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Your Life Calling With Jane Pauley

Making Education Your Encore Career

Decades ago, you couldn't wait to get out of school. Here's how you can work your way back in.

It's typically a given that age brings experience. But it's a frequent frustration that experience isn't always enough to land a job. That's often the case for older workers who want to pursue teaching as a later-in-life career.

Policies about who is qualified to teach vary greatly by state, municipality, school district, teachers union, and even school. Public schools often have stricter requirements than private schools do, which in turn will have differing criteria depending upon whether they're secular or religious, or in some other way specialized. It isn't uncommon for a 22-year-old college graduate who majored in education to be considered more qualified for a teaching job than a 50-year-old who has some sort of graduate degree on top of work, coaching, and public speaking experience. The deciding factor: The new college grad has official teaching and education credentials, and the “reinventor” doesn't.

"Many school systems remain tied to the model of a single, stand-alone teacher in the classroom and a pathway that marches teachers toward retirement," writes Elizabeth Foster of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future in a new report about encore careers in education for baby boomers. "Changing demographics, combined with current federal support and funding for innovation in education, gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a successful workforce that blends veterans and apprentices, full-time employees and consultants, and a diversity of skills and experiences."

There are ways to make education a later-in-life career, both with and without pursuing additional education.

1. Teaching: If you want to be a classroom teacher, start by learning about the requirements of the districts or schools where you might want to work. (Since economic woes are causing many districts to lay off teachers and staff, you may also want to assess the school system's hiring ability.) Private schools generally have more flexibility than public schools do about what certifications and licenses a teacher must have, but the compensation offered by private schools is often less generous than the income and benefits available through public school employment.

If you know you’ll need to earn a teaching certificate, the website All Education Schools provides information specific to the subjects you want to teach as well as links that can help to get you on the track to certification.

Some states offer so-called "alternate route" programs to expedite the certification process for people who have college degrees but don't possess professional experience in education. The website The Apple provides information about taking such routes.

2. Substitute Teaching:
Amazingly enough, many school districts require little more from a substitute teaching applicant than a high school degree and a clean criminal record. On the plus side, with such minimal requirements as a standard, people who have higher-level degrees, work experience, and skills can stand out among the pack when seeking these types of teaching jobs. Doing good work as a substitute could lead to better substitute assignments and even assistance or encouragement in pursuing more formal teaching positions.

3. Teaching as an Adjunct Instructor: Community colleges offer great teaching opportunities for encore careerists, especially for those who have a career-oriented subject specialty that can be taught as a semester-long course. Another benefit: Teaching an occasional course is a way to both use and expand upon your skills without having to make too intense a commitment.
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