Benefits of Teaching Certification

America may seem to spend too much time and effort diminishing its teachers. As a career, teaching is sometimes associated with the worst of all worlds: low salaries; a difficult, emotionally trying job; and long hours. These aren't exactly incentives to pursuing teacher certification. Teachers can seem like professionals who endure more than they should, who are not paid fairly, and who are denigrated by the private sector as being bad at what they do.

But, frankly, these stereotypes are simply not true. For one thing, teachers’ starting salaries usually run above $40,000 a year. This pay does not make for a bad living, especially considering the fact that teachers have three months of summer vacation, during which time they can work on other projects, take long vacations, or make more money in addition to their teaching salary.

There are a number of other factors, such as regular promotions, that make teacher pay much more competitive than it seems at first glance. Teachers with certification who are active in the profession for a long time can raise their salaries to an average of around $55,000 per year. That rate is pretty competitive, even when compared to salaries of businesspeople. And when you factor in the 9-month work year, that figure increases substantially in value.

Another benefit of receiving teaching certification is the addition of advanced learning certificates, which are becoming available to master teachers. Though these have typically been undervalued, many contemporary studies are pointing to the importance of continuing education for teachers. In some states, these advanced certificates are already incentivized, adding as much as $5K to the teacher’s base salary.

While teaching does not always pay as well as some business careers, what it lacks in salary it makes up for in job security. With a constantly growing student population, there will always be a need for more teachers. Below is a detailed look at what can make teaching such an attractive profession.

Hours Worked

Why pursue teaching certification? One reason is the benefits, and one of the biggest benefits of teaching certification is the hourly wage teachers earn. Teachers make a considerable amount of money for the amount of time they work. In addition, the number of promotions available to teachers can pave the way for an extremely lucrative career.

In 2004, Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute estimated that over 15,000 teachers in America made above $100,000 per year. Now consider the fact that these teachers only worked for 9 months out of the year! They made as much money as professionals who are considered successful businesspeople, but teachers had a 3-month vacation, significant benefits, and job security.

Benefits of Teaching Certification

Granted, that pay rate is for the cream of the teaching crop. The teachers earning that money had all been in the field for quite a while. The average teacher’s salary at that time hovered around $45,000 per year.

Another way to look at teacher salaries is to compare hourly wages. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that K – 12 teachers make over $30 per hour, which compares quite favorably to a number of business careers, such as accounting. Accountants make, on average, less than $25 per hour.

Given the amount of preparation time required by the teaching profession though, is that statistic accurate? If, say, teachers worked 3 hours per day outside of work, then that would significantly reduce the amount they were paid per hour, because they would make the same amount but would be working roughly 40% more.

Studies, however, show that most other fields incur “homework” just as teaching does; the data suggests that this extra work very closely approximates the average amount of educator homework. The average American workweek is just over 40 hours; a teacher’s official workweek is slightly over 37 hours, with 6 hours of take-home work added on to that weekly.

While 6 hours is not nearly enough time to prepare all of the lesson plans for the week, studies show that the vast majority of preparation work is actually completed at school. The average teacher spent less than half the day teaching in 2000, which provided plenty of time for planning lessons and grading homework while at school.

With this hourly statistic, along with the potential for promotions, teachers do make a decent living. Perhaps that explains why so many professionals in the middle of their careers are leaving the private sector and finding certification programs that will put them in the classroom. The promotions, job security, and benefits of becoming a teacher are now truly competitive in the U.S. job market.

Career Advancement

One of the main benefits of teaching certification is that it enhances career prospects. Teaching certification advances your professional teaching career enough to more than outweigh the cost, effort, and time required by the certification program. Certification usually marks the beginning of a teaching career. Even if you are planning on teaching at a private institution, almost 3/4 of the teachers at private schools have teaching certificates.

Teachers without certification cannot obtain advanced teaching certifications, which can increase pay by considerable margins. For example, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards advanced certificates can, depending on the state, increase pay by $5,000 per year (an 11% increase for a teacher making around $45,000 per year). Additional raises are also available from the institution at which the teacher works.

If you are interested in career advancement and in taking advantage of all the opportunities that the teaching profession has to offer, start by obtaining your teaching certificate.

Job Security

One great benefit of teaching certification is job security. The teaching profession is more secure than many other fields, especially for certified teachers.

Teaching jobs are expected to grow at a rate that is commensurate with the national average. There are exceptions to this rule, though: The Northeast expects teaching jobs to decrease in number, and the Midwest expects no growth. Overall, the growth projection (or lack thereof) does not have a large impact on job security. Due to the fairly high turnover rate, teachers who want to remain in their positions are almost always able to do so. This turnover rate also means that new teachers are more likely to find a job than newcomers to most other professions.

