After working as a teacher for three years in the same school district that educated me, I resigned in February 2021. I’d been weeping, constantly, for months: when the alarm went off, while listening to my students describe their fears and anxieties during class, in the car on the way home from work, during meetings with my colleagues. I couldn’t do the job—which I loved more than any job I’ve ever had—anymore.
COVID-19 has affected every aspect of life and work. Among the hardest hit industries were healthcare and education. Being a teacher is a stressful job on a good day, but during the pandemic, teachers have had to battle lax hygiene protocols, exacerbated workloads, sudden switches to remote learning, and malfunctioning technology associated with virtual teaching, all while continuing to prepare lesson plans, grade homework, and take care of their own loved ones. The ensuing chaos, according to the National Education Association, is causing a 55% of educators to consider leaving the profession in 2022, up from 37% in August 2021. Worse still, Black and Hispanic educators, who are already underrepresented in the field, are even more likely to consider leaving (at 62% and 59% respectively).
If you’re a teacher who is struggling as I did and considering making a change, I hope this will help you. The following is a list of 14 jobs teachers can transition to if they’re leaving the classroom—whether you want to stay in education or not—followed by a few tips to help you pivot and land a new gig.
And maybe someday, when teachers get more respect for the Herculean work we do for this country, we can all rejoin the classroom with the resources, unions, and salaries we deserve.
1. Educational sales representative
Average salary: $55,000
Pay range: $43,000–$85,000
I know, I know. “I have to sell things?!” But isn’t that what we do in a classroom? We sell our students on the ideas of cooperation, compromise, sharing, negotiation, learning, hard work, and success. All this job requires is transferring those same methods into selling a variety of things school districts need: software, logistics services, remote learning strategy packages, consulting services, supplies and equipment, and more.
Average salary: $52,019
Pay range: $25,000–$182,000
We’ve already covered the fact that teachers know how to sell. If you’ve always been an HGTV devotee or had an itch to help folks buy their first, second, and/or dream home (or sell a house for that matter), working as a realtor might be the perfect next move for you. This job is all about interpersonal skills: You built trust with your students and you can do the same with property buyers and sellers. Most states require a certification, so keep that in mind if you consider this path.
3. Educational consultant
Average salary: $67,288
Pay range: $41,000–$203,000
While the specific work a consultant is tasked with can vary from client to client—whether those clients are school districts or individuals—it’s a job that’s a great fit for teachers, who have the most immediate and relevant experience necessary to do the job well. You may be asked to provide curriculum guidance, classroom management strategies, and/or insight into the socioeconomic and extracurricular needs of students. The most money likely rests in helping students prep and submit college applications.
4. Grant writer
Average salary: $50,178
Pay range: $36,000–$84,000
In this role you’re likely to have a few main responsibilities: researching, writing, and submitting grant proposals to help secure funding for operations and special projects and, if the proposal is accepted, monitoring and reporting on how the money is spent at your org. For teachers, who are used to seeking funds from administration, tracking the money they spend on their own classrooms, employing persuasive tactics and research to further strengthen their requests for resources, grant writing could come naturally.
5. Standardized test developer
Average salary: $70,000
Pay range: $40,000–$85,000
A teacher’s skills in planning, careful research, and excellent written and verbal communication lend themselves well to test development. You might have to conduct research to pinpoint which knowledge and skills to test and how, write and edit questions, proofread and fact-check testing materials, and collaborate with other stakeholders to create and implement tests. I can picture your reaction. “Why would I want to work for the thing that drove me and my students up the wall?!” Change can come from within, and we can take part in improving the nature of standardized exams to make them more relevant and less punitive.
6. Human resources (HR) manager
Average salary: $70,031
Pay range: $46,000–$99,000
Human resources jobs can land you in a huge variety of workplaces (startups, corporations, government agencies, financial organizations, healthcare institutions, etc.). Depending on the role, team, and department, you might handle administering and answering questions about benefits, setting and negotiating compensation, listing job postings to forums and recruitment websites, screening applicants and conducting interviews, onboarding and training employees, implementing healthy workplace culture, and more. HR requires several transferable skills from teaching, including supporting and communicating with various stakeholders, assessing people’s strengths and weaknesses and establishing healthy, positive environments.
