Back to School for Career Changers: Jobs You Could Land in Your Local School System

As the second half of summer unfolds, kids and parents begin to anticipate the new school year.  And much as we hate to give up our beach days, our lemonade stands, and the sheer joy of sleeping in on a Wednesday morning, there’s something uniquely thrilling about the first day of school – like a New Year’s Eve for students.

School can provide a fresh start for grown-ups, too.  In fact, school can sometimes be a great destination for career changing parents.  If you’re not currently making the most of your professional experience or your original college degree, you might be a welcome addition to your local school system.  Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic aren’t the only areas needing coverage in today’s schools.  And with this tough economy, many workers are finding that “recess” sure beats “recession.”

The following paths represent just a few of the possible school-based, employment transitions.  (Check your state’s department of education website for more details on if/how you can become certified.)

From RN to School Nurse

Nursing is a great career.  And the pay is often quite competitive.  Still, if you’re a working parent, overnight shifts and highly stressful cases can take a toll on your health and happiness.  RNs who need a break from intense clinical settings might enjoy work in a school system.

School nurses are always prepared for emergencies and critical care situations, but their daily routines – dispensing students’ medication, bandaging cuts and scrapes, screening for lice – are far more relaxed than those of hospital or eldercare nurses.  Further, if you’re working on your RN to BSN, you might find that a school schedule better accommodates the demands of working and studying.  (For certification purposes, some states require that school nurses already possess a bachelor’s degree in nursing.)

From Construction Worker to Vocational Teacher

In the last few years, construction jobs have taken a nosedive.  According to the BLS, construction work saw little recovery in 2010, after a sharp fall from 2007 to 2009.  If you’re one of the many who can’t find steady opportunities in construction these days, you might want to consider vocational teaching.

Unlike teachers of academic subjects, many states’ vocational teachers aren’t required to hold bachelor’s degrees – at least not right away.  States will often certify tradesmen and women, who have 3 or 4 years of verifiable experience in construction, carpentry, HVAC, masonry, electrical work, and many other areas.  (For voc teachers, some states do require a handful of college courses in subjects like English Immersion, the U.S. Constitution, or multicultural studies; you can often complete these online, within 2 or 3 years of your provisional certification.)

From Unemployed Psych Major to Psychology Teacher

Psychology is a very popular undergraduate major.  Surveys show that in 2007-2008 there were nearly as many bachelor’s degrees awarded in psychology as there were in education.  And while every child needs a teacher, a much smaller portion needs psychologists.  The result, as you’re probably well aware, is that it’s tough to land a job – or even a spot in a Ph.D. program – with a B.A. in psychology.

But if you’re open to the idea of teaching, your bachelor’s degree is an invaluable asset.  You could teach psychology at the high school level, or possibly a subject that you minored in, provided you’re able to pass your state’s basic skills and subject assessment exams.  Alternative teacher licensure programs can help you complete the necessary teacher training, oftentimes while you’re working under a provisional license.  You might also try an online education degree – either a master’s or a post-baccalaureate program – which can help you acquire long-term licensure in some states.

Again, anyone considering employment in a public school system should consult his or her state’s department of education website.  States are making it easier for professionals to transition into classroom roles, but there are still specific requirements to be met.

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