Long ago Americans decided to have a system of mass education financed with public funds. It was a smart choice. No society has ever managed to attain high literacy rates without publicly supported compulsory education. This smart choice also means millions of professional college trained service jobs. The educational services industry has 14.6 million jobs; that is teaching and all the other jobs at public and private schools as well as trade schools, training academies, tutoring and educational support. Teaching positions in all the public and private schools, and church related schools and preschools total 4.3 million. Education jobs in public and private elementary and secondary schools tend to go up with population growth and do not fluctuate as much with the business cycle as other jobs.
Since teachers have to have college degrees to get certification, teaching provides a double employment benefit. It delays entry into the workforce and also creates additional jobs in college teaching and administration. College teaching has a little over 1.5 million additional faculty jobs. Earlier or younger job seeking would permanently raise the size of the civilian workforce and put significant pressure on the country to meet even higher job requirements. Having people stay in school stimulates spending and teaching employment while reducing the nation's job requirements. Help create jobs, get education.
The median salary for elementary teachers was $53,400 in May 2012, the median salary being in the middle with half above and half below the median. Median salary for middle school teachers is $53,430; for secondary teachers is $55,050. These amounts are less than median salary for registered nurse, dental hygienist, medical sonographer, computer programmer, personal financial advisors, credit analyst, construction manager, air traffic controllers and quite a few more. Salaries adjusted for inflation are up modestly compared to 2006. Salaries in education are modest if compared to other categories of employment.
Teaching an hour in the classroom is at least another hour figuring out what to do and how to make it work. Even though teaching assistants earn barely half a teachers salary it is not unusual for teachers who need more time at home with their families to take a 50 percent pay cut and work for several years as assistants. After all assistants are not responsible for preparing classes and do not have to do crowd control. Teaching assistants work 8:30 to 3:30; teachers have to work twice that much.
Phrasing in teacher contracts assures long work hours. “Teacher shall perform such duties as deemed necessary, shall attend all assigned meetings, shall be present at school during school hours, shall be present at school or other location outside school hours as directed in connection with school events or activities.” Teacher can be asked to come an hour early to meet with the principal and a disgruntled parent and then stay for a collaborative team meeting from 3:30 to 5:30 PM and then prepare for next day’s classes and then update their web page after that. Computers mean faster work, but also more work.
Teaching has the highest total and highest percentage of employment requiring college degree skills of all of service industry employment in any sector of the United States economy. Almost 8.1 million jobs and 63.6 percent of educational employment needs college degree skills, meaning it requires a BA degree or higher to qualify. No other service industry has this many professional jobs. The total includes all the teaching jobs but also librarians, instructional coordinators, counselors, social workers, school psychologists, speech therapists, other support staff and even loan counselors for our indebted college students. It is a comprehensive total. About 3.6 percent of the 8.1 million jobs have managerial classifications.
Still, despite the problems, we have to like teaching. Teaching allows for personal growth, creativity, and the opportunity to shape the future. It assures professional jobs in every state and every community all over the country. With a 115.3 million service jobs to divvy up, educational employment is a big help, but those 14.6 million jobs come to 12.7 percent of all service employment. Education employment in the 1990’s grew faster than the national average so education employment will get relatively more important, but we need more service jobs, lots of them. After subtracting the 2012 education jobs we have 100.7 million service jobs to fill.