4 Family Advantages of a Career in K-12 Education

Choosing a career in K-12 education can be both financially and psychologically rewarding. These four work-family advantages also make education an attractive career choice, especially for parents of school-aged children:

1. A Schedule That Matches Your Kids’ School Schedule

The “in classroom” hours required of teachers typically range from 8-3, and if you have kids in school, this schedule almost perfectly overlaps with theirs. This means that, as compared to those in most other careers, teachers are much more able to be home when their kids are, and are less reliant on after-school programs, babysitters, or paring back to part-time work. This hidden benefit of teaching creates more time for family and reduces child-care expenses.

It is true that teachers bring a LOT of work home- creating and revising lesson plans, developing course materials, planning and grading. However, the vast majority of this work can be done from home and at any time during the afternoon or evening. This time and place flexibility is a major advantage of a career in education.

2. Job Security

Most teachers are part of a public-sector union, and this membership confers the great advantage of enhanced job security.

In most cases, teachers can earn tenure with 3-5 years of good job performance. While tenure does not equal “lifetime employment”, it does protect teachers from the “at will” nature of most other professional positions. To fire a tenured teacher, a school district usually must establish a record of poor performance over time or thoroughly establish financial exigency- hurdles most other employers do not have to clear. (Teachers’ job security is often exaggerated and uncommon abuses of the tenure system such as NYC’s “rubber room” for failed teachers generate headlines and are used for political purposes)

Job security is perhaps the most overlooked and important work-family advantage of a career in education. Job security brings the ability to plan ahead financially, make and set consistent family schedules, establish deep roots in a community, and avoid the stress that comes with not knowing what the future holds. All of this enhances family life.

3. Health Insurance, Pensions and Other Benefits

While teachers typically earn less than those in other professions that require a graduate degree, they usually make up for this deficit with enhanced benefits packages, including better-than-average health insurance plans and defined–benefit pensions.

In general, teachers contribute substantially less out of their earnings for their health insurance than non-public-sector-union employees- often less than 5% (as a comparison, as a professor at a private university, I contribute about 50% to my insurance premiums).

Further, most private-sector employees contribute part of their pre-tax income to 401k retirement plans- the payout of which depends on the amount put aside, investment strategies and the luck of market timing. In comparison, Teachers typically contribute far less into their defined-befit pension funds- the payout of which is typically set beforehand based on length of service. These pensions provide greater income security upon retirement, again alleviating financial stress and allowing for easier long-term planning.

Increasingly, teachers are being asked to shoulder more of the costs for health insurance, retirement income and other benefits. However, they should continue to hold an advantageous position for the foreseeable future.

4. Summers!

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a career in education is the two-month summer break. Obviously, this unpaid time off work allows for more family time and less reliance upon summer camps and other day care options- which saves money. Vacation planning also becomes easier.

In addition, many teachers can choose to teach summer school or pursue temporary or part-time summer jobs, bringing up the family income.

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No matter what your career choice, you would be wise to think through both the obvious factors, such as income potential and psychological rewards as well as the sometimes-less-obvious work-family advantages.  

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a non-profit, accredited, online university. WGU's Teachers College offers multiple online degree programs for current teachers or those looking to become teachers. To find out more, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers_teachers

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