7. Learning specialist
Average salary: $60,046
Pay range: $39,000–$92,000
As a learning specialist, you could be working with a variety of institutions, including universities, financial organizations, and government agencies. Your duties can include getting new hires up to speed when they first arrive in the workplace, training existing staff to use new technologies, and in some cases working directly with customers to share info on products or services your organization offers. These tasks are not dissimilar to drafting lesson plans, adapting teaching and communication approaches to different students, learning and helping students learn to use new education software and tools, and problem-solving with your fellow teachers.
8. Curriculum developer
Average salary: $68,045
Pay range: $45,000–$99,000
Did your district, city, or state curriculum bother you? Has it literally kept you up at night? Have you spent inordinate amounts of time editing, rearranging, or straight up ignoring the official curriculum? I know that when I taught high school English, I changed text selections to make them more modern and culturally relevant and also incorporated life skills and current events into my lessons. This role is your chance to make better curricula for all your teaching comrades. You, as a teacher, have firsthand experience in how lessons land with students, how best to make them effective, and what tends to be missing. You’ll develop materials and activities for students and share instructional guides and methods for other teachers. If you have advanced degrees, it may even be possible for you to help develop curricula beyond K-12 at community colleges and universities. You could also take these skills to the corporate world to help develop training programs.
9. Marketing coordinator
Average salary: $46,238
Pay range: $33,000–$60,000
It may not seem like a natural fit, but marketing draws on many skills educators rely on. Creativity, diligence, communication, and the ability to manage complex projects with multiple stakeholders are all valuable to any firm that wants to improve or expand its marketing strategies. As a marketing coordinator, you might focus on a specific aspect of marketing—such as social media, email, search engine marketing (SEM), e-commerce, or content marketing—or you might be a generalist supporting efforts in all of these areas. You may need to take a couple of continuing education courses to hone digital marketing skills that are relevant to the particular position.
10. After school program director
Average salary: $52,392
Pay range: $34,000–$78,000
What support do children have when they leave the four walls of a classroom? As an after school program director you can shape the way kids spend their non-eight-hour grind: arts and crafts, board games, clubs—maybe even a community garden! This position may also include outreach to nearby schools and community members, recruiting volunteers, soliciting donations from local businesses, and organizing events around holidays.
Average salary: $51,065
Pay range: $34,000–$92,000
Whether you represent a company or an individual, it is your duty as a publicist to ensure that your client is always seen (and seen positively) by their audience. Publicists work with corporations, financial institutions, various government departments, artists, writers, even school districts. You might handle your client’s social media activity, write and send out press releases, and coordinate media interviews and speaking engagements. Teachers who excel at organization, writing, and—perhaps most importantly of all—tact, might find publicity work a great venture once they leave the classroom.
12. Academic adviser (community college/university)
Average salary: $45,305
Pay range: $34,000–$58,000
Here’s an ideal fit for teachers who want to continue working with students, but outside the bounds of a classroom. As an adviser you’d be answering questions about scheduling, courses, internships and jobs, grades, majors, and more. There is no limit to the variety of questions you might be asked by college students who are wholly responsible for their own education for the first time. Various specialties may help you narrow down which type of advising work you’re interested in: graduation requirements, freshmen or first-generation students, scholarship opportunities, academic standing, etc.
Average salary: $50,715
Pay range: $25,000–$78,000
Did you teach a language other than English in the classroom? If you have a native or similarly stellar proficiency in another language, working as a translator could be an ideal profession for you. Translators convert communications from one language to another and often help explain relevant context, culture, and customs. They can work for a huge range of organizations, including but not limited to hospitals and clinics, banks and other financial organizations, government bodies (courts, immigration, schools, etc.), colleges and universities, and book and other publishers.
