It doesn't matter how long you've been a teacher, at some point, you will probably realise you need to get out of the classroom. The attrition rate in the education sector is alarmingly high — up to 50 per cent of beginning teachers resign in the first five years of their career. Out of those who stay, many say they want to leave but are held back by the fear of not being skilled enough in anything outside of teaching.
There are multiple reasons for teachers feeling they need to leave the teaching profession — work-life balance is one of them, mental wellbeing is another. The thought of starting over, selling yourself, can be scary though. What if we need to retrain? What if we make a bad decision? What if we can't find a job? Will we survive without a regular salary?
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There are many things to think about before we travel down the road to a new career.
Making the decision to leave a stable teaching career can be incredibly hard and the future may seem uncertain and even intimidating. You need to carefully weigh up the perceived perks, like 'holidays', with the disadvantages, such as ever-increasing pressure.
Even great teachers admit that teaching is an incredibly challenging and exhausting job when you have to do it year in and year out. Lack of support and increasing, unsustainable workloads are more than common complaints — they are the reality for many. For some, they come to the realisation they are not compatible with their job.
If you are thinking about changing careers after teaching for a while and re-entering the job market, your mind is probably overflowing with questions.
- What alternative jobs for ex-teachers are out there and can I do them?
- How will I upskill?
- Are my qualifications suitable?
- How many years will I need to retrain for?
- What are the job opportunities in the public and private sectors?
- Where can I pick up some online tutoring work to tide me over?
With this guide, we aim to make the transitioning phase a little easier for you. We'll give you tips about your options and coach you on how to start approaching the new chapter in your life.
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A Word on the Current World Health Situation and its Impact on Teachers
As mentioned previously, the attrition rate for teaching in Australia is a long-term and well-documented problem. Schools did it tough when COVID-19 hit our shores — and teachers were the casualties.
With a totally unprecedented situation on their hands, government and education directorate decisions and directives not only came thick and fast, but were often highly contradictory as information and understandings changed. From the teachers' perspective, they essentially came into their schools each day, not only not knowing what to expect, but also already feeling desperately devalued and over-worked.
Depending on the state or territory, and its associated education directorate and government, schools essentially went through the following four states-of-being in very quick succession:
- Situation normal
Carry on. Nothing has changed. Children can't get coronavirus but if a teacher gets sick, they must stay home for the mandated time.
- Total lockdown and start online learning immediately
Almost overnight, schools were closed, children had to stay at home and teachers had to commence an online, remote learning package. Some areas, like Canberra, and some schools were already reasonably well set up for this — but the preparedness was highly variable. Parents had to go from parenting, to 'teaching' and working from home. And educators throughout Australia started on the biggest learning curves of their careers.
- Graduated return to school
When the decision was made to return students to school, each directorate had its own plan but most involved only some of the students returning for some of the time. In itself, this created another dilemma, not only for parents who had children across multiple grades but for teachers who had to simultaneously teach their 'at school' students along with the students who were still online at home.
- Return to situation normal — sort of
With most students returned to schools, it's now a 'new normal'. Schools are restricted zones for adults in some areas. Large gatherings, like fetes and concerts and graduations, have to be streamed online. And the whole system is still standing braced for another wave — needing to be ready to adapt again at a moment's notice.
For teachers already on tenuous ground, pre-Covid, with regards to their emotional health, it is thought that the impact of the pandemic might be the final nail in the career coffin. The intensification of workload and the sharp change in role and expectations may well be the things that finally take their toll.
At the moment, it's unclear what the ripple effect will be. What is clear, though, is that now, more than ever, teachers need to have access to support.
Things to Think About When You've Decided to Leave
The first thing to do is evaluate yourself — what are your skills and what do you love to do? Think about your personality traits and job suitability. Where are you confident and what makes you bubble with enthusiasm? What are your qualifications? Do you need to add to your skill set before pursuing your dream job?
Source some help. Seek career advice from a job counsellor or career coach. Ask friends what their careers entail. You may want to take a 'career quiz' to assess your skill set with Job Outlook, My Future or other similar websites.
Once you have a clear idea of the skills you possess, and those you need, you can check websites such as My Skills to find training and other information, or O*NET OnLine to find details about specific job skill set requirements.
