Shape the Future with a Teaching Career

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Allen Chen, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This blog post was adapted from a Career Outlook article by Dennis Vilorio, an economist formerly employed by BLS.

If you dream of inspiring the minds of the future, consider teaching. Teachers give students the knowledge and tools to succeed both in school and beyond the classroom. It’s a smart career choice, too: Most teaching jobs pay above the median for all occupations ($36,200), and BLS projects there will be more than 2 million job openings between 2014 and 2024 for teachers at all levels.

Types of teachers

  • Preschool and K-12 teachers: These teachers are often generalists in lower grades but specialize in certain subjects in higher grades.
  • Postsecondary teachers: Commonly referred to as professors or instructors, these teachers work in community colleges, universities, technical and trade schools, and other institutions of higher learning. Besides instructing students, they conduct research and publish academic papers and books.
  • Special education and other teachers: These teachers work with children and adult students who have special needs, who want remedial help, or who need literacy instruction.

A day in the life

Teachers might be envied for the summer and holiday breaks they get, but the data show that they put in long hours preparing for their students. Many work on the weekends and outside the classroom after school by sponsoring student clubs or chaperoning events.

Some teachers are with the same students all day; others have a few classes throughout the day with different students. Many teachers say that challenges with classroom management, workload, and bureaucratic oversight are the most frustrating elements of the job. But they say the most satisfying parts are watching students learn, the variety each day brings, and working with supportive colleagues.

A chart showing the percentage of teachers working at each hour of the average weekday and weekend day.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below. The data are restricted to days that people who described their main job as being a teacher and reported doing at least one minute of work for their main job. Holidays are excluded from the data.

By the numbers

BLS data show variation in employment, projected job openings, and wages among teaching occupations. Wages also vary based on grade level and geographic location, but nearly all teaching jobs had median annual wages that were higher than the $36,200 median annual wage for all occupations in May 2015.

A graphic showing employment and wages for different types of teaching careers, including preschool, K-12, postsecondary, and special education.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below. Job openings are from employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. The “other” category includes adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors, self-enrichment education teachers, and miscellaneous teachers and instructors.

Becoming a teacher

Before leading your own classroom, you’ll have to learn to be a teacher. The skills, education, and other qualifications to be eligible vary widely — one good resource for finding requirements in your state is teacher.org.

For example, preschool teachers typically must have an associate’s degree, kindergarten through secondary teachers usually require a bachelor’s degree, and postsecondary teachers generally need a doctoral degree or a master’s degree in their field. None of the occupations typically require work experience in a related occupation for entry-level employment, but an internship or residency may be necessary as part of on-the-job training. And teachers in public schools usually need certification or a license.

There are plenty of ways to help shape the future, one mind at a time. Which path will you choose?

Learn more: More information about teaching or teaching-related occupations is available in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, as well as from the U.S. Department of Education and professional teaching associations. You might also qualify for loan forgiveness or for taking an alternative route to becoming teacher if you commit to work in a low-income community.

Graphic 1: What Time Teachers Work

Percent of teachers working, by time of day on days they worked, 2011–15
 Time of day Weekday Weekend day
4-4:59 am 1.2 1.1
5-5:59 am 4.3 1.1
6-6:59 am 21.6 5.5
7-7:59 am 69.6 13.6
8-8:59 am 88.1 20.6
9-9:59 am 90.7 31.1
10-10:59 am 91.0 28.6
11-11:59am 91.2 29.7
12-12:59 pm 88.1 28.9
1-1:59 pm 89.1 33.2
2-2:59 pm 89.7 32.8
3-3:59 pm 80.0 32.4
4-4:59 pm 47.9 34.4
5-5:59 pm 30.1 30.8
6-6:59 pm 16.0 25.5
7-7:59 pm 15.0 22.9
8-8:59 pm 18.2 27.4
9-9:59 pm 14.3 23.4
10-10:59 pm 7.2 14.0
11-11:59 pm 3.6 8.0
12-12:59 am 2.0 2.5
1-1:59 am 0.4 1.1
2-2:59am 0.3 0.7
3-3:59 am 0.3 0.9

 

Graphic 2: Types of Teaching Occupations

Occupation Number employed in 2014 Projected job openings, 2014-24 2015 median wages Typical education needed for entry
Postsecondary teachers 1,869,400 550,600 $64,450 Master’s degree or higher
Others, such as self-enrichment and adult literacy teachers 1,408,700 391,000 $30,760 Variable
Elementary school teachers 1,358,000 378,700 $54,890 Bachelor’s degree
Secondary school teachers 961,600 284,000 $57,200 Bachelor’s degree
Middle school teachers 627,500 175,500 $55,860 Bachelor’s degree
Preschool teachers 441,000 158,700 $28,570 Associate degree
Special education teachers 491,100 123,500 $58,500 Bachelor’s degree
Kindergarten teachers 159,400 56,100 $51,640 Bachelor’s degree

 

Innovating for the Future

Erica L. Groshen was the 14th Commissioner of Labor Statistics. She served from January 2013 to January 2017. This is her final post for Commissioner’s Corner.

