Students.

How to Make a Career Change to Teaching

More than half of American workers—58%—were trying to change careers in 2023, according to a report from the job listing service FlexJobs. This statistic reflects employees’ shifting attitudes about their work and their careers. 

Workers seek to switch careers for a number of reasons ranging from frequent layoffs to technological changes. Some individuals looking to make a pivot in their careers find themselves called to be teachers. 

For those interested in making a career change to teaching, the steps typically center on gaining experience, earning an education degree, and seeking certification.

Benefits of Becoming a Teacher

From getting the opportunity to help shape the next generation to enjoying a schedule that promotes a healthy work-life balance, there are many good reasons to become a teacher. Following are some of the benefits of being a teacher.

Making a Difference

Teachers help their students gain the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be productive adults and active community members. Here are some of the ways that teachers make an impact on those they educate:

  • Teaching important concepts
  • Developing students’ critical thinking skills
  • Acting as role models
  • Encouraging participation and inclusivity

Filling Sought-After Roles

An already-present national teacher shortage has worsened since 2021, according to a 2024 analysis from ADP Research Institute. The study shows that, while job openings for teachers have increased since 2021, employment in the profession has been flat. With the demand for teachers outpacing the supply of candidates for open roles, teachers can enjoy the security of a strong job market.

Enjoying a Healthy Work-Life Balance

The typical teaching schedule is consistent and often doesn’t include nights or weekends, making it easier for teachers to plan for their family’s needs and their other outside commitments than it is for those whose hours vary. Additionally, many schools offer teachers long breaks during the summer and holidays, giving them more time to spend on their lives outside of work.

Steps to Make a Career Change to Teaching

Making a career change to teaching calls for preparation that generally includes gaining classroom experience, earning a degree, and obtaining state certification. Following are some of the critical actions required for this career change.

Experience a Classroom

One valuable way to learn about teaching and what it requires is to spend time in a classroom of students. There are several ways to gain this experience, including the following:

  • Serve as a substitute teacher: Fill in for full-time teachers during their absence
  • Shadow a teacher: Observe a teacher’s work during a regular school day
  • Act as a classroom volunteer: Assist with class projects and administrative tasks as needed
  • Become a teacher assistant: Support teachers in administrative and instructional work

Consider Grade Levels

Because teachers generally are responsible for students in a specific grade level, those considering shifting to this career should think about what grade level they’d like to teach. Additionally, teachers may focus on a specific academic subject, especially in higher grade levels. Although exact grade levels differ according to the school and location, examples of typical grades and areas of focus include the following:

  • Preschool: Students under age 5 who have not started kindergarten
  • Kindergarten and elementary school: Students in kindergarten through grade five or six
  • Middle school: Students in grades six through eight
  • High school: Students in grades nine through 12
  • Special education: Students in preschool through grade 12 who have emotional, learning, mental, or physical disabilities
  • English as a second language (ESL): Students of all ages, including adults, for whom English is not their native language

Pursue Required Education

The type of education required to make a career change to teaching depends on several factors, including the following:

  • The grade the person plans to teach
  • The professional experiences they’ve already had
  • The state where they plan to teach

Public school teachers generally must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and many private schools also prefer teachers who hold at least a bachelor’s degree. 

For those with a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than education, some education degree programs offer opportunities to take courses that can prepare them for teacher certification. Teacher education programs generally offer opportunities to gain experience teaching in a classroom setting.

In some cases, teachers must pursue a master’s degree after they begin their careers as educators. In fact, any teacher can benefit from earning a graduate degree, such as a Master of Teaching or Master of Education

Prospective teachers should check with their state’s education department to learn about the degree requirements for the type of teaching role they plan to pursue.

Obtain State Certification

Teachers at U.S. public schools must hold state certification for the grade level they teach. Private school teachers typically don’t require this licensing. While prerequisites for certification vary by state, they generally include the following:

  • Holding a bachelor’s degree
  • Earning a minimum grade point average
  • Passing the teaching certification test required for their grade level and subject area
  • Undergoing a background check

6 Key Skills for Teachers

Certain skills that teachers need depend on the grade level, subject area, and population of students they teach. The ability to teach introductory lessons on a variety of subjects is important for elementary school teachers, for example. High school teachers, who generally focus on a specific subject area, must be skilled at building students’ knowledge in that area in preparation for college or a career.

Some skills transcend the different teaching roles, however. Many of these are soft skills that apply to multiple professions and can transfer to teaching from any career. Following are six of those key skills that all teachers need to succeed:

  1. Communication: To clearly convey lessons to students and collaborate with colleagues, administrators, and parents
  2. Patience: To remain calm, even in the face of students’ behavioral issues, their difficulty learning material, or stressful interactions with parents
  3. Creativity: To find impactful ways to provide lessons, engage students, and tailor material to individual students’ needs
  4. Organization: To easily access lesson plans and maintain accurate student records
  5. Leadership: To effectively manage the classroom and any extracurricular activities they direct
  6. Cultural sensitivity: To educate students in a way that is respectful of their different abilities and backgrounds

Make the Change to a Rewarding Career

If you’re ready to make a career change to teaching, explore Wilson College Online’s education degree programs. Whether you want to earn a bachelor’s degree to work toward your first teaching role or a master’s degree to develop your education expertise, each of the programs offers different specialization options. Additionally, the programs’ flexible, online format is perfect for those who need to accommodate their current work schedule.

Discover how enrolling in one of Wilson College Online’s education programs can help you make the change to a fulfilling career as a teacher.

Recommended Readings

What Are the 4 Types of Learning Styles

What Can You Do With an Early Childhood Education Degree?

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Education?


ADP Research Institute, “With Teachers, the Law of Supply and Demand Isn’t Working”

FlexJobs, “The Changing Work Landscape: Layoff Fears and Career Shifts on the Rise”

Indeed, “10 Important Skills of a Teacher and How to Develop Them”

Indeed, “15 Important Pros and Cons of Being a Teacher to Consider”

Indeed, “20 Important Rewards of Being a Teacher to Consider”

Indeed, “How to Make a Career Change to Teaching in 6 Steps”

Teachers of Tomorrow, “Should I Be a Teacher? 23 Great Reasons to Consider It in 2024”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Adult Basic and Secondary Education and ESL Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, High School Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Middle School Teachers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Special Education Teachers

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