The Education Issue
FEATURE | Beyond the classroom

Beyond the classroom

Non-teaching careers in K–12 education.

By Jenny Jedeikin

If you want to touch the world in a meaningful way and make a lasting contribution to the hearts and minds of generations to come, you may want to consider a career in education. “A teacher affects eternity,” says historian Henry Adams. “He can never tell where his influence stops.”

But today, one need not limit his or her career in K–12 education to working in a traditional classroom in order to make an impact. There are many education-related occupations to explore requiring various educational backgrounds and work experiences—where passionate individuals can provide a meaningful influence on education outside the boundaries of the conventional classroom.

Outside the traditional classroom

“Most careers in education, which do not involve traditional teaching, do require college degrees of one kind or another,” explains Susan Echaore-McDavid, who wrote Career Opportunities in Education and Related Services. Of course, if you want to make a big impact on education, it helps to have teaching experience first, so that you have a basic understanding of education. However, not every education career requires it.

“What you do need for any of these jobs is an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Echaore-McDavid. “You must be someone who is able to think outside of the box, and be willing to take the risk to make something work by being creative and resourceful.”

The Education Issue
FEATURE | Beyond the classroom

Providing educational materials

With today’s advances in technology enabling education to be delivered via the Web, as well as by “old school” methods, there are numerous opportunities for someone to get involved in the field of educational materials for the K–12 population. From positions at innovative companies that offer online instructional videos, to traditional textbook writing or editing for publishing companies, the range of work for innovative, creative minds is expanding.

“It helps to have a background in teaching if you want to create educational materials because most teachers get experience developing curriculum while they teach,” says Linda Warren, a career coach who has experience consulting teachers who transition from classrooms to other education-related jobs. “It is also beneficial to take courses in curriculum design, which you can take while getting a master’s in education.”

Echaore-McDavid, for example, was a teacher who went on to write numerous textbooks. This is a logical transition for someone with the right skill set. “If you’re a teacher who wants to write textbook materials,” says Echaore-McDavid, “you might begin by submitting teaching ideas to teacher magazines or websites. Be ready to give the editor brief examples of the work you give your students. If educational publishers are in your area, you might contact the editorial director for an informational interview to learn about educational publishing and how you might gain entry into the field.”

If you are interested in working for a technology company that provides learning opportunities to K–12 children, there are numerous positions you can seek. Warren explains that not every job in the field of online learning requires a teaching credential. “I had a client who was a sales representative for an education software company,” says Warren. He loved his job because of the product he was selling, but he didn’t have to have a background in education. “A salesperson in this type of company just needs to be really knowledgeable about what he is selling,” says Warren.

Additional jobs in the field of K–12 online instruction include curriculum content writers. These people are often former educators with a specific area of knowledge, software developers who turn educational content into user-friendly software lessons, videographers and film editors who are responsible for the physical production of short learning films, as well as graphic designers who have a hand in the look of the material and website.

Technical support to education

Individuals with information technology degrees also can pursue education-related careers, helping set up school websites and interactive classroom sites where teachers post student work or homework assignments. “Schools have needs for IT specialists who can implement community-based websites,” says Warren. Individuals wanting to pursue this goal need an IT education, as well as a familiarity with the computer systems utilized by school districts.

Educational nonprofits

People who are passionate about a particular topic, such as the environment, drug or alcohol prevention, digital media literacy, health or nutrition, can work for a nonprofit and exert tremendous influence on materials and messaging that reaches children. “Lots of nonprofits partner with schools to educate kids in line with their missions,” says Warren, who once designed curriculum for schools while working for The American Cancer Society.

“Directors of education often have a master’s in education or teaching backgrounds, but they don’t have to,” says Warren. They can also just have a lot of expertise in the area that their nonprofit is focused on. “Volunteering is a great way into nonprofits,” says Warren, “because they often hire first from their volunteer base.”

