The Pros & Cons of Being a Teacher

People are drawn to teach for a variety of reasons, though common among them are: to change the lives of and inspire students and to give back to the community.[1] The education sector encompasses a vast array of different kinds of teachers, encompassing K-12 schools as well as many institutions of higher learning at the college and university setting. In 2018 alone, public schools in the United States employed about 3.2 million full time teachers in the elementary and secondary school setting and taught approximately 56.6 million students. [2]

While education is a necessary public service, it’s also an incredibly lucrative industry, generating revenues upwards of $400 billion in the United States alone. [2] Considering that formal education used to only be available to a small percentage of the population before 1850, these numbers reflect a desire for education that continues to grow, offering more opportunities for new teachers every day. [2] We take a look at the pros and cons of being a teacher below.

How to Become a Teacher

While specific qualifications vary according to state, there are a few requirements that are typically required including:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Completion of state-approved teacher curriculum program
  • Teacher certification or licensing exam
  • Exam that focuses on the subject(s) that will be taught

It is also common for future teachers to shadow and be shadowed in a classroom setting. Often times, a specific amount of hours in a classroom must be logged before passing your exams to pass your courses and/or certification. If you have received your bachelors degree in a subject other than education, you may be eligible to enroll in specialized programs. As mentioned, requirements vary from state to state.

Pros and Cons of Being a Teacher

As in any job setting, there are certainly pros and cons to being a teacher. While a extraordinarily rewarding and impactful career choice, this job positions also comes with its stressors. Let’s take a look at both the pros and cons of being a teacher below.

Summer Vacation

One benefit of being a teacher is the long break that it comes with. You’ll receive the summer off to reset, refresh and prepare for your upcoming school year. This break may also give you the opportunity to work a part-time job to learn new skills and people if you are interested in additional income while you’re out of school. Another way to use this time is to travel at your leisure if you’d prefer to soak up the summer!

Opportunity to Influence

The best benefits of being a teacher are the least tangible. Perhaps the most important benefit is the ability to directly affect and change students’ lives. [3] Many teachers report numerous intangible rewards, such as receiving love and admiration from students, the ability to influence the minds of tomorrow, [4], the freedom to create a work environment they love, and the ability to inspire others. [5].

Teacher Salary

There are also concrete reasons to be a teacher, such as earning a decent living at a meaningful profession. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, as of 2017 in the United States, K-12 teachers earned between $58,000 and $91,000. Many teaching jobs also offer health benefits, and some offer pension plans. [6]

We are also living in a time of increased access to resources and digital tools that can help teachers expand their own knowledge and teaching style [7] as well as help with stress management for teachers.

Cons of Being a Teacher

Of course, even the best jobs come with downsides. There are also many challenges of being a teacher. Education budgets are often the first to be slashed, forcing schools to have to do more with less, putting a greater burden on teachers. They often have to work longer hours or take on too many students to make up for reductions in staff, pay out of pocket for supplies the school can’t fund, or go without supplies. One U.S. Census analysis found that 29 states provided less funding overall per student in 2015 than they had in the 2008 school year. [8]

These burdens trickle down to teachers’ personal and professional lives. They may struggle with sleep, feel overworked, or suffer mood disturbances, which can affect how they teach, as well as their relationships with students and colleagues. [9] Teachers need to be proactive in keeping ahead of their stress and workload in order to be the best at their job. Here are a few of the cons that teachers may face as well:

Lack of Cooperation with Parents

Strong cooperation with parents come with its benefits to students. Implementing consistency outside the classroom as well as the influence of parents’ perspective of education can all make lasting impacts on students. Facing strong opposition or a lack of cooperation with parents can certainly affect the students’ ability to succeed as well.

Problematic Students

Not all students learn in the same way which can present a challenge in and of itself when it comes to creating lesson plans. When you throw in a student who isn’t cooperative or distracting, it can certainly serve as a frustration not only to you as a teacher but to fellow students as well. Deciding on how to address the behavior may take a level of research, parent/teacher meetings and other solutions which may serve as a stressor.

Lesson Plans and Homework

It is not uncommon for teachers to take work home with them. With the expectations of lesson planning and grading papers alone, it’s certainly a time-consuming responsibility. Often, teachers may not be able to find this time throughout the day if they have students in their classroom for the entirety of the day.

How To Be A Good Teacher

The most successful teachers learn to take advantage of stress management tools when they recognize the signs. Studies have shown that such techniques as self-reflection, cognitive restructuring (reframing negative thinking) meditation, massage, and exercise can help break the stress cycle to improve how teachers feel and thus teach. [9]

However, in general, there are some essential skills needed to be a teacher that anyone thinking about this career should build and work on in advance:

  • Resilience
    Resilience, the ability to bounce back from challenges, is essential to being a strong teacher. In order to be resilient teachers need to be able to identify their emotions, look for and tell empowering stories (rather than negative ones), build a support network of peers and colleagues who can show up in troubling times, and remember to practice self-care.[10]
  • Organization
    Organization is simply a necessary key to running a classroom environment where anyone can effectively learn. Organization prevents waste of time and materials, and helps keep students on task. [11]It also provides a strong framework for students to learn, facilitates better classroom management, and gives a teacher confidence in their work. [12]
  • Communication
    Teaching is communicating, in a nutshell. Strong communication skills allow a teacher to effectively reach the greatest number of students at once. Good teachers learn to reduce barriers to communication, hone interpersonal skills and, and listen as much as they talk. Good communication is built upon clear, well-reasoned thought processes. [13]

Is Being a Teacher Worth it?

Teaching can be one of the most rewarding careers a person takes on, or the most difficult, depending upon how you approach it. While there are certainly pros and cons of being a teacher, the impact that you will be making on students is incomparable. Laying an educational foundation prepares them for the future and encourages them to dream of all their potential as well as how to go after it. Teachers certainly hold an invaluable role within all of our communities.

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One comment so far - what can you add?

  1. I am a licensed clinical psychologist (Psy 6501) veteran, and worked with youth in an alternative school in Santa Rosa as the Director for several years. I live in Santa Rosa
    also worked as a Peace Officer.

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