Some point to the high turnover rate as a reason why teaching is an unstable profession. Rather than indicating instability, though, the turnover rate simply means that teaching is not for everybody, even for those who initially believe it is what they want to do. Most teachers thrive on being able to make a positive impact on U.S. youth and are extremely happy with their contributions to society, their job stability, and the type of life teaching affords.

Job security is even better in some subjects for which teachers are in high demand. These subjects vary, depending on state and district; however, there is usually a strong demand for math, special education, and science teachers. In addition to increased job security, high demand places teachers in these subjects in a uniquely powerful position, from which it is easier to advance in career, receive promotions, or transfer locations.

Increase in Wages and Benefits

Why are so many professionals switching, mid-career, to the teaching field? The fact is that earning a teaching certification has never before paid off so well. Due to perceived problems with education in America, education spending has increased significantly since the latter half of the twentieth century. That spending trickles down to teachers, making teachers’ salaries quite competitive with the private-sector job market. For instance, California, a state that is currently immersed in debt, has increased teachers’ salaries by nearly 50% in the last decade. Illinois, Arkansas, and North Carolina are just a few other states that have increased salaries at roughly the same rate. These salaries are expected to keep increasing, making high pay one of the best teaching certification benefits.

This sharp increase may not be the standard across the nation, but the data clearly shows an accelerating pay scale in education. As mentioned previously, this increase is a result of the political debate over American education. Because it is perceived that public schools are not teaching U.S. youth effectively, many governors and state legislatures are signing bills into effect that increase spending in order to fix the problem.

Additionally, federal programs are also working to solve the problem. Many of these programs are coming up with assessment scales; advanced certifications; and ways in which teacher education, wages, and benefits can continue in accordance with the duration of a teacher’s career and the expertise he or she demonstrates in the classroom.

All of these advances have a specific goal: to provide educators with incentives to teach more effectively. Incentives, in the form of federal and state funding, translate to increased pay, additional avenues for career advancement, and a number of other opportunities that teachers can take advantage of to help improve their professional lives. One incentive program, in North Carolina, is currently offering $2,500 in credits to any teacher who receives one of the National Board’s advanced certifications for teaching. This program goes hand-in-hand with a number of other bills to support education in the state. In general, the amount of money teachers can make after receiving this type of continuing education can be as high as $5,000 per year!

Remarkable opportunities such as this are available upon receiving the basic-level teacher’s certification. The certification itself allows even private school teachers more job stability, better performance, and quality assurance. The certification signifies a standard level of performance in the classroom; those who receive it have demonstrated that they understand the requisite subject area and know how to teach it. Employers, private and public alike, look for the teaching certification as a sign that their prospective hire will be able to make it through their first years of teaching.

The starting salary of teachers is quickly becoming the main benefit to having a teaching certification. Salaries now average in the mid-$40,000s, which is competitive with a number of other professions, without even taking into consideration the opportunities for advancement, wage increases, and government incentives.

Results of Non-Certification

Considering a teaching career without receiving teaching certification can be alluring, but it is usually better to go through the education and training. For prospective teachers just starting to consider the issue, the question can seem as simple as either private or public school: If someone wants to teach at a private school that doesn’t require certification, then what is the point of going through all that training?

  • Anyone thinking along these lines may be surprised at the fact that roughly 60% of private school teachers have a teaching certification that also allows them to teach in public schools. There are actually quite a few advantages that make teaching in public school a decent option, even for teachers who know they would rather teach in a private institution. For one, public-school teachers are paid more. There are some exceptions, of course, but overall, public school pays better than private school.
  • Also, with a teaching certificate, you will always have the option of teaching in a public school, which means that you will have more options on the job market. If your boss knows that you have a teaching certificate that allows other options that pay better, you will be in a better bargaining position when it comes time for a pay raise.
Results of Non-Certification

In addition to the above reasons, the training and education for certification can be quite effective in preparing professionals to teach, regardless of environment. Contrary to some arguments, more than personal charisma and general knowledge are needed to be an effective teacher. Teaching methods and specific subject knowledge are only two of the necessary areas covered by certification programs.

Today, a vast amount of resources are being distributed among social science programs and academic studies in order to improve the teaching system beyond its current efficacy. While some routes to teacher certification are better than others, they all adhere to a consistent set of standards that graduate students with a certain level of teaching proficiency recognized by all schools, both private and public.

Last Updated: 05/05/2014

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