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Even teaching jobs hard to find

Jenna Johnson

The mantra in college (especially among English majors): If all else fails, you can always teach.

But even teaching jobs are difficult to land right now. The New York Times had a story Wednesday about school districts being flooded with thousands of applications for just a handful of teaching jobs.

The story lists several examples: One suburban county received 3,010 applications for seven positions. A Long Island district got 3,620 applications for eight spots. Five special education openings in one town attracted 963 candidates. The bottom line:

The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which once hired thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.

At the same time, teaching has become a wildly popular career option for students, even if they plan on only doing it for a few years.

Last year, 11 percent of all Ivy League seniors applied to Teach for America, according to the Los Angeles Times. The program recruits recent graduates, trains them to be teachers in a five-week course and places them public schools. Teach for America was also the top employer for several top colleges, the paper reports, including Georgetown and the University of Chicago.

Part of the problem is that college graduates are not the only ones looking to break into the teaching profession -- many older adults are making the leap after being laid off or choosing to make a career change. At the same time, many school districts are issuing their own layoffs or freezing hiring.

Post education columnist Jay Mathews wrote a blog post this week about a journalists leaving the profession to become teachers. He spotlights a former Post copy editor who became a social studies teacher, and an ABC News vice president who is studying to be a high school guidance counselor.

A community college in New Jersey was overwhelmed when 500 people showed up for a information session on an alternative teaching certification program, The Star-Ledger reported last month. Organizers had to add dozens of chairs and open up a second conference room.

"There were people there from all walks of life. We had everyone from the guy at the Verizon store who got laid off, to the guy who had been making $220,000 a year at one of the financial houses in the city," said Ilene Kleinman, director of continuing education and community outreach there.
"We must have had 150 people from the financial services industry, people who have lost jobs on Wall Street, lost jobs with big financial houses, who don't want to go through that again. They need to find something that makes sense," she said. "A lot of them think being a teacher makes sense."

The New Jersey Department of Education told the Star-Ledger that there is increasing interest in alternative certification and substitute teaching certificates. And the National Center for Alternative Certification saw a significant jump in teachers certified last year.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  May 20, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Real World  | Tags: Georgetown, University of Chicago  
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