Career Change Guide: Becoming a Teacher

There is a dire teacher employment crisis in the United States. Nearly 9 in 10 public school districts struggled to hire teachers for the 2023-24 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

NCES, the federal data-collecting arm of the U.S. Department of Education, surveyed 1,300 K-12 public schools in August 2023. Survey results indicate that school officials nationwide had difficulty hiring educators for vacant positions and reported many potential hires were deterred by low salaries.

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) reported a shortage of 64,000 educators in primary and secondary schools nationwide during the 2015-16 school year and predicted the demand would grow to 316,000 new teachers needed every year by 2025.

During the Great Recession, average class sizes increased nationally due to teacher layoffs. Another side effect was diminished interest in education as a profession. According to LPI, there was a 29% decrease from 2010 to 2014 in high school seniors who wanted to pursue a career in education.

In the years since the Great Recession, schools have had trouble filling key teaching positions, including in science, English as a second language and special education.

As such, there are plenty of open positions available to those who want to teach.

Demand for Teachers

In the United States, more teachers and schools are needed each year to address shifting demographics, and school districts are having trouble keeping up.

Shortages continue for educators trained in subjects that have been difficult to fill since the mid-2000s – special education, science and foreign languages.

While the NCES survey indicates that staffing issues have progressed since last year, high-poverty districts continue to experience widespread educator vacancies and significant understaffing.

For the start of the 2023-24 school year, more than 45% of all public schools reported feeling understaffed, only slightly improving from 53% of schools with a similar experience during the previous school year.

The Learning Policy Institute identified four factors that have led to teacher shortages in the past two decades, including declines in teacher preparation, attempts for districts to restore pre-recession pupil-teacher ratios, increasing student enrollment and higher teacher attrition.

Special Education

One subject area with a dire national teacher shortage is special education. In California, according to LPI, one study revealed that 48 percent of new special education teachers in 2015 lacked complete preparation for teaching, an alarming discovery given how much attention and care special education students need.


During the 2015-16 school year, 40 states and the District of Columbia did not have enough science teachers to fill vacancies. Since 2000, more than 10 percent of schools have reported serious difficulties filling mathematics and science vacancies, according to the LPI report.

English as a Second Language

Bilingual instructors are also in short supply. More than 30 states reported they didn’t have enough educators to teach English as a second language classes.

Changes in Supply and Demand

The demand for more educators has increased as schools start to lower pupil-to-teacher ratios and reinstate programs eliminated during the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between 2009 and 2013, the estimated number of required teachers across the country each year dropped from around 250,000 to about 175,000. During the Great Recession, there was actually a surplus of available teachers.

However, after that, the demand for new teachers increased sharply, soaring back to 250,000 in less than a year. However the supply of teachers fell, and the LPI study estimates that the total will continue to fall.

The hiring push comes at a time when teacher attrition is high and preparation program enrollments are down 35 percent nationwide over the past five years — a decline of nearly 240,000 teachers.

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Reasons to Become an Educator

With so many educational openings nationwide, there are plenty of reasons to consider a career change and become a teacher.

  • Motivate students to go for their dreams. Educators play an influential role in the lives of children, and as a teacher, you have the opportunity to help students become future successful leaders in their industries.
  • Achieve a sense of purpose in your life. In other jobs, your work may not always lead to a net positive once a project is concluded. But as a teacher, shaping and teaching the next generation means you can impact the future in a meaningful way.
  • Be a role model. Many students today do not have positive role models in their lives. As a teacher, you can be someone students look up to and want to emulate. One teacher can make the difference between a student who doesn’t take his or her education seriously and one who does.
  • Prepare children to be world citizens. At school, many students learn the social skills and manners necessary to become good citizens in everyday society. As a positive example, teachers can lead children and instill in them the skills they need to be productive members of society. As a positive example, teachers can lead children and instill the skills they need to be productive community members.
  • Learn about yourself. Becoming a teacher can lead to remarkable personal growth. Teaching the country’s future leaders is a big challenge, and connecting with students can help you learn about yourself.
  • Find your passion as a teacher. Many people often report feeling stuck and unsatisfied in their current jobs. As a teacher, by impacting and changing lives for the better, you may find a career in which you enjoy going to work every day.

Becoming a Teacher

There are a number of requirements to become a teacher in Kentucky. A state law known as option 6 — the University-Based Alternative Certification — has made changing careers and becoming a teacher easier than ever.

The statute reads: “With the approval of the Education Professional Standards Board, a university may provide an alternative program that enrolls students in a postbaccalaureate teacher preparation program concurrently with employment as a teacher in a local school district.” Students in the program are granted a one-year provisional certificate to teach if they participate in a teacher internship program. Once the program is completed and all EPSB requirements are met, these new teachers receive their full professional certificates.

Pursuing a Teaching Career

Campbellsville University offers three fully online master’s degrees to enter the teaching profession. The online Master of Arts in Teaching (P-5), online Master of Arts in Teaching Middle Grades (5-9), and the online Master of Arts in Teaching Grades 8-12 can be completed in as little as one year, with flexible schedules to allow you to pursue a career in teaching. Campbellsville professors provide real-world experience in the classroom, helping you develop the necessary skills and tools you’ll need to shape the next generation of students. Online Bachelor of Science in Special Education Learning Behavior Disorders (P-12), Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education (P-5), Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education, Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, and Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education programs are also now available.