Be sure to regularly check job openings and vacancies. Keep an open mind — at this stage, you may not even realise the extent of your available options, or the jobs available to you.
When particular job postings appeal, remember to consider the logistics before you jump in. Will you need further training? Does the salary cover your needs? Are there career development options? What roles will you be expected to perform?
Do your research — in the end, you may discover that what you're really after are different teaching opportunities. Secondary school teachers may want to transition to the primary school environment. A mainstream English teacher might prefer a targetted, smaller-group setting and decide to pursue a role in ESL/EALD. Maybe you'd eventually like to try teaching abroad for a while in an international school? What about going part-time? Or move from public schooling to a private school.
The most important thing is to understand yourself — be honest about your real feelings. If you are positive that you are no longer happy as a school teacher, it will definitely be worth it to make a change. Once you've made the decision, what do you do next?
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Ten Career Options for Former Teachers
Holding a permanent teaching position brings certain benefits, including holidays, fixed salary, superannuation and job security. When you resign, many of your job perks will be lost but the chances are you will find similar, or better, benefits in your new career.
Your options are limited only by your imagination. However, to start you thinking, we've put together a list of ten alternative jobs for teachers. These jobs all require similar skills to teaching and appeal to people with common teacher-associated interests and personality traits.
When you look into these jobs, you will see there are many similarities with roles and responsibilities in education, although they have to potential to be less stressful and demanding. The jobs really seem to be designed to fit the strengths and skills many teachers possess. Many of them will also keep you within the education field.
1. Learning support assistant
If you still love being around children and you are passionate about motivating students and assisting them to be the best they can be, then a learning support role might be perfect for you.
This role can extend anywhere from school holiday programs and youth groups to counselling and support services where you would help students with academic matters or even personal issues.
As a career path, and similar to teaching, learning support is very hands on. The learning support assistant role involves working closely with students, often one-to-one, and requires regular liaison with teachers and parents. Salaries are vastly different from teaching, but other rewards and personal outcomes can be more satisfying.
In this area, you may also consider a teaching role in special education, or you could work in a relief capacity as a substitute teacher.
2. Tutoring roles
Are you still passionate about teaching but have just had enough of being in a classroom or constrained by the curriculum? Feeling like you're stuck in a rut with no autonomy often causes teacher job dissatisfaction.
The solution is not completely hopeless. Resigning from your teaching job does not mean you have to stop teaching, in fact, private tutoring jobs in Sydney or other parts of Australia might be exactly what you're looking for.
Private tutors are free to choose their working hours and set their own rates. Your 'classroom' is flexible — your home, your students' house, office space or even a public space like a library or coffee shop. Your clients will want to learn and you'll be relatively free to use the methodology you feel is best to help each student achieve their goals.
Alternatively, you may decide to apply for jobs at tutoring agencies, which offer benefits such as insurance and visibility but can constrain you with regards to fees and work hours.
Another option, if you decide you really want to make a career out of tutoring, is to start your own tutoring business and work for yourself.
Whatever you decide, tutoring is one of the best jobs for former teachers who, despite resigning, remain passionate about teaching.
3. Writing and editing for education
All teachers agree that schools can be stressful and frenetic places. Spending year after year in this type of environment can take its toll and have you longing for a job surrounded by peace and quiet. As a teacher, you have expertise in multiple areas and may wish to share your knowledge with others through writing.
If you are familiar with Australian Curriculum requirements at any level, you might want to think about writing textbook content or creating classroom resources. Investigate publishers who focus on educational materials to explore different career options in the field of publishing, editing or writing.
Persistence and the ability to sell yourself are required, but you can often find jobs in freelance writing and editing, particularly if you say you have current teaching experience.
4. Liaison and consulting roles
If you still want to be involved in education, but not in the school or classroom setting, you may want to explore the option of work in teacher recruitment or professional development. As an experienced teacher, you may be sought after as a mentor or supervisor for preservice teaching classes.
Programs like Teach For Australia are working to raise the profile of teaching to attract leaders to the profession with the goal of ensuring educational equity. If this is an area you are particularly passionate about, there may be a role for you as a mentor or a potential leader.
