Does an Education Degree Still Guarantee a Teaching Job?

There is a serious flaw in using any economic information: the economy travels faster than the speed of economics.

I featured a number of posts over the last week about college degrees and whether those degrees translate into related jobs. By 2008 standards, teachers were in a strong position. According to the 2008 BLS Occupational Outlook, elementary education jobs were projected to have the third largest gain in new jobs requiring a Bachelor’s, from 2008-2018. The Department of Education found that students, who graduated with an education degree in May of 2008, had the lowest rate of unemployment compared to all other degree categories. In 2008, things were looking good for the 4th most granted Bachelor’s degree, Education.

Puzzlingly three years after all these statistics, someone with a teaching degree seemed to think that economists made some sort of mistake:

My question with these statistics is, how many of those who are employed have a job in their field? I see so many wonderful statistics about education being a growing field and leading to high rates of employment, but where exactly are those jobs when so many teachers are being laid off or reduced? Granted, it depends on what type of education you’re in… but lately, I’ve known more certified teachers working in offices or retail than in schools.

Well, it has been three years since the BLS predicted education to add hundreds of thousands of jobs, perhaps we should check in to see how education employment is doing?

To meet the BLS’ projection of hundreds of thousands of new education jobs, we’d expect the industry to grow at least 30,000 jobs per year (keep in mind that we are a third of the way from 2008 to 2018). However, from 2008-2011, elementary, Jr. high and high schools consistently lost employment and actually shrank about 6,000 jobs from 2008 to the end of 2010. The quitting rate for teachers dropped from 15.3% in 2006 to 11% in 2010. The state of education is, in my humble estimation, roughly behind by about 100,000 jobs by the 2008 projections.

Education hasn’t fared as well in unemployment as earlier predicted. Last year, the annual rate of unemployment in education ticked up to 6.4%. Still better than the national unemployment rate, but the 2010 unemployment rate high for all Bachelor’s degrees stood at 5.1%.

It does become more depressing when you start looking into the more anecdotal evidence in the current teaching market. Texas was to be the heart of the elementary teacher boom with about a 39% job growth and 62,000 new jobs. San Antonio media is reporting that local school hiring is down 74% and the AP reported that as many as 100,000 positions could be cut statewide. In NY, the NYS Teacher’s Union decried as many as 30,000 teaching job losses starting last year through this year.

It sure seems like education degrees have not lived up to what guidance councilors promised when graduates had first started college. Who can deny that education employment hasn’t taken significant hits over the last three years?

But all things need perspective. Below is a graph showing employment in schools over the last 40 years.

Now here is all employment in the economy over the last 40 years.

By this perspective, you can see that education seems related to hiring in the economy in general, although it performs slightly better. It is also germane to understand that population will grow and with increased population will come hiring of more teachers. State budgets will, some day, begin increasing again. The questions to answer are when will it turn around and what will be the new normal? Even more important for those that graduated with teaching degrees over the last three years is can you be competitive with future graduates should the education employment market rebound?

I’m afraid I have no answers for the question in my title. This could be the low point of the education market before dramatic rebounds, but it could also be education Armageddon. However, history of the teaching job market seems to indicate that this is only a temporary trend and education is still a good degree to hold. But then the history of employment travels even slower than the speed of economics.

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