The Classroom and Beyond: Impactful Careers for Educators
Education is an inherently impactful career path because a good education can transform lives. This may sound like an overstatement, but education can alleviate poverty and give people the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in life. Indeed, Nelson Mandela famously commented that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
There are many opportunities for educators to change lives, whether it’s by being an inspiring teacher, providing training to support other teachers, or advising policymakers on changes to make schools and education systems more effective.
If you are interested in a career in education, earning a degree is an excellent first step. An MA Education online course offered by the University of Exeter is a great place to start. This master’s program equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to take on leadership positions in education settings from schools to NGOs, and its flexible structure is designed to accommodate learners with existing commitments.
This type of program represents an opportunity for experienced educators to enhance their résumé for professional development, and it is also suitable for those who are looking to move into the education sector from another field.
Although many educators work in a school environment, there are several other fields where knowledge of education is highly valued. Let’s explore the variety of opportunities available to educators and the different ways that a career in education can be an impactful and rewarding choice.
It will come as no surprise that most educators are employed by schools. From helping six-year-olds to spell their first words to preparing teenagers for important exams, schools present opportunities for educators to have a profound impact on the lives of their learners on a daily basis. However, it is important to consider the wide range of educator roles available in a school setting and the different responsibilities that these roles entail. These can include:
- Elementary school teacher
- Secondary school teacher
- Senior leadership
- Principal/head teacher
- Learning support teacher
- Career advisor
- Substitute teacher
Each of these roles offers rewarding opportunities to see the impact of your work in real time, but the type of impact and the level of interaction with learners differs greatly. As a class teacher in an elementary or secondary school, the role of an educator is to inspire and motivate pupils to achieve their full potential. Teachers often get the chance to witness firsthand the positive impact of their efforts. For example, successful management of disruptive behavior can transform a loud and unproductive classroom into a calm and motivated learning environment. These are the types of achievements that can make teaching such a rewarding career.
Meanwhile, roles in learning support offer similar levels of tangible impact, but in a slightly different way. Learning support teachers provide extra assistance to students with behavioral issues or learning difficulties. These students often need additional help to complete their school studies. This might mean that they need extra supervision, one-on-one instruction or adapted teaching methods to suit their needs. Learning support teachers often build long-lasting professional relationships with their students, and supporting these students on a daily basis means that they can have a profound effect on the lives of students who might otherwise struggle to keep up with their education.
Leadership positions in schools represent opportunities for educators to sculpt the learning experience of their students by making big-picture decisions regarding the priorities, structure and personnel of the school. Many senior leadership positions in schools are combined with part-time teaching, so educators in this role can still experience day-to-day interactions with pupils. However, more senior decision-making roles, such as principal, involve little or no teaching. Instead, educators dedicate their time to making decisions regarding the content, teaching approaches, timetable and funding allocation of their educational facility.
Colleges and universities
Opportunities for educators at universities and colleges include advisory and organizational positions, along with teaching positions for educators with specialist knowledge. This is because many university faculties are geared toward producing research in addition to teaching undergraduate and postgraduate students. As a result, most university professors are highly qualified in their own academic field of study but may lack equivalent teaching ability and experience.
Therefore, it is the role of educational consultants and advisors to support professors in their teaching roles by providing training, designing teaching strategies and aiding in the development and implementation of a course’s curriculum. Educational consultants working in a university setting may also organize meetings to gauge students’ satisfaction and ensure that the lectures, seminars and other teaching services are optimized for the benefit of the students.
The expertise of an educational advisor can transform the effectiveness of university instruction, providing students with the best education possible while ensuring that professors are equipped with the confidence and skills to be great teachers. Meanwhile, educators with a PhD — even in the field of education itself — often take on teaching roles in universities alongside their research work.
Employment in an educational consultancy firm allows education specialists to work in a variety of settings with a diverse range of clients. Consultancy firms often cater to individual clients, such as students and parents, along with institutional clients such as school, colleges and policymaking boards.
Although some educational consultants choose to take a generalist approach and advise on a great breadth of fields, most consultants specialize in a particular advisory role. For example, with the globalization of university education and the increased accessibility of universities to international applicants seen in recent decades, many education consultants specialize in helping international students gain a place at world-class universities. This involves working with the student and parents to develop an education plan and ensure the student can access the qualifications needed to meet the entry requirements of their desired higher education institution.
