Looking for a career?
Teaching in Georgia can be a great choice, says Deborah Thomas, Georgia Southern University associate dean for undergraduate education and accreditation. As experienced teachers nationwide begin to retire, graduating students are seeing friendlier job markets in all levels of education.
"We're beginning to see jobs open up in Georgia," Thomas said. "A few years back, during the recession, teachers delayed retirement, but that's changed with the improving economy." Most schools in Georgia offer competitive benefits, Thomas added, but the most rewarding part of the job is the chance to make a mark in a student's life. "You can't say that about many jobs," Thomas said.
Here are seven reasons that a Georgia teaching career can make a lucrative choice.
Competitive Starting Salaries: New teachers can expect good salary offers when looking at positions in Georgia. Though most recent graduates should expect a $33,000 to $36,000 starting offer with no experience, schools in the DeKalb County area, for example, offer $41,000. If a beginning teacher has a master's degree, that offer goes up by another $2000 to $5000. "Georgia ranks pretty high in terms of salaries compared with cost of living," Thomas said.
Opportunities for growth: Georgia has recently implemented a tiered certification system that offers teachers the opportunity to use their experience to grow and advance with the potential for promotions and increased responsibility. "As new teachers gain experience in the classroom and have proven effectiveness, the new certification system creates a means to grow with the job," Thomas said. Anyone interested in the certification system can look at the Georgia Professional Standards Commission website.
Guaranteed benefits: Teachers in Georgia all receive retirement benefits and access to health care. "It's nice to be in a career where you have that," Thomas said. "Not every career gets those benefits." Most teachers also receive 10 to 12 days in combined paid personal and sick leave, in addition to six to eight weeks unpaid time off in the summer. Teaching careers are also stable; those who receive excellent yearly reviews are rarely in danger of losing their jobs due to layoffs unless school enrollment drops in an area, Thomas said.
Certain positions in critical demand: Many districts throughout Georgia are looking to fill positions in math and science. In some counties, the need for those teachers is critical. "We have principals calling and asking all the time for recommendations for math and science teachers," Thomas said. Special education and elementary teachers are also in high demand. Georgia Southern has recently started a program where students can receive certification in both early childhood education and special education, to help fill schools' needs.
Plentiful professional development opportunities: During summer, many teachers prepare for upcoming classes. But teachers can also elect to take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by their district or by outside agencies. Many districts, Thomas said, will offer teachers free admission to professional development courses or will offer teachers a stipend for their participation. Some private organizations also offer courses, and many teachers use the summer to take university courses and work on a graduate degree. "Teachers are lifelong learners. Taking courses and honing their skills makes the job fresh and interesting for them, and the students benefit, too," added Thomas. Also taking extra courses shows dedication and may lead to employment benefits later in the teacher's career.
Room to innovate: Some districts require teachers to stick to a strict curriculum of texts. But educators in some schools will find opportunities to introduce themes, materials and projects that dovetail with the subjects they teach, Thomas said. Either way, being a teacher means letting your creative juices flow. "And a teacher almost always has flexibility in terms of their teaching strategy," Thomas said.
Benefits outside the classroom: "Let's face it: teachers are special people," Thomas commented. "They find satisfaction in making a difference in a person's life." That enthusiasm extends beyond the classroom walls. After-school activities, while not always compensated in your paycheck, provides other benefits. Teachers can use their creativity outside their usual subjects, and with after school coaching or being a sponsor of a club, for example, Thomas said these activities allow teachers to network, too. "When you're a teacher," Thomas said, "you're a valuable member of the community inside and outside the classroom."
This article is presented in collaboration with the College of Education at Georgia Southern University. Visit the website for more information on the College of Education and its programs and course offerings.
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