The Education Issue
FEATURE | Beyond the classroom

Educational reformers

Individuals who are inspired to transform our educational system can approach the challenge in other ways. Becoming an educational lobbyist is one direct way to make a difference, explains Echaore-McDavid. “An education lobbyist needs to be something of a visionary,” she says. “She needs to be able to see the general picture of what she wants and needs to achieve in order to get a bill passed.”

Warren explains that to become a lobbyist for education reform, you likely need a legal degree. A lobbyist tries to persuade lawmakers to create, pass or defeat laws that benefit a particular cause. “You need to know the law in order to advocate for changes to the system,” she says.

Do your homework

Finally, Warren advises people looking for unorthodox education careers to think about what skills they could bring forward. “There are many opportunities out there that might not be in a book,” she says. “There are jobs created all the time because of someone’s skill set or expertise.”

Another way to find out what type of education career might be right for you is to experience some type of teaching before branching out, says Echaore-McDavid. “You can be a classroom teacher, a tutor, a teacher’s aid, a coach, a recreational leader, a museum docent, a Peace Corps volunteer, a Zumba teacher, a software trainer. It may just be volunteer work,” says Echaore-McDavid. “It’s all good.”

“The idea,” Echaore-McDavid says, “is to experience teaching, which includes all that goes with it—the lesson planning, creating and adapting your own materials, creating tests and activities, evaluating students’ work, working with colleagues and administrators. As you do all those tasks, pay attention to the ones you really enjoy doing. That will clue you in about other areas in education you might segue into.”

Above all, she says, “have faith in your instincts, and be willing to try something new.”

Jenny Jedeikin lives in Northern California and her writing has appeared in San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Rolling Stone and In Style, among other publications.

The Education Issue
FEATURE | Beyond the classroom

Jobs outside the classroom

Academic advisor
What they do: Advise school students about academic requirements and selection of courses.
What you need: Master’s degree in school counseling preferred.

Curriculum writer
What they do: Create curriculum for educational materials.
What you need: Teaching credential helps.

Director of education at nonprofit
What they do: Develop strategies and specific materials for getting the message of the organization into the public sphere.
What you need: Knowledge of your field. A master’s degree in public heath, for instance, or a teaching credential can be helpful.

Education consultant
What they do: Consult with individual parents and children to assess special needs and create individual education plans, or consult with schools about educational goals and maximizing resources.
What you need: Years of teaching, combined with a master’s in education.

Education lobbyist
What they do: Attempt to reform the education system through implementing legislation.
What you need: Law degree essential.

Educational software developer
What they do: Develop programming and technology for educational materials.
What you need: Information technology degree.

Educational software sales
What they do: Provide avenues for distributing and sales of educational software.
What you need: Knowledge and familiarity with the product.

Instructional coordinator
What they do: Oversee curriculum and teaching standards for a school district.
What you need: Teaching background and master’s in education.

What they do: Maintain library collections and keep library running.
What you need: Master’s degree in library science, which is highly technical, requiring database expertise.

What they do: Manage the operation of a school and set goals and objectives.
What you need: Master’s degree in education administration and teaching background.

Private tutor
What they do: Work with kids privately in diverse subjects.
What you need: Proven knowledge of subject and ability to teach. Teaching certificate will help. Tutoring to select school populations can yield higher wages than teachers.

School psychologist
What they do: Provide emotional support and counseling to students as needed.
What you need: Master’s degree in school psychology required, as well as specialist credential, such as NCSP (Nationally Certified School Psychologist); certification varies by state.

School superintendent
What they do: Chief executive position at a school district, ensuring that the district meets its educational goals.
What you need: Doctoral degree in education administration preferred.

Special education teacher
What they do: Work one-to-one with kids in a specific discipline, such as reading proficiency.
What you need: Master’s in special education.

If you are an expert in a particular field, your expertise plus a teaching credential can be applied to specialty classes offered by schools, including:

  • Art
  • Technology
  • Foreign language
  • Automotive
  • Music
  • Cosmetology
  • Journalism
Beyond the classroom

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