Job Hunt: In the Market
Staying flexible can land you a job during tough economic times
Let’s face it: It’s a scary time to look for a job.
The nation is experiencing the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.
And with unemployment rates rising, recent college graduates now must compete for jobs with more experienced workers. The teaching market is no exception.
Overall, the demand for educators has decreased during the past year, says Neil Shnider, executive director of the American Association for Employment in Education (AAEE).
Budget cuts at the local, state, and federal levels have forced many school districts to increase class sizes or eliminate some classes completely. At the same time, many veteran teachers are postponing their retirements, further reducing the demand for new teachers.
Yet, even a competitive job market offers opportunities for students willing to teach in high-demand subjects and high-need areas.
Currently, 61 percent of all education fields have a shortage of qualified candidates, while 32 percent have a balance between job openings and job seekers, according to the 2008 Educator Supply and Demand report from AAEE.
The annual report surveys college career centers and teacher education programs about the supply and demand for educators in 62 different teaching and administrative fields.
The greatest demand exists for special education teachers, says Shnider. Many school districts have a shortage of math and science teachers as well. But the demand for educators in other subjects varies widely by region. The Southeast, for instance, has a shortage of educators across the board, while the Great Lakes region has an overabundance of teachers, according to AAEE.
Meanwhile, high growth areas, like Loudoun County, Virginia, hire new teachers every year, says Pam Dilbeck, UniServ director for the Loudoun Education Association. Although the number of new teachers hired decreased this year, Loudoun still opened several new schools and brought on 600 new educators, many from other parts of the country, she says.
“There just aren’t enough students graduating from education schools in Virginia to fill the teacher vacancies that we have in the state,” says Dilbeck.
New teachers have good job prospects in Iowa, as well where many veteran teachers are retiring, says Steve Chasse, chairman-elect of the Iowa State Education Association Student Program. The state’s proximity to Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis provides additional opportunities for students willing to move to a new city, adds Chasse, a master’s student at Drake University School of Education in Des Moines.
New teachers in California, meanwhile, have little choice but to consider out-of-state jobs. State education officials have reduced student spending, closed schools, and laid off teachers in response to the state’s budget crisis, says Gail Watts, state student organizer for the California Teachers Association.
Meanwhile, tight economic times have caused veteran teachers to delay their retirements, and CTA expects additional layoffs this year.
“It is more important than ever for students to get involved in their union,” says Watts. “When students and, more importantly, future educators join together, they can impact opinion and policy around public education. Also, through the union they gain valuable contacts and professional development that can give them the edge in competitive hiring markets.”
Typically, students willing to relocate have the most successful job searches, says Mike Poe, program director for the Educational Leadership Masters Program at Idaho’s Northwest Nazarene University. Prospective teachers also can increase their job opportunities by considering positions at multiple grade levels, he adds.
“Don’t overlook those smaller school districts, and be willing to keep your options open,” says Poe, a former NEA Student Program officer. “The students who have the most difficulty getting jobs are the ones who want to teach in their hometown school districts at their old schools. If you limit yourself, you are going to have a difficult time getting a job because they won’t be available.”
Aspiring teachers also should use their student teaching placements to prove themselves to prospective employers and network with other educators, says Chasse.
“It’s going to be competitive out there, so you need to figure out how you are going to distinguish yourself from other candidates,” he says.
“Make sure you put your best foot forward during your student teaching. Even if you don’t get hired in that building, word will travel quickly if you are a good teacher. You may not get your dream job the first time around, but if you work hard you will get where you need to go.”
Acing the Interview
Your first real interview can be nerve-racking. But with a little preparation and confidence, you can turn that job interview into a job offer. Former school administrator Mike Poe, an education professor at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, offers these tips for a successful job interview:
Make your application and resumé flawless. Correct any spelling mistakes and include any lesson plans, references, or other materials the school district requires.
If the district allows personal contacts, call the principal to express your interest in working at his or her school. Don’t overdo it, though. One call is enough.
Research the school and the community it serves. Is the school in an urban area or rural? How many students does it serve? Demonstrating your knowledge about the school will give you an edge.
Practice, practice, practice. Conduct a mock interview with one of your professors or at your college career center. Make sure you can explain your teaching and classroom management philosophies, as well as your reasons for wanting to work at the school.
Pay attention to everyone at your interview. The school principal may ask most of the questions, but you may meet with an assistant principal or even several teachers, too. Answer everyone’s questions confidently, without sounding cocky.
Prepare a few questions of your own. Ask to review the school’s curriculum guide, for instance, or ask about any special procedures for setting up your classroom. Save any questions about salary and vacation for another time.
The following fields have the greatest demand:
- Special education—severe/profound disabilities
- Multicategorical special education
- Special education—mild/moderate disabilities
- Special education— mental retardation
- Bilingual education
- Special education—emotional and behavioral disabilities
- Special education— learning disabilities