Image of former BLS Commissioner Erica L. Groshen

It didn’t take long after I became Commissioner of Labor Statistics in January 2013 for me to appreciate the skill, dedication, and innovation of the staff that works here. Whether they’re doing sampling, data collection, estimation, or dissemination; whether they’re the IT professionals or the statisticians or the HR staff; whether they’re the newest employees who are so tech-savvy or the more senior employees who hold a wealth of institutional knowledge. To a person they are phenomenal. I am honored to have had the pleasure of leading them — and letting them lead me — during the past 4 years.

 

I have had many opportunities to observe and encourage innovation during my tenure at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from listening tours to senior staff conferences to regional office visits to discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders. From these efforts, we have identified several activities that will help us develop and implement the next generation of labor statistics. These days, we call these efforts a variety of names, such as “modernization” and “reengineering.” But, in truth, they just continue the impressive progress that has been the hallmark of BLS for the past 133 years.

In my final Commissioner’s Corner post, I want to tell you a little about some of our current reengineering efforts.

One of the things we do best at BLS is data collection, largely because we are always looking for ways to improve. Recent efforts include identifying alternative data sources, expanding electronic collection, and “scraping” information directly from the Internet. These efforts can expand the information we provide, lessen the burden we place on employers and households that provide data, and maybe even save some money to provide taxpayers the best value for their data dollar.

These efforts are not new. One source of alternative data we’ve used for many years comes from state unemployment insurance filings, which identify nearly every employer in the country. We tabulate these data but also use them as the source of our sample of employers for certain surveys and as a benchmark of detailed employment by industry. We also use information from private sources and from administrative sources, like vital statistics. Our latest efforts involve examining techniques to combine data across multiple sources, including mixing survey and nonsurvey data.

We want to give employers the opportunity to leverage the electronic data they already keep so it’s easier to respond to our surveys. These efforts include allowing employers to provide electronic information in multiple formats; identifying a single source of electronic data from employers, reducing the number of locations and number of requests made to multiple sites of the same organization; and working with employers to allow BLS to access their data directly from the Internet. We rely on good corporate citizens to supply the information that we use to produce important economic data. Making data collection easier is a win-win.

The innovation doesn’t stop at collection. We are using electronic text analysis systems extensively to streamline some of our data-processing activities. Much of the information we collect is in the form of text, such as a description of an industry or occupation, details about a workplace injury, or summaries of employee benefit plans. Transforming text into a classification system for tabulation and publication used to be a manual task. BLS has begun to transform this task through the use of machine-learning techniques, where computers learn by reviewing greater and greater amounts of information, resulting in accurate classification. As we expand our skills in this area and find more uses for these techniques, the benefits include accurate and consistent data and greater opportunities for our staff to use their brainpower to focus on new, unique, and unusual situations.

We are also modernizing our outputs, producing more with the information we have. For example, we have begun several matching projects, combining data from two or more sources to produce new information. One example is new information on nonprofit organizations. By linking our employment data with nonprofit status obtained from the Internal Revenue Service, we now have employment data separately for the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. And we took that effort one step further and produced compensation information for these sectors as well. Look for more output from these matching efforts in the future.

Finally, we’ve made great strides in how we present our information, including expanded graphics and video. And we are not stopping there. Each year we are expanding the number of data releases that include a companion graphics package. We are developing prototypes of a new generation of data releases, with more graphics and links to data series. And we have more videos to come.

My 4 years as Commissioner of Labor Statistics have flown by. I’m excited to see so many innovations begin, thrive, and foster additional innovations. I have no doubt that the culture of innovation at BLS will continue. As my term comes to an end, I know now more than ever that the skill, dedication, and creativity of the BLS staff will lead this agency to even greater advances in the years to come.

Why the unemployment rate still matters

Just like your body, the economy is a superbly complex system. When you visit doctors or other healthcare providers, they routinely take several measurements — height, weight, blood pressure, and temperature. Tracking these vital signs over time can lead you and your healthcare providers to seek further tests. Yet, even when your healthcare providers need more information, they continue to take the basic measurements.

