When you're feeling lost between careers....

For career changers who want to jump into the field of education, my experience can be an example of breaking into a system that is getting tighter and more demanding. After six months on this journey, here are the important things to consider before deciding to quit your job to become a teacher.

Know your competitors

Because the teaching profession is localized to its regional laws, competition in different countries and different regions can vary. For example, Canada is saturated with teachers in some provinces, while others are lacking. In Ontario with too many teachers, starting September 2015, all teacher education programs will be completed in two years instead of one. The increased program length hopes to improve job prospects by rebalancing the supply and demand of teachers. While in Newfoundland, it is relatively easy to obtain a teaching license.

Get creative: leverage social media, craft your personal mission, work for schools or organizations that represent your brand.

In saturated provinces, applicants are getting ever more competitive to fight for limited program space. Many candidates have over 1,000 teaching hours, a strong network in the public school system, and recommendation letters from influential people in the school board before attending teachers’ college. For someone who is changing industry, it is stressful to compete.

The competition seems daunting, but there are advantages for applicants who are coming in from a different field of work. Universities will look at your overall application, which includes any industry experience, specific character qualities, and maturity. Matured candidates are often held high in the eyes of recruiters and are seen fit to become a leader in the classroom. It is also important to get creative: leverage social media, craft your personal mission, work for schools or organizations that represent your brand.

Rigorous prerequisite requirements

There are strict prerequisite requirements for teaching degrees. Before quitting your current job, be sure to understand the next steps that will lead you to teach the subject(s) you like. In Canada and Australia, for example, candidates must satisfy requirements for two teaching subjects in order to pursue teacher qualifications. This requires a robust undergraduate transcript with courses geared towards two distinct subjects. In US and England, candidates are only required to choose one teaching subject. It is essential to review your transcript and other certifications to understand what you qualify for, and any gaps between what you can teach and what you want to teach.

Mathematics is a good example: A commerce degree is not considered a prerequisite to Mathematics. Many Canadian and American universities are looking for Math majors. In England, a commerce degree is considered 30% related to Math; you are required to take two additional Math courses before the program start date. Unfortunately, I found no other options for a candidate to demonstrate his/her ability to teach a subject – such as field experience – without the required prerequisites.

For career changers with a business background, there is a growing demand for business teachers in secondary schools. Leading faculties in education – such as Harvard and UBC – are starting to offer business teacher education programs, and a commerce undergraduate degree fulfills all prerequisites.

Types of Degrees

As you are researching on schools and degree programs, you will find a significant difference from region to region, depending on the local education laws.

Frankly, there are many obstacles, but if you are prepared in knowledge, you are able to make an informed decision that will add to your life.

Bachelor’s with teacher certification: Some schools – such as UBC or University of Michigan – offer a Bachelor of Education leading to a teaching certification, but requires an initial Bachelor degree with an appropriate major.

Master’s with teacher certification: Other schools – such as Harvard or Boston College – offer a Master of Education leading to a teaching certification, and requires an undergraduate degree with an appropriate major.

Diploma or certification: Other schools offer a teaching diploma or certification, and requires an undergraduate degree with an appropriate major. Candidates obtain a certification without a degree; it is common in England.

At the end of the programs, all candidates will be qualified to apply for licensure. However, the title of the degree, or the absence of, should be a part of your decision when applying. Because the degrees offered are tied to the province/state/region, carefully consider whether you would like to live and work at the location for the duration of your program and beyond.

Although it has been a challenging journey, the past six months were the most rewarding times yet in my career life. Frankly, there are many obstacles, especially for career changers, but if you are prepared in knowledge, you are able to make an informed decision that will add to your life. I can certainly attest to that.