Education is a career that goes back to ancient times. Aristotle, the founder of science (384-322 BC), said “Teachers who educate children deserve more honor than parents who merely gave birth; for bare life is furnished by the one, the other ensures a good life.”

Our society values lifelong education. Children between the ages of roughly 5 and 18 years, depending on the state, must attend a private or public school.
But that is only part of the career potential: Higher education institutions, businesses, and government provide ongoing education; some children need special education; university-bound students hire private tutors; and institutions such as seniors’ residences and prisons offer programs. Thus, applicants with the right skill set, qualifications, and motivation are in constant demand.

All education careers hinge on population structure. For example, a baby boom shifts the newly hired teacher’s rewards to the younger population, but increasing longevity shifts the rewards to teaching older adults.

Let’s look at where some opportunities lie:

Public elementary and high school teaching

Most people think of Teacher (Bachelor’s degree, $40,000 – $55,000) first, because most of us have attended a publicly funded school. But some distinctions are worth observing:

An Elementary School Teacher ( $31,000 – $46,000; 2009 median $41,000) teaches students through Grade Eight. Education requirements vary, but will usually include teacher training. A Bachelors degree, especially in education, would considerably improve career chances.

A Junior High School Teacher (Bachelors, probably teacher training; $34,000 and $51,000) straddles upper elementary school and early high school. Some specialization in the Bachelors degree (history, biology, art) is likely an asset. The High School Teacher (Bachelors/Masters; $41,000 – $63,000) should specialize in a subject area for career advancement. For example, in Biology (Bachelors; $30,000 – $40,000), Chemistry (Bachelors; $32,000 – $45,000, up to $65,000), or History (Bachelors/Masters; $34,000 – $51,000), a Masters or Doctorate in the subject area can lead to much better rewards, including choice of location and working conditions.

One area worth considering is Special Education Teacher (Bachelors degree; $30,000 – $51,000). In many places, government programs provide extra funds to hire teachers who can help children with development issues learn.

A person who must get started right away without much pre-job training, should consider Preschool Teacher (high school diploma; $20,000 – $30,000) or Teacher’s Assistant (possibly high school diploma;$16,000 – $25,000), keeping in mind that these opportunities are not a career path unless one is prepared to seek further education. Both may offer free on-the-job training that assists the goal.

Private elementary and high school teaching offers similar opportunities, but varying financial rewards, compared with the public system. Private schools where parents can pay whatever excellence costs usually pay more, but religiously supported schools may pay less, and may also feature lifestyle requirements or professions of faith. Tutoring is an option for qualified teachers with good references who need flexibility, especially amid life or career transitions.

University or college teacher

A Professor (Doctorate; $55,000 – $110,000), who teaches at a university, is expected to help develop the field in which he or she works by contributing to the professional literature, and perhaps by writing books on specialized subjects. A Community College Professor (Doctorate; up to $130,000, 2009 median $76,000) is more likely to be evaluated on teaching experience.

Adult education

This field comes in two basic flavors: A Self-Enrichment Education Teacher (High School Diploma, specialized qualifications; $33,000 – $61,000) teaches adults disciplines they want to learn, in business or leisure settings. There are also many opportunities for the Adult Literacy Teacher (Bachelors Degree; $44,710 average) or Remedial Education Teacher (Bachelors degree; $43,000 – $57,000) to help disadvantaged adults achieve.

Vocational Training

The Vocational Teacher ( Bachelors plus relevant work experience; $31,000 – $49,000) teaches practical skills — cosmetology, auto repair, or plumbing, for example — skills that can secure a good living. Some skills are more in demand and may feature fewer educational requirements. Consider, for example, Auto Shop Teacher (much work experience; $50,000 – $65,000, up to $70,000) is an example.

Administration of an educational institution

The Principal ($60,000 – $100,000) or Assistant Principal ($66,000 – $89,000) of an elementary or high school usually started as especially trusted teachers. However, the School Administrator (2004 avg $74,190) or Education Administrator ($50,000 – $84,000) do not need a teaching background. They would certainly benefit from a Masters in Education or a degree in management to advance their careers.

Universities also require administrations, of course. Many lower level positions don’t require more than a High School Diploma (2008 avg $29,050) but advancement for the less educated is limited. Some university teachers move into high administrative responsibilities such as Dean (Doctorate; $105,000 – $193,000, up to $250,000).University President (Doctorate, $80,000 – $180,000+) is, in part, a political office, and is typically the culmination of a career.

Financing education

Because of the importance of teachers in a high-tech information society, financial support is often available to less advantaged students with realistic goals. Ask around about bursaries, grants, scholarships, etc. that you need not pay back.

A list of careers in education.