Letters from the Dean
Finding a Teaching Job in Tough Times
Over the years, our MAT graduates have done very well when it comes to finding a job. All you need to do is look at state data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The University of Puget Sound consistently ranks as one of the top three programs in the state when it comes to full time teaching placements in the year following graduation. More impressive is our average placement rate: for the last 11 years it’s been the highest in the state at 82 percent. Even in the most recent survey of employment gathered in 2008, when the economy started its downward turn, we were able to place 71% of our graduates in full time positions. Of that group, 96% of them found jobs in the state. Our MAT graduates can and go anywhere in the US and the world, but many choose to remain in the Puget Sound area.
But that’s the past. What about the future?
Think of the challenges of finding work as a teacher as an ocean wave being shaped by three forces. First, there’s a strong current that we read about almost every day. It’s the way the recession has battered state budgets, and in turn, how it has dramatically affected school districts and their opportunities for new hires. As the economy improves, tax revenues will rise, and districts will work their way back to where they were before 2008. If the past is any guide, this force that shapes the wave will be temporary, and those who are now studying to become a teacher will be in the best position to compete for these new positions as the recession subsides.
The second force shaping our wave is even bigger in magnitude and more enduring. There are over 3.8 million teachers in this country, and in 2008, 1.3 million of them were over the age of 50. In fact, the most common age of a teacher in today’s schools is 58. Some project that as many as half of today’s workforce will retire by the end of the decade. The current gloomy state of the economy has kept many teachers working longer than they expected, and as conditions improve, many teachers may retire sooner than employers have anticipated. For those who want to become a teacher, this news offers considerable hope for joining the profession.
The third force is under the surface, and it is somewhat invisible to those of you thinking about teaching as a career. As the country prepares for a new infusion of teachers into the schools, many different organizations are calling for higher standards. For example, our state is moving toward a Teacher Performance Assessment for all newly certified teachers. This will be a rigorous exam requiring extensive written reflection and even video clips of actual classroom instruction. Other organizations, particularly at the national level, are pressing their own standards for what constitutes a highly qualified teacher.
These three forces – the current economy, our aging teacher workforce, and the call for higher standards – all point to one primary consideration for those who plan to become teachers: the greatest opportunities for success in the profession will belong to those who are best prepared. Our experience at the University of Puget Sound tells us that as times change and as the demands for higher quality become louder, we educate the kind of teacher that school districts want to hire. For well over a decade we have had one of the best placement rates in the state. To be sure, in the last couple of years some of our graduates have had to substitute teach at first before finding full time employment, but these students have also been at the front of the line as positions have opened. And when the state of Washington requires the Teacher Performance Assessment, we’ll be there at every step to help our candidates with the kind of mentoring and highly personalized instruction that you can’t find anywhere else.
For example, three of our candidates from last year’s class joined four other Puget Sound MAT students at just one middle school in the Tacoma School District. Why were they hired? The school wanted the qualities our graduates are known for: creative, reflective, problem solvers who approach teaching with enthusiasm and skill. This middle school, like so many schools in this country, needs motivated teachers who know if they have tried A, that there’s a B and a C left to try. Our schools need teachers well equipped to work with others on new and innovative solutions to today’s challenges.
If you are interested in teaching and want to know more about what the future might hold for you, please give us a call. We look forward to learning about your goals as an educator and discussing how a degree from Puget Sound can help you become the teacher you want to be.
Dean, School of Education