For as long as I can remember, my son has dreamed about being an elementary school teacher.
He works at youth camps in the summer. He coaches young kids in soccer. He volunteers in the kids’ program at our church. And, in his Junior year in high school, he was selected to be an assistant teacher for incoming 9thgraders for a semester of math. He loved the experience and soon after, decided on teaching as a vocation.
I would be proud of my son regardless of his choice of vocation. And if he becomes a teacher, I’d be over the moon.
The problem? Teachers’ pay is crap. Especially at the elementary level.
I don’t want to pay a hefty post-secondary bill, just to have him graduate and start working at a fraction of what it cost to send him to school. That just doesn’t seem right.
Don’t get me wrong. I love teachers. I hail from a long line of teachers. My grandparents, my mom and my siblings currently teach in (or have retired from) a career in public education. Everything from elementary teacher to guidance counselor to high school principal to special-needs teacher to post-secondary instruction.
If there was ever anyone who understands the demands and rewards of being an elementary school teacher, it’s my kid.
But it all comes back to the money. Or lack of it.
As we wait for the college acceptance letters, I secretly find myself hoping that he will not get accepted into the education programs to which he’s applied. And I feel guilty about it.
The average starting salary for a 2017 college grad is just under $50,000. But the national average starting salary for teachers is just over $36,000. That’s a big difference.
To help my son decide if he really wants to dedicate his life to teaching, we created a list of the Pros and Cons of the profession.
The Pros of Being a Teacher
Teachers are Life Changers
I still remember all my teachers from school. Not because they were all great teachers, but because they all had an impact on my life.
Without a doubt, teachers are instrumental in shaping not only a child’s education, but their personality, social skills and habits that will stay with them for life.
Great Work-Life Balance
Although most teachers start their days very early, they usually finish early in the afternoon. The parking lot of our neighborhood school is practically devoid of cars by 4 PM. Contrast that with other lines of work where individuals struggle to make it home for dinner by 6 PM. Corporate careers seem to be stretching from a once family-friendly 8-hour per day, to 10 to 12 hours per day. A career in teaching leaves more time for family, friends and other interests.
Vacations and Paid Time Off
There is no other career choice that allows employees summers off, as well as multiple holidays. This is an incredible perk if you are a parent. No more worries about care for school-age children when you have the same holidays as they do.
Although teacher’s retirement perks are not as great as they once were, teachers still have the option to retire in as little as 30 years on the job and get a portion of their pay guaranteed for life. This gives teachers the option to have a Second Act at a relatively young age. I know retired educators who (upon retirement) purchased a winery, sell handmade crafts on Etsy and substitute back in the classroom.
The Cons of Being a Teacher
The money. Only the money. But that’s a big Con.
Why are teachers, who are shaping the next generation, paid so little for such important work?
I wonder if other moms of bright, capable young adults are steering their kids toward more lucrative careers. If so, it’s a shame.
I don’t know how our situation will turn out. My son has a good head on his shoulders and it’s ultimately up to him to choose his vocation. I will support him no matter what he chooses.
But I anxiously wait for those acceptance letters.
Cindy Dye is a wife, mother of 3, blogger of personal finance and former aerospace engineer. She currently spends her time desperately searching for innovative Crockpot recipes because she did not inherit her mother’s cooking skills. Cindy shares her family’s quest for financial independence at Dash2Retire.com.