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Your Guide to Becoming a Post-Secondary Teacher

When most people think of teachers, they imagine the hard-working men and women who teach children or teenagers in elementary schools and high schools.

While teaching at this level can be very rewarding and fulfilling, many individuals are interested in pursuing a teaching career at the college or university level. Called post-secondary teachers, these people require specific education and training before they can find employment.

However, the salaries and benefits often make it worth the effort. If you enjoy teaching others and you want to reach the top of the academic field in your own career, then discover more about what post-secondary teachers earn, what the job growth looks like for their field, what kind of education is necessary.

Quick Facts: College Teacher Industry
Median Pay:   $76,000 per year | $37 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   322,000

College Teacher Occupations:

  • Business teachers, postsecondary$74,090
  • Computer science teachers, postsecondary$72,010
  • Mathematical science teachers, postsecondary$65,190
  • Engineering teachers, postsecondary$94,130
  • Biological science teachers, postsecondary$74,580

Where Post-Secondary Teachers Work

Almost every post secondary teacher in the United States, or roughly 1.3 million according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, works in an educational institute or facility of some kind, and the overwhelming majority find employment in colleges and universities. However, a small portion of post-secondary teachers work in a training capacity for a large business or a hospital, where they might train new employees in their field.

As you might expect, post-secondary teachers teach, and they focus on the subject matter in which they are most experienced. Professors may teach entire lecture halls of freshman students about English literature, and lecturers may teach a small course in auto repair at a vocational training school.

College teachers are employed in nearly every area of study, which means that whatever your interests may be, you could find a career within the field.

Educational Requirements for Post-Secondary Teachers

There are three ways to become qualified for a career as a post-secondary teacher. The first option is to earn a bachelor's degree and then gain many years of experience within a particular field.

For some vocational training schools, this level of education is sufficient, and experience is the major component in the equation. If you have the ability to teach others a skill you possess, whether that is woodworking, dance or poetry, demonstrated success in the field is vital.

The second way to become a college teacher is with a master's degree in your field. This is most helpful for those who want to become college instructors, and it typically takes students five years to complete both the master's degree and the undergraduate bachelor's degree.

Teachers with Master's degrees can teach on the community college level or find employment as online instructors in their specific field.

The final way to secure a college teaching position is with a doctoral degree. A college professor, by definition, is someone with a Ph.D., and this degree may be required by some hiring managers in large universities and colleges.

A doctoral degree may take several years to complete, but many students can work as research assistants or college teaching assistants at the same time. Many educational degrees can be earned online through an accredited college or in a traditional campus setting.

Characteristics of the Most Successful Post-Secondary Teachers

With the right degree and training, nearly anyone with the drive and motivation can work in post-secondary education. However, there are a number of characteristics that are found time and time again among the most successful college teaching staff.

Excellent communication skills is perhaps the most important trait in a great college professor or lecturer. Simply knowing a lot about something won't help your students unless you also know how to express information to them in a way that they can understand, easily process, and then remember.

Great post-secondary teachers are also committed to their students, and they should be accessible through email or regular office hours in order to help, guide and advise studnets as needed.

Typical Salaries for Post-Secondary Teachers and Professors

Trying to pin down the average salary for post-secondary teachers in America is possible, but that number does not always accurately reflect the earning potential for someone in the field. According to the BLS, the median salary for a post-secondary teacher in 2012 was $68,970.

However, it is simply not fair to place the salary of a college professor with tenure in the same category with a lecturer holding only a master's degree. Having a doctoral degree in your field undoubtedly raises your earning potential, and so does living in a large metropolitan city where salaries are typically higher than average. Finally, the subject in which you specialize can influence the salary.

The high-paying fields in post-secondary education include that of law, engineering and economics, while the lowest-paying fields are foreign languages, criminal justice and education.

Job Growth Predictions For Post-Secondary Education

Education is a field that has a long history and there is no question that people will always be interested in expanding their knowledge and learning more. Fortunately, BLS predictions line up with that idea, and they forecast a 19 percent growth in the field as a whole between now and 2022. For anyone seriously considering an advanced career in education, this is fantastic news.

The creation of 236,000 new teaching positions means that there will be more opportunities to find a position that you truly enjoy, and it may translate to a less competitive job market. The areas of post-secondary education that are forecast to experience the greatest demand include that of biology, philosophy, religion and cultural studies.

Similar Careers in the Same Industry

Even after you have chosen to earn a master's degree or even a doctoral degree, there will still be a number of career opportunities that exist outside of post-secondary education. Those with a desire to work in education might become college administrators or bursars, and others may train employees in the private sector.

Otherwise, you can pursue your individual subject of study, whether that was law, biology or English literature, in order to become a lawyer, paralegal, biological research or author.

In order to become a post-secondary teacher, extensive formal education at the undergraduate and graduate level is typically required. However, the effort is often worth the fulfilling career choice that comes with a number of benefits. Learn how you can advance your degree in education online.