5. Training and development at a corporate level
To be a teacher, you need to possess an understanding of learning styles and developmental needs, as well as having strong interpersonal relationship skills. These are equally applicable in the business world as they are within school settings and positions where you teach adults are often ideal second careers for teachers.
It may be that you still love sharing knowledge but really need a change of audience. Delivering training and development courses within a company structure may be the career change you're looking for. As a trained teacher, you'll already have a bank of innovative teaching strategies, you'll be proficient in developing courses and you'll have experience in both mentoring and coaching roles.
As with school students, company staff often require direction on how to work together as a team and manage interpersonal relationships.
It may surprise you how many jobs for ex-teachers exist in the corporate environment.
6. Workforce and personnel management
Commonly known as Human Resources (or HR), this sector offers desirable options with a range of jobs for teachers who quit their teaching careers, as they already possess the requisite transferable skills.
In HR, your key role is to motivate people to work to their potential and, as such, personal enthusiasm and great interpersonal skills are a must.
As a teacher, your primary focus is to facilitate opportunities for students to grow and utilise their strengths to achieve their academic goals. The same applies to HR, where your key functions are to select the right employees to fulfil specific roles, as well as to organise professional and personal development opportunities, relevant to the workplace.
The similarities between teaching and HR are simple — facilitate the development of new skills, reinforce personal qualities, guide people to achieve their potential.
7. Administrative roles
As a job title, 'admin' tends to conjure negative images. The words 'boring', 'repetitive' and 'paperwork' come instantly to mind. If you dig a little deeper, though, you may discover more interesting roles.
Teaching requires organisational skills, so ex-teachers are well prepared for various administrative roles.
Exactly what is involved in an administrative role?
Certainly, some admin work centres around spreadsheets, data and logging information, however, the role can be much more varied than that. A business manager is responsible for a group of staff members, and a PA (personal assistant) manages the appointments and schedules of the company's head manager or CEO.
8. Community and youth work
Teachers need to be able to establish a rapport with students and motivate young people to engage in learning activities — which is exactly what is required of youth workers.
The role of youth workers is to support young people in the community by encouraging them to engage with others and explore opportunities, allowing them to discover their interests and grow their strengths.
Ex-teachers who have kept their own childlike curiosity make great youth workers. As a teacher, you are required to establish and maintain a sense of authority but a youth worker has to engage with young people on a different level. The role and relationship is, by necessity, more casual and you are required to befriend young people so as to encourage them to seek your guidance when needed.
What activities and projects are youth workers involved in?
The fundamental goal of a youth worker is to ensure the young people they are working with achieve their full potential and are prepared to navigate their adulthood independently.
Youth workers' roles are varied and include: operating youth groups and community youth centres; organising outdoor experiences and social activities and helping facilitate community initiatives.
Activities and events can include:
- organising and leading bushwalks
- community art installation projects
- assist in the operation of a drama society and associated performances.
Like teaching, youth work can be demanding. However, it can also be highly rewarding as you often have the satisfaction of seeing each young person improve and move forward with their life.
9. Learning advisor
Choosing subjects and courses that will ultimately shape your future can be daunting as a student. They often need careers counselling and advice to help them feel comfortable with their decisions.
This is where learning (or academic) advisors come in.
All levels of schooling, from secondary school to university and community colleges, have dedicated staff who provide guidance to students on their academic and career choices.
Advisory roles in educational settings are perfect for ex-teachers who have a breadth of experience in the areas of curriculum knowledge and educational requirements.
Working as an academic advisor can be very fulfilling as you get to know students individually, are trusted with their issues, dreams and ambitions, and have the satisfaction of knowing you have assisted them in selecting the perfect pathway to achieve their goals.
As an ex-teacher, your educational expertise will be valued, and combined with the knowledge that you're helping young people become less anxious about their futures, working in advisory roles can be rewarding jobs for former teachers.
10. Museum or gallery jobs
Teachers often consider themselves to be lifelong learners — they enjoy expanding their knowledge and sharing it with other like-minded people.
Working in a museum, an art gallery or any other educational institution that piques your interest can be the start of an inspirational and stimulating new career.
