Black science teaching showing young students how to use a microscope

The Where, How, and When of Finding a Teaching Job

Teachers face a unique (and uniquely difficult) job search. That's why we pulled out some teacher-specific tips to help!

For most people, searching for a job does not top the list of favorite things to do. For teachers seeking jobs, the job search can mean finding themselves competing for a limited number of jobs in a particular school district or geographic region, at a specific grade level, or in a subject area. And this can add to the stress of needing to find a job in the first place. There is no getting around it. The process can be hard work and take up a lot of your time. The one good thing about that, though, is that the job search process itself isn’t all that complicated. In addition to the standard job search advice—updating your résumé, writing a killer cover letter, networking, completing applications, and presenting your best self during interviews—here are three things to think about as you look for your next teaching job.

The where: Teaching regions

As part of your preparation, think about where you want to live and teach, figure out where relevant teaching jobs are, and compare the two. If you want to stay put, it may be possible to get a job in the city or district where you currently live. But that isn’t always the case, depending on where you are and budgets for schools in your area. Is there another region, state, or city where you want to be? Do you want to live and teach in a rural area, the suburbs, or an urban school? If your life circumstances make it impossible to move, be prepared for your job search to take longer. If moving is an option, that may be your best bet for getting a job sooner.

Demand for teachers differs around the country. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that for teachers from kindergarten to high school levels, the demand is highest in the South and the West, while it’s declining in the Northeast and Midwest. The U.S. Department of Education annually reports on areas around the country with a shortage of qualified teachers. Once you’ve decided on the region or state you want to teach in, it’s time to look up school districts or individual schools to learn more about them. Most districts, boards of education, and schools have websites where you can learn about job openings as well as get details about the schools. And there’s always the possibility of reaching out to teachers and administrators in those areas directly to see if you can get the inside scoop via an informational interview, if not in person than over the phone or online.

Related: Majoring in Education: Where It Can Take You

The when: Spring recruitment

In general, most schools and districts actively recruit in the spring. Then they hire and bring new teachers on board over the summer to be ready for the first day of school in the fall. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a job any other time of the year. Some schools simply don’t fill open positions over the summer and may still be looking into early fall. Or a school may find itself in need of new teachers in the middle of the year. Teachers leave their posts during the year for many reasons, such as family issues or moving.

The how: Portfolio and philosophy

There are two things specifically to consider when looking for a teacher job: your portfolio and your philosophy of teaching. A portfolio is a key element of the job search for teachers. This is a chance to show off transcripts and certifications, student work (from your student teaching days if this is your first job), recommendations, sample lesson plans, etc. Anything that will demonstrate your skills as a teacher and your approach or philosophy for teaching and working with students.

It’s also important to consider your teaching philosophy: your goals for students, your approach, what you value, how you work with students, etc. You should include a formal statement of teaching philosophy as part of your portfolio. But before you write that statement, make sure you really know what your own philosophy is first! Sit down and reflect, and then share your findings with people who know you well, especially if you have a teacher or mentor you can turn to. It will help you throughout the job search process in understanding the best options for you and presenting your best self in the job interview.

Related: 11 Essential First-Year Teaching Tips

Make sure to consider these three elements as you plan your job search activities. Knowing the where, when, and how of your job search will help you better understand yourself as a teacher and how you can best serve the students and school where you eventually get your new position.

For more advice to help you through the beginning of your teaching career, check out our Education and Teaching section.

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