Is Being a Teacher Worth It?

Former and current educators cite lifelong learning and transferable skills as top reasons that teaching is worth it.
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Jessica Bryant
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Jessica Bryant is a higher education analyst and senior data reporter for BestColleges. She covers higher education trends and data, focusing on issues impacting underserved students. She has a BA in journalism and previously worked with the South Fl...
Published on March 29, 2024
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and senior editor for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evalua...
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    55% of educators surveyed in 2021 reported that they were thinking of leaving the profession earlier than planned.Note Reference [1]
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    Low compensation for teachers has consistently been one of the main barriers to entering the field.Note Reference [2]
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    However, recent teacher shortages have left a sizeable demand.Note Reference [3]
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    One former teacher noted the value of the transferable skills she gained from teaching in a classroom.
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    Current and former teachers agree that whether or not teaching is worth it mostly depends on your individual circumstances.

Careers in teaching don't always get the best reputation. In just the last few years, a record number of teachers reported experiencing burnout and average compensation for educators has consistently remained low.Note Reference [1], Note Reference [4]

Despite these strains, teachers often boast about the incomparable experience of getting to educate and influence the next generation of learners.

In this report, we cover the pros and cons of being a teacher and why earning your teaching degree or certification could be the right path for you.

Top Reasons to Get a Teaching Degree or Certificate

Below are just a few of the many reasons why becoming a teacher might be the right choice for you.

Teachers Are in Demand

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) employment projections indicate little to no change in employment for elementary and secondary school teachers over the next decade.Note Reference [5], Note Reference [6] However, nationwide shortages of teachers continue to persist.

In 2023, the average monthly job openings in state and local government education were almost two times the number of hires made.Note Reference [7]

During the same year, a team of researchers calculated that there were at least 55,000 vacant positions in education and more than 270,000 positions filled by underqualified educators across entire the country.Note Reference [8]

Additionally, the BLS projects that between 2022 and 2032, the number of elementary and secondary school teachers at private schools will increase by 7.5%.Note Reference [9]

Right now, schools greatly need educators in specialized areas of teaching.

The number of bilingual and multilingual teachers, for example, has dropped so starkly that in September 2023, the U.S. Department of Education proposed a federal grant aimed at targeting this shortage.Note Reference [3]

Teaching Allows You to Gain Transferable Skills

Whether you intend to pursue teaching as a long-term career or choose to transition into another, one of the greatest benefits of being in the classroom is the skills you develop.

People don't realize that being a teacher, you're making thousands of decisions every day, said Raina Scruggs, a former math teacher at Handley Middle School in Fort Worth, Texas. You're having to adapt, monitor, and adjust; you have to be very organized; you work with data and do progress monitoring and data analysis.

These skills, she says, can be transferred to plenty of other careers, even non-teaching careers in education.

When being in a classroom setting no longer proved to be the right fit for Scruggs, she became a math intervention specialist. This role allowed her to work with struggling students in an individualized setting and provide guidance and professional development for other teachers.

Now, she works in real estate, where she continues to use many of the skills she developed as a teacher.

Prospective Teachers Are Eligible for Unique Federal Grants

If you are entering college knowing that you plan to become a teacher, you can apply for a Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant.Note Reference [10]

This federal grant awards eligible students up to $4,000 a year for their college education. To receive the grant, you must agree to complete a teaching service obligation. This means that you will:

  • Serve as a full-time teacher for four school years at an elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students.
  • Teach in a high-need field (e.g., mathematics, science, foreign language, bilingual education, special education, reading, or English language acquisition).
  • Complete the required four years of teaching within eight years after you graduate.

If you don't complete your teaching service obligation, the grant becomes a loan that you must repay in full, with interest.

Teachers Get to Be Lifelong Learners

The most effective teachers are those who continue to challenge themselves in order to enhance the ways they educate their students.

To do that, teachers must further their own pursuit of knowledge through their actions both inside and outside of the classroom.

For Aimee Rodas, a high school math teacher at Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center in Dallas, Texas, this was essential due to the limitations of her alternative certification program (ACP).

She recalls feeling unprepared much of the time during her first few months of teaching because she did not earn her college degree in education, instead earning bachelor's degrees in math and psychology.

It was hard trying to figure out how to lesson plan and things like that, she said. [My] program was an online program ... so it wasn't hands-on. [It helped] me get the certification. But ... everything I've learned has been from hands-on experiences and being coached by other teachers around me.

Even now, in her sixth year as a teacher, she continues to look at the teachers around her to determine the best methods for grading, classroom management, learning strategies, and more.

I'm not a teacher that's afraid to say I don't know something, she said. I'll be like, I don't know what it is, but I'm going to go figure it out.