Museum or gallery jobs are varied. With extra training, you could become a curator, managing collections and exhibitions. Or, if you still want to work with a variety of people, you may want to apply for an education liaison role, allowing you to work with visitors, school groups and other communication areas.
If you're passionate about, or a specialist in, a particular subject, this is even better. For example, a chemistry teacher may enjoy working at a science museum, or a teacher of English literature may find working as an exhibition curator at the National or State Library a rewarding career transition.
Retraining: Jobs for Teachers Who Quit Education
Depending on what career path you choose, upskilling or retraining to gain new qualifications may be necessary — this can take a lot of time and could be expensive.
Your first step is to seek some career advice to find out precisely what qualifications and skills are necessary for your chosen job. You will already have at least one Bachelor-level degree and, coupled with your experience and subject knowledge, you may find you don't need any additional training.
Find out how to get out of teaching.
Make a list of your current skills and relevant experience. Next to this, add the requirements of your potential new role. Finally, evaluate your suitability.
For example, you may already possess the necessary people skills and characteristics required for counselling or advisory roles, but you will need to enrol in a course to gain training as a counsellor.
On the other hand, if you decide to go into private tuition, while there are no prerequisite qualifications, your teaching experience will certainly be an advantage.
If you're interested in pursuing some of the other jobs for teachers, especially those in a specific industry or corporate roles in the private sector, such as law, training for the position or the relevant qualification will be essential. It is important to talk to people, read about retraining roptions for teachers, or book an appointment with a careers counsellor for advice on your prospects and how best to retrain for your dream job.
Let's say you decide you want to pursue a role in HR management — what do you need to do first?
As with any job, with no prior experience, you'll need to spend time learning the ropes in HR, and understanding company management practices, before you can be considered for a managerial role. The best way to do this is to keep your eye out for any vacancy in HR and apply for jobs with an open mind — practical experience is what you need the most at this point.
Transitioning from a teaching position to a role in human resources will be made easier if you enrol in HR courses. You'll also have better options when you're ready to apply for promotional positions.
You will already have a bachelor's degree, so you may want to think about enrolling in Human Resource Management at a master's degree level. However, this takes time, so you may prefer to combine on-the-job learning with a shorter course instead of a full degree.
Short courses in HR management are available both online and face-to-face. The Australian HR Institute (AHRI) is just one of many companies you may wish to consider.
AHRI offers a full range of short courses in various aspects of HR management, including:
- Change Management
- Performance Management
- Conflict and Mediation
The courses you choose, or the certification level you decide to pursue, is dependent on your personal preferences, skills and prior experience.
Public Sector Careers After Teaching
The largest proportion of employment in Australia is within the public sector. You may decide that you prefer the public sector for its security, flexibility and salary.
The public sector offers a wide range of jobs for ex-teachers, including in the fields of administration, defence, education, health, government and the public service.
Think about your preferred skills and qualities. If you like jobs that are hands-on or logical, you may want to look at emergency services or the defence force. If you have strong communication and public speaking skills, you may decide you'd be suited for a government role at either local or national level.
While you may not have any desire to enter politics, if you are passionate and concerned about the state of education you can still play an important role in bringing the education debate to the forefront of public attention. A ministerial advisory role could be right for you as you will be able to bring a considered perspective to the debate and the search for a solution to the perceived teacher shortage crisis.
Jobs for Former Teachers in the Private Sector
While it is possible to switch between the private and public sectors, there are potential consequences, in terms of job and financial security, you should carefully consider. However, these consequences may be outweighed by the benefits offered to you by a private sector role, especially if it allows you to use your skills or provides more intellectual stimulation.
Fields in the private sector include law, media, retail and hospitality, and trades.
If you are looking for a private-sector career, it is possible you will need to obtain particular qualifications, although, you might already have these as a teacher. Alternatively, training may be required to enter a specific profession.
So, while you may have a BA in your area of expertise, it is possible you will need to pursue specific qualifications which are relevant to your chosen career path. These qualifications may only be conversion courses, to update your skill set.
Depending on the field you are considering, conversion courses may take 12 to 18 months to complete, and they can be expensive. You need to think about whether this time and money outlay will be worth it. In most cases, if you've done your research, you should find that the new skills you obtain, and the job opportunities that open up to you will far outweigh the cost.
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