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Home  > Article

Common Paths in Education

By Erdin Beshimov

Interested in a career in education? Find out more about common career paths in the education industry.

Classroom teaching

One cannot overstate the importance of the education of children, teenagers and young adults in contemporary society.  As the world continuously adopts new technologies and creates radically new spheres for human activity, every new generation faces the challenge of mastering skills and knowledge unknown to previous generations.  Faced with the reality of increasing global integration, children constantly need to be taught new ways of looking at the world.  Responsibility for this vital role rests to a large degree on the shoulders of preschool, elementary, and secondary school teachers. Requirements for teaching jobs vary across age-levels and sometimes across states and school districts. Generally, licensing or certification is necessary, sometimes accompanied by a bachelor's degree and student-teaching experience. 



Education administrators provide instructional leadership as well as manage the day-to-day activities in schools, preschools, daycare centers, and colleges and universities.  Private schools call their administrators 'school directors' or 'headmasters.'


School superintendents manage an entire district, coordinating the activities of all schools in accordance with the standards set by the board of education.  Superintendents select and hire staff, oversee budgets, and perform many other high-level functions.  Superintendents usually carry a Ph.D. but sometimes have a law or business degree. 


Principals coordinate the work of teachers, oversee internal affairs, and communicate with parents and the community.  They are responsible for the performance of their schools, coordinating educational and administrative activities to achieve goals set by the board of education. Principals and assistants principals usually have spent several years in the classroom and often have a master's degrees in education administration. 


School Counseling

School counselors guide students through educational, vocational, social, and personal development.  They work with teachers, parents, and administrations to help students succeed academically, mature as individuals and prepare for college or life after school.  School counselors can advise teachers and parents on child development issues and behavioral management techniques, and help at-risk students address their problems and improve their academic standing.


Elementary and middle school counselors emphasize individual and small group counseling, and provide tips for building learning skills and a healthy lifestyle. 


High-school counselors place greater emphasis on further education and career exploration.  They advise students on different colleges and degree programs, help them fill out applications and financial-aid forms, and sometimes even take students on college tours.  Counselors also provide instruction on careers and job-search techniques for students interested in getting full-time jobs after high school.


Most schools prefer to hire counselors with a master's degree in counseling, educational psychology, or other related fields.  With additional education, they can become school psychologists, social workers, or administrators. 



Professors teach, do research, and advise students at two- or four-year colleges and universities.  The importance of these roles depends on the school.  On average professors spend 10 to 12 hours a week in the classroom; the rest of their time is spent participating in faculty meetings and serving on committees, and perhaps doing a little research-related business on the side. 


At strong research universities, professors are expected to make substantial contributions to the advancement of knowledge.  In less research-intensive universities and small liberal arts colleges where teaching is a priority, they spend more time teaching and advising.  This variance between schools can be seen as a bonus, for it gives aspiring professors many options to find exactly what they want.


Unless they teach at community colleges, professors must hold doctoral degrees in their fields and in many cases must have completed two to three years of postdoctoral fellowship. The academic advancement track starts with instructor, followed by assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor.  Full professors can further advance to department chair, faculty dean, provost, or ultimately college or university president.  Advancement is based on the record of teaching and research and contribution to community and university life. 

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