One Reason to Consider Pursuing Another Path

It is no secret that teachers in the U.S. are underpaid. Between 2009 and 2021, the average salary for elementary and high school teachers actually declined by nearly 8%.Note Reference [11]

So, it should come as no surprise that as of 2022, most Americans believe that pay is the biggest barrier to pursuing a career in education (69%).Note Reference [2] During the same year in a separate survey of U.S. teachers, most cited compensation as the number one reason they were considering leaving their career.Note Reference [12]

Though salary expectations for teachers can vary greatly by state, level of education, and years of teaching; generally, average salaries for teachers range from $46,400-$71,280 a year.Note Reference [13]

These salaries are not necessarily small, but many teachers argue they don't match the level of time and effort put into the job.

It's just not equitable, said Scruggs. There are so many times I was working ... well beyond work hours [to do the job].

Further, she says it was not uncommon for her co-workers to have to work additional part-time jobs or side hustles just to stay afloat.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, teachers at public schools who had earned their master's degree made an average base salary of $66,960 — 22% more than teachers who earned less than a bachelor's degree but 18% less than the average master's degree holder in the U.S.Note Reference [13], Note Reference [14]

In some school districts, having an advanced degree does not impact a teacher's pay at all.

For [Dallas Independent School District], it's not really important ... they don't pay you more for getting or having your master's, said Rodas.

Is Being a Teacher Worth It?

One thing most current and former educators agree on is that being a teacher is a valuable career that has countless moments of worth. In a 2022 survey of more than 1,800 K-12 educators, 58% cited meaningful work as the top factor driving them to continue teaching despite actually planning to leave the field.Note Reference [12]

Still, most teachers caution that an individual's unique circumstances can make the career more challenging for some than others.

[When I started teaching] I was single, just coming out of college ... [and] still living at home, so I didn't really have many bills to pay, said Scruggs. I had insurance, I had guaranteed retirement. The pay was great at the time, so from a financial perspective, it was worth it to me.

But for the person who maybe has an entire family to support at home ... I would say that there are other opportunities out there [in education], she said.

For Rodas, teaching is worth it thanks to its ability to give her a livelihood while helping her make a direct impact on her students' lives. But that doesn't change the fact that it comes with significant challenges.

Teaching is hard; there's a lot that comes with it, she said. And almost every year that I've taught, [I've considered looking for] a new job.

But, what keeps Rodas in the classroom is the opportunity to work with her students.

I have a lot of patience and understanding for them because they're just kids. Even though I teach high school, they're still just kids, she said.

Despite leaving the field to pursue other opportunities, Scruggs still believes in the power and worth of being a teacher.

I love public education ... and making sure that all students have access to great academics, she said. I think [despite its faults] the industry ... still has a lot of potential.


  1. Survey: Alarming Number of Educators May Soon Leave the Profession. National Education Association (NEA). February 2022. (back to footnote 1 in content ⤶)
  2. Few Americans Would Encourage a Young Person to Become a Teacher. NORC at the University of Chicago. September 2022. (back to footnote 2 in content ⤶)
  3. Proposed Priorities, Requirements, and Definitions-National Professional Development Program. Federal Register, The Daily Journal of the United States Government. September 2023. (back to footnote 3 in content ⤶)
  4. Overworked and Undervalued: Retaining Top Educators. Gallup. February 2024. (back to footnote 4 in content ⤶)
  5. Occupational Outlook Handbook: High School Teachers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 2023. (back to footnote 5 in content ⤶)
  6. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers. Bureau of Labor Statistics. September 2023. (back to footnote 6 in content ⤶)
  7. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed March 2024. (back to footnote 7 in content ⤶)
  8. Is there a national teacher shortage? A systematic examination of reports of teacher shortages in the United States. (EdWorkingPaper: 22-631). Annenberg Institute at Brown University. August 2022. (back to footnote 8 in content ⤶)
  9. Employment Projections. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed March 2024. (back to footnote 9 in content ⤶)
  10. Receive a TEACH Grant to Pay for College. Federal Student Aid: An Office of the U.S. Department of Education. Accessed March 2024. (back to footnote 10 in content ⤶)
  11. Table 211.60. Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected school years, 1969-70 through 2021-22. National Center for Education Statistics. August 2022. (back to footnote 11 in content ⤶)
  12. K-12 teachers are quitting. What would make them stay? McKinsey and Company. March 2023. (back to footnote 12 in content ⤶)
  13. Table 211.10. Average total income, base salary, and other sources of school and nonschool income for full-time teachers in public and private elementary and secondary schools, by selected characteristics: School year 2020-21. National Center for Education Statistics. September 2022. (back to footnote 13 in content ⤶)
  14. Career Outlook: Education pays, 2021. Bureau of Labor Statistics. May 2022. (back to footnote 14 in content ⤶)