Education consultants who specialize in supporting individuals do not only help international students; they also support students in special circumstances whose access to regular education is inhibited. These could include young athletes, musicians and other young people with time-consuming commitments that disrupt their studies.
Education consultants also work with children of parents whose jobs entail frequent international travel and living abroad, as these children often do not have easy access to consistent school enrollment. In these cases, it is the role of an educational consultant to design a customized education plan to ensure that students are able to gain the best education possible within the constraints of their day-to-day life. Educational consultants working in this field play an essential and rewarding role in the development of each student. This job requires excellent problem-solving skills and knowledge of international education systems.
Meanwhile, education consultants specializing in supporting institutional clients lend their expertise to help schools and policymakers improve their standards of education. These consultants often work for firms and may also be enrolled in professional associations such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Educational consultancy firms and associations provide valuable advice to federal and state administrations, and this means that educational consultants in this field often have an impact on decisions concerning education in the higher echelons of authority.
A good education, alongside other forms of support, can help children and adults to access the knowledge and qualifications needed to thrive despite difficult circumstances. The link between poverty and poor access to education is widely documented, and many NGOs work to improve education for children, teenagers and adults around the globe.
Even in the Global North, standards of education vary immensely depending on factors such as social class; this was made particularly apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are many opportunities for educators in NGOs, and a career in education in the NGO sector promises to be as rewarding as it is challenging.
NGOs that operate in acute emergency zones, including war zones and natural disaster sites, employ educators to provide essential training to those whose lives have been disrupted by violence or disaster. This includes providing schooling for children in refugee camps who would otherwise lack access to formal education.
Language instruction can be particularly important for refugees, especially if they plan to seek asylum in another country. Furthermore, educators can help to save lives in emergency zones by coordinating training programs to spread life-saving knowledge about essential topics such as healthcare, hygiene and personal safety. This is particularly important in refugee camps, where housing arrangements are often very overcrowded and the threat of disease is severe.
Not all education work in the NGO sector takes place in emergency zones, however. Many NGOs help tackle poverty by improving educational standards worldwide through their support for teachers, schools and students. For example, World Learning supports teachers in 150 countries, coordinating exchanges between teachers of different backgrounds so they can share skills and learn from each other’s experiences. World Learning also directly supports schools in developing their curriculum, accessing resources and training teachers. This means students can benefit from optimized education services to gain qualifications.
Meanwhile, CARE is an example of an international NGO with a more generalized mission, with education nevertheless a central tenet of its activities. CARE aims to eradicate poverty globally and provides education programs that take a holistic approach to issues regarding education access in impoverished regions.
For example, this might involve consideration of the economic reasons and gender norms that affect whether a child goes to school. Education experts in this field may operate on a local level, but there are also opportunities for educators to take leadership roles in designing and implementing programs to improve education in a specific area. Regardless of the approach, working in the NGO sector is a key way for educators to contribute to tackling poverty through education.
Education is a key component of rehabilitation programs run by prisons as it can equip incarcerated people with skills they can use to access jobs, enabling them to begin a new life upon their release. In fact, many prisons in the US offer access to postsecondary education, with classes run by local community colleges. Educators can contribute as teachers, inspiring and encouraging prisoners to learn new skills and develop their own interests and learning goals.
Teachers working in prisons must create a productive and safe learning environment despite the security measures mandated by the prison setting, and they must adapt to the variety of ages and attitudes of their students. Furthermore, educators can play an instrumental role in decision-making regarding the nature and content of prison education, which involves a very different set of considerations and priorities than a standard school system.
Regardless of their role, educators in prison environments can significantly impact the lives of incarcerated people when it comes to their mental stimulation and sense of purpose within the prison walls, as well as their life prospects in the outside world. Rehabilitating prisoners through education has been shown to reduce the likelihood of reoffending, and it gives incarcerated people the confidence and skills they need for a fresh start.
A rewarding career
The potential for educators to enjoy impactful careers extends far beyond the examples listed above. The power of education to transform the lives of learners means that educators can work in settings as diverse as refugee camps, prisons and federal policymaking.
When it comes to the impact of each role, it is useful to distinguish between educators who teach and those who have advisory or managerial positions. Teachers tend to see the influence of their efforts on a day-to-day basis, whereas the impact of advisors and decision-makers — while no less important — tends to be less direct. Although working hours, responsibilities and working environments may differ, a career in education promises to be rewarding.