14. Adult education teacher
Average salary: $48,492
Pay range: $35,000–$78,000
Still want to teach, but want to get out of K-12 schools? As an adult ed teacher you’ll teach largely adults, ranging in age from 18-60+. Some will be preparing for their GED; others, if they’re new to the U.S., might be taking ESL night classes. You’ll be in charge of attendance, lesson plans, assignments, tests, grades, and coordination with your colleagues, minus the confines of a school district.
Teachers, use these tips to help you pivot to other jobs
Here’s some advice to help you in your career pivot and job search:
- Identify your “points of passion:” Just because you’re leaving the classroom doesn’t mean you hated every aspect of your job. I certainly never did. So as you explore what your next step might be, “Determine the parts of teaching you love best,” says Muse career coach Barb Girson, founder of Beyond Sales Tactics and a former teacher herself. She calls these “points of passion” and says they can help you find a new role that’s the right match for you. “If you love being in front of the classroom and imparting your knowledge, you might think about what training [or other] roles would leverage front-of-the-classroom speaking skills,” she says, whereas if research and writing are what really get you going, you might look for roles that center those skills instead.
- Consider setting, hours, and demographics: Stepping away from the classroom is a great opportunity to think about your preferences and priorities. So beyond what you’ll be doing, think about who you want to work with, where, and when, Girson says. Do you want to keep working with kids? What age? Or would you prefer to work with adults? Would you prefer a traditional corporate environment or a scrappy startup? Do you want to work remotely or in an office?
- Reach out to your network: I can’t be the first person to tell you it’s not what you know, but who. So see if you know anyone who works in a field or at an organization you might be interested in pursuing. Check your LinkedIn connections and ask around to see if friends know anyone they could introduce you to. And set up some informational interviews—which can help you pick a direction, get advice on how to pursue that path out of teaching, and maybe even get a few referrals. (I’ve found that people are very eager to help out teachers leaving the classroom!)
- Pinpoint your strengths: “Mine past compliments from stakeholders: students, parents, staff, administration,” Girson says. “What recognition or awards have you received?” In addition to figuring out what you’re most passionate about, looking at praise and feedback you’ve received as a teacher “might help give people a broader view of what they can bring to their next position.”
- Highlight your transferable skills: Teachers bring plenty of useful skills and experiences to the proverbial table for a variety of jobs outside the classroom. “Peel back the curtain on what you did as an educator and/or teacher and identify the specific competency or strength that was responsible for your end product,” says Muse career coach Debra Raybold, founder of That Essential Spark. “For example, teachers, educators, and professors are often very strong at synthesizing large amounts of information and presenting [it] in ways others find easy to grasp, and are experienced and savvy at storytelling and engaging emotions around data.” Make sure you showcase the transferable skills relevant to the roles you’re now applying to on your resume, in your cover letter, and in your interviews—and be ready to share examples of how you’ve used them to achieve results.
- Tailor your language and story: Every field and industry has its own lexicon. If you’re looking to transition out of teaching or out of education entirely, make sure you edit any education-specific language to be “agnostic” or to match your target roles, says Muse career coach Andrea Gerson, founder of RS Works and Resume Scripter. Her fellow coach Barb Girson echoes these thoughts, encouraging former teachers to “shape your story to the new setting.” Rather than hoping people will connect the dots themselves, make it easy for them to imagine you using your skills at their organization using language that’s familiar in their field and industry. So in your interviews, for instance, you might talk about “participants” or “audience” rather than just “students.”
- Consider working with a coach: “You don’t have to do it alone,” Girson says. If you feel stuck or could otherwise use some personalized help, “Reach out and find a match that can support you on your journey.” And while any good career coach should be able to help you, you may want to find a teacher-turned-coach, like Girson herself, or a coach who has experience helping teachers pivot into other roles.
When I left my classroom and my students, it felt like someone had ripped my heart out and wrung it out. But I no longer cry daily, and I’m still in my students’ lives. We text. I help them with job applications and vaccine appointments. I still care about them deeply. But life is too short to work a job that treats you like a discarded piece of gum stuck on the bottom of a shoe. A new job, away from the classroom, may be the beginning of a different—and better—journey.