Underemployment Is No Substitute for a Teaching Career


Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics says jobs in education are projected to grow by 13% through 2018, obtaining work in the teaching field can still be difficult, depending on the state in which you live. Many states, including Michigan, New York and California have been forced to cut state and city workers in order to eliminate budget deficits – and teaching jobs have been lost in the process.

In this first-person account, obtained through Seed.com, AOL's freelance network, Paul Ruth shows what challenges some promising college graduates are dealing with as they start out underemployed in the pursuit of a career in the education profession.

When I graduated from college in the summer of 2008 with a degree in English with honors, and a certification to teach high school, I had no idea what the future had in store. I live in the Detroit, Michigan area, and although it was not the best time for jobs, there seemed to be plenty to go around. At the time, some teachers were even being hired before they graduated.

I felt confident about finding a job. I was excited at the opportunity of having my own classroom and helping students to read and write at higher levels. Then it all happened. The recession and the ensuing economic collapse smashed opportunities. There were more than 30 full time teaching jobs at the start of August 2008 in the Metro-Detroit area. By the end of the month, there were about five. Most of the jobs had been placed on hold, or flat out canceled. School districts began laying off teachers because of enrollment issues, state cutbacks, and a decrease in education funding.

I ended up having to accept a substitute teacher position, a natural stepping stone the education field. However, the county that I live in mostly relied on an outside contract system for hires, which does not allow substitutes to work their way into the district.

Although I was fully certified to teach full-time, I had to substitute for teachers who were hired during boom times and had gone into education as a last resort. Many times, I would have to teach lessons I came up with myself because the teacher I substituted for did not care enough to leave any lesson plans. My experience became even more painful when students would tell me that I was a much better teacher than the teacher I was subbing for, and that their regular teacher did not even teach! Students would tell me horrifying stories of teachers just assigning chapters to read and that's all.

Unfortunately, I graduated at the start of the downturn and I've become discouraged with all the continuing layoffs and budget cuts. I am underemployed, and I receive no assistance from the government. Yet what hurts the most is that about half the time I fill in for another teacher, I know I could be doing a better job.