In much the same way, the government routinely measures the health of the economy. Here at BLS, we specialize in tracking labor market activity, working conditions, productivity, and price changes. One of our most important measures is the national unemployment rate. Since it is measured the same way each month, year after year, changes in the rate can be an important signal of changes in the labor market and economy.

We realize, of course, that the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the full story. It isn’t meant to. Much like your temperature is a necessary measurement, its usefulness increases when viewed with other measures. When we release the unemployment rate each month, we also publish five alternative measures of labor underutilization to help assess labor market conditions from several perspectives.

Chart showing trends in alternative measures of labor underutilization.

In addition, the source for the unemployment data, the Current Population Survey, provides a wealth of information about workers, jobseekers, and people who aren’t working or looking for work. For example, we also get information about trends in labor force participation, a topic that has received much public attention in recent years. BLS releases thousands of other measures monthly, quarterly, and annually, depending on the topic.

For example, if you want to know how adult Black men are performing in the labor market, we have a stat for that. Ditto for people with a less than high school education or veterans with service-connected disabilities.

And if you want to know how employers are doing (say, how many job openings they’ve posted and how many workers have been fired or quit their jobs in the past month), check out our Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Want to know what is happening in your local area? Not a problem. Each month BLS releases state employment and unemployment data and metropolitan area data too.

We invite you to visit our website or contact one of our expert economists next time you have a question about the health of labor market—or your favorite economic “symptom.”

How United Parcel Service Uses BLS Data

I recently attended a BLS Data Users Conference in Atlanta, which included a lively panel discussion of how companies use BLS data in their everyday work. I was especially struck by the examples shared by Cathy Sparks, the Director of Corporate Workforce Strategy & Analytics for United Parcel Service. As a result, I asked Cathy to write a short blog post that I could share with all of you. My hope is to have more posts in the future highlighting how our data users put our data to work for them!

Cathy shares:

From Reporting to Problem Solving

I am certain that, in the 109-year history of United Parcel Service (UPS), this is the most exciting time to be in Human Resources and working with data.

In 2015, UPS processed nearly 70 million online tracking requests every day and operated more than 1,990 facilities employing roughly 444,000 people. Data is part of everything we do at the world’s largest transportation and logistics company. We tap into data to deliver lasting results. From an HR perspective, we are in the foundational stages of building a true analytics team. We want to use business intelligence to better understand our workforce and align those findings with broader strategic goals.

The recent BLS Data Users Conference in Atlanta was a great opportunity to highlight how we’re using analytics to create value and enhance our problem-solving skills.

Cathy Sparks and her team at UPS discussing data.

Our challenge is to transition from simple reporting to diagnosis. We are finding new opportunities to integrate our internal UPS data with BLS external data to analyze human capital trends, including predictive staffing models, safety correlations, and engagement risks. For example, using our data, we have created a model to evaluate state-by-state seasonal staffing needs. We incorporate BLS data to control for economic conditions, thus enriching the model. We hope to predict employee attrition risks and forecast a two-year, five-year, and seven-year staffing blueprint for our largest metropolitan areas.

The greatest data-driven opportunities are yet to come. UPS data, combined with BLS economic indicators, provide new insights and value throughout our global organization, improving service for our customers around the world.

BLS releases data from the new Occupational Requirements Survey

Pop the corks! We published the first-ever Occupational Requirements Survey estimates and news release this morning. The survey provides unique information about the physical demands, environmental conditions, education and training, and mental requirements of jobs in the United States. We’re running the survey under an agreement with the Social Security Administration so they can make decisions about their disability programs. Employers, jobseekers, and state and local workforce agencies can also use the data to match people with jobs that are right for them. Researchers will find the survey useful for expanding our understanding of the labor market.

Here are a few highlights from the survey for 2016.

  • 31 percent of jobs in 2016 had no minimum education requirement; 17.5 percent of jobs required at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • 75 percent of jobs required some on-the-job training, and 48 percent required prior work experience.
  • 47 percent of jobs involved working outdoors at some point during the workday.
  • 66 percent of jobs involved some reaching overhead.
  • 39 percent of jobs involved regular contact with others several times per hour.

Chart showing percentage of jobs with selected physicial requirements in 2016

Creating new gold-standard information like this takes years of testing and development. Staff from BLS and the Social Security Administration worked closely together to get it right. After today’s news release, we will highlight the survey data in several publications in the coming year. We will feature selected job requirements and occupations. For more information on the new survey, including Frequently Asked Questions about it, please see www.bls.gov/ors.