What Kind of Teachers Are in Highest Demand?

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by All Star Staff

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three teachers pose in a school hallway

The appeals of teaching are many-helping people grow, building confidence, letting students discover their talents. So, if you’re looking to enter the field but are curious about what kind of teachers are in high demand, you’re in the right place!

The good news is there are five main teacher shortage areas across almost the entire country, covering both core subject areas and types of students. According to the U.S. Department of Education, public schools in over forty states claimed teacher shortages for the 2021 academic year in the following subject areas:

  • Math
  • Special Education
  • Science
  • Foreign Language
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)

These shortages can be due to teachers retiring, not enough teaching students graduating and applying for certification, states relying too heavily on emergency teaching credentials, and simply teaching positions going unfilled. It’s best to play it safe and get the proper training, education, and certification needed to teach so that you can be more likely to find a teaching position without any hassle. Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these subject areas and how you can get started on your teaching career path in the area of your choice.

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Math Teacher Shortage

With the increase in technology, engineering and science as essential components of our everyday lives, it’s no wonder that more and more math teachers are needed to support the education of kids who may want to enter those types of professions in the future.

In addition to reporting high-demand subject areas, the Department of Education lists the number of states reporting teacher shortages for each of these areas-and math is the highest. Math teacher shortages were found in public schools in 48 states plus the District of Columbia, which is a pretty astounding number.

If you want to teach math in public secondary school, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree or higher in mathematics, along with your teacher certification. Elementary school and middle school math teachers will also need a bachelor’s degree, most likely a Bachelor of Arts in Education or in math specifically, and, of course, certification.

Read more about becoming a math teacher >>

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Special Education Teacher Shortage

Pam Casey, a special education teacher at West Valley Central School in West Valley, NY, perfectly captures the essence of being a special education teacher. “I love what I do!” she said. “It would be hard to go back to doing anything else. For these kids, success is simply trying. Sometimes simply trying can take a huge leap of faith for them, but usually, once they start, they can move mountains.”

With the shortage in special education teachers, satisfying careers like these are more readily available than ever before. The Department of Education reported 46 states with a need for special education teachers. These teachers work with students with a wide variety of backgrounds and needs, from mild learning disorders to severe disabilities, which makes this a very important and necessary job.

Teaching at the elementary or secondary levels requires at least a bachelor’s degree, though many states are now requiring a master’s degree in special education. Bachelor degree programs teach the fundamentals of child development, educational psychology and special education policies and legalities. There are a number of degree programs that are also now requiring a fifth year, in which students hone their skills in teaching special education in one or more areas of specialization.

Some of these specializations include speech therapy, reading disabilities and non-verbal learning disabilities. Teaching special education isn’t always easy, so make sure you do as much research as possible to ensure that it’s the right path for you.

Read more about becoming a special education teacher >>

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Science Teacher Shortage

As mentioned before, science and technology go hand in hand, so now that technology is permeating our everyday activities, science is too. Along with our need for scientific knowledge, we have a need to teach these scientific concepts so we can better prepare our society for the increase in science and technology jobs. Science teacher shortages have been reported in 43 states, making it a significant teaching area to be filled.

Science teachers also have a rewarding day-to-day job. Helping students understand concepts that affect their lives and everything around them is especially satisfying. Will Hooper, a high school science teacher at a private Catholic school, describes these happy moments. “Their understanding of the universe has just been opened, and that gift of understanding can never be taken away,” he explained. “They can forget the Law but they can never forget the feeling that the universe is bigger than they ever thought before.”

Just as with the other teaching careers, in addition to your teacher certification, you’ll be wise to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in your preferred area of science for elementary, middle and high school. If you decided to teach high school science, you’ll be able to split your time between classroom lecturing and the science lab, where you can help students apply what you’ve taught them. Having a graduate degree in science can only help you, though you may also be eligible to work for museums and government or private research institutions. It’s less likely you’ll be able to teach at these organizations, however.

Read more about becoming a science teacher >>

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Foreign Language Teacher Shortage

With the U.S. being a cultural melting pot and our many business and diplomatic relationships with other countries, learning a foreign language can definitely come in handy. Typically, U.S. schools offer Spanish, French and German as foreign language options, but many are also including Chinese, Japanese and Russian. With 41 states reporting a foreign language teacher shortage, there are ample opportunities to go down this route.

Teaching a foreign language in an elementary, middle or secondary school will, of course, call for at least a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification, and your degree will most likely be in the language you plan to teach. Your degree allows you to prove your fluency, since you’ll need to be fluent in both English and the foreign language.

Your degree program will teach you more than just grammar and syntax. You’ll take a deep dive into the literature, history and culture behind the country of your chosen language. Your certification may also require an additional test to prove your fluency, but this varies by state. A bonus of pursuing a foreign language teacher career means that you have an excuse to travel overseas to experience the respective country yourself.

Read more about becoming a foreign language teacher >>

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English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher Shortage

Traveling overseas is also possible with a similar field to foreign language-Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Teaching overseas isn’t required, though, as there are millions of people in the U.S. who want to learn or perfect their English, almost all of whom are immigrants or children of immigrants. So, it’s no surprise that there are 31 states reporting an ESL teacher shortage.

In case the acronyms might get confusing, just remember that TESOL is the umbrella term for the field, while ESL refers to teaching English in an English-speaking country and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) refers to teaching English in a non-English-speaking country.

Besides the excuse to live and work around the world, those teaching English also have more options for education paths. Depending on what type of institution you wish to work in and what ages you wish to teach, you can get your foot in the door with just a certificate. With a TESOL certificate, your job opportunities will most likely be with private language academies.

Public elementary, middle and high schools require at least a bachelor’s degree and teacher certification. Colleges, universities and international schools, however, often prefer a master’s degree, such as a Master of Arts in TESOL or a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics. These programs teach language theory as well as high-level grammar, syntax, phonology and semantics. They also offer practicum components so you can practice teaching English, which can often be difficult for native speakers.

Read more about becoming an ESL teacher >>

Pursuing a Teacher Shortage Area

Now that you know the top five areas most in need of you, you can start by getting as much classroom and educational experience as possible. Teaching is a career that takes a lot of patience, determination and devotion, so if you have the chance to volunteer in a classroom or take an education course, start there.

Once you’re sure you want to pursue teaching, make sure you know the teaching requirements set forth by your state, especially if you plan to teach K-12. It’s also safe to say that the more education you receive, the more likely you’ll be viewed as an expert and the more competitive you’ll be for a teaching position.

With science and technology job growth growing just as fast and often faster than average, it’s likely that more teaching jobs will open up for STEM-related subjects, so keep that in mind as you’re earning your education. If you’re curious about more subject areas in need of teachers in your state (and in some cases, geographical areas with teacher shortages), you can find them in the Department of Education’s nationwide listing.

Don’t wait to do your research. Start your education journey now so you can get even closer to the thousands of teaching positions open and waiting for you.

Ready to Get Started?

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