TeachFilter, meet NaiveFilter: Degrees and Attractability
February 28, 2009 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Teaching high school with a postgraduate degree?

I'm moving with my partner to another part of the U.S., and I've been thinking lately about how I'd like to teach. I've heard from an acquaintance that his wife, a teacher, is somewhat 'stuck' in their district because she(the wife) has a master's degree -- as it was explained to me, the districts are contractually obligated to pay a person who has a master's degree (in anything at all) more money, so that makes candidates less attractive. Plus, she's accumulated 'points' which would not be transferable to other districts.

My question is, is this true? Are all districts across the states obligated to pay master's degree holders more, or does this happen on a state level (also, do they have to pay you more if you have multiple postgraduate degrees?) Likewise with the points. And if it is true -- both that having any postgraduate degree actually makes you an unattractive candidate, and that a point/seniority system keeps you more or less locked into a certain district, how big of a snarl is it?
posted by theefixedstars to Education (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
By "points" they certainly mean seniority and retirement benefits. For the most part, these aren't transferable from one school district to another unless there is some sort of agreement in place between the two school districts. These kinds of agreements aren't unheard but they are no where near ubiquitous either.

Contact the school districts in the area and ask them.
posted by oddman at 1:49 PM on February 28, 2009

as it was explained to me, the districts are contractually obligated to pay a person who has a master's degree (in anything at all) more money, so that makes candidates less attractive.

I've heard this very same thing before from my friends who were going into education. That was in Michigan, not sure about other states.
posted by All.star at 2:43 PM on February 28, 2009

In my district (in California) having a Master's only gets you about $1,000 more a year.
posted by Linnee at 2:51 PM on February 28, 2009

As I understand it, teaching unions have negotiated extra compensation for higher degrees. In many states teachers are required to get one by X years after hire. But most teachers with a Master's have one in education, so if you studied Engineering or something that's already well off the charts ;)

I've heard stories about my public school rejecting the application of a Chemistry PhD who wanted to teach at his old school, who went on to work for the EPA inventing clever ways to monitor emissions without announcing themselves on site. I can't say whether it's good or bad that he wasn't hired, but clearly the cost was a factor.

One alternative might be to take up an adjunct position at a community college. They're generally less concerned about collective bargaining agreements, and the clientele are about the same age as high school students.
posted by pwnguin at 2:59 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in the process of getting my teaching certification and a Masters in Ed at the same time (and student teaching - an insane combo). I have another masters, and in NY State a Masters is required for teachers - though I'm kind of fuzzy on what types of Masters are acceptable. I'm on scholarship and I wanted the full education theory deal - that's why I'm getting the Masters of Ed. as well as certification.

Slightly off-topic 2 cents: Anyway, from my experience so far, just in case you are thinking about this, I would SERIOUSLY recommend against "trying out" teaching by being a substitute teacher. I have observed how the nicest kids become crazed monsters the moment a sub enters the room, and 98% of the subs that I have met are bitter and cranky, and generally engage with the students by ordering them around and yelling at them - mostly fruitlessly.

I think testing the waters by being a sub (which many people innocently suggested to me) would have killed any desire I had to teach. Understanding something about education, and education theory, and how school systems work, as well as understanding my need to reflect on what goes on in the classroom has been a huge help in making me more excited about teaching, and in enabling me to keep with it, even when the going gets tough.

(And to actual full-fledged teachers or substitute teachers - feel free to tell me I'm an idiot.)
posted by chr1sb0y at 3:09 PM on February 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Where I work at a public school district in PA, people with master's degrees in their field of education do indeed earn more money. My school and others I have taught at have a scale with levels of education across the top and years teaching down the side. They match up your years experience with your level of education and that is your salary.

And yes, in my experiences, your masters does have to be education related to benefit from it financially. You won't get more money if your master's is in Criminal Justice and you're teaching kindergarten.

Also, it isn't unheard of that teachers wait to do their master's work until they are at a school where they plan to stay a while (and most schools will reimburse for it anyway). Getting over-educated can indeed put you out of the running for a job where a master's isn't a necessity.
posted by NoraCharles at 3:10 PM on February 28, 2009

All schools are different, all districts are different, all states are different. Unions negotiate their own contracts with the city or county and there is a wide disparity among districts when it comes to benefits, salary, and seniority. There are countless reasons your friend's wife may not be able to find a job, but it's entirely possible for her level of education to be a serious roadblock. There is also rampant ageism in schools and she may be trying to get a job in a subject area with a low vacancy rate. If you want to teach science or math, you'll have a much easier time trying to find a position. Social studies, art, music, P.E., elementary ed. are hard to break into, while math, science, ESL, and special ed. are much easier.

The school district I teach in is in a state that requires teachers to get a masters within 5 years of the date one's certification is conferred. Nevertheless, schools in the district often prefer hiring Teach for America members (without a master's) because they usually leave when their two year commitment is up and don't stick around and wind up costing schools as much money as career educators. Now, there are also schools in the district that only hire highly qualified, experienced, and educated teachers because they're located in affluent areas with active PTAs who can fundraise the hell out of the community. The district also only allows new hires to receive up to 7 years of prior teaching experience for the purpose of salary step placement. Again, this varies widely from district to district. (This is what a typical salary schedule looks like.)

Substitute teaching is nothing like being a full-time classroom teacher. Substitutes don't have to make plans, go to countless meetings, grade student work, maintain a classroom, and fill out stacks of forms and reports. A teacher at my school logged every hour she spent doing clerical work after school and over the weekends last year and the total at the end of the year came out to 40 8-hour days. That's almost an entire summer vacation! Substitutes do have to deal with more behavior problems, however.

There's one thing to keep in mind. If people like your friend's wife are having a serious problem finding a job, they can try getting one by not claiming all the points they're entitled to claim. I wouldn't do that unless my level of desperation was sufficiently high to make it worth the sacrifice.

Call the district with questions regarding points and salary specifics. Join a mailring for local teachers so you can get some advice from people in the area to which you're moving. You're welcome to email me if you have more questions.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:42 PM on February 28, 2009

One more comment about your friend's (lack of a job) situation: this is a horrible time to be looking for work as a teacher in an urban area. Many many districts have put a freeze on hiring subs and teachers due to draconian budget cuts.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:45 PM on February 28, 2009

It all depends on where you are and what you are certified to teach.
In NYS you need a master's to teach, and it has to be in an educationally-related field. You have 5 years from date of certification to get it. There are often pay jumps associated with increased educational levels. Example here for the Buffalo Public Schools.
posted by oflinkey at 3:45 PM on February 28, 2009

It really depends. I actually had a teacher in middle school that was a long-term substitute who had a PhD. She was one of the best teachers I've ever had. She didn't become a regular teacher in my county because she would have been forced to take classes to get special certifications that she just didn't have the money for, as a single mom. Unfortunately, when a certified teacher got the job, she had to leave. The entire class cried that day.
posted by majikstreet at 5:56 PM on February 28, 2009

In Texas it is entirely dependent upon the district in which you work. Most districts do pay a stipend for a Master's degree. The stipend is usually $1000-$3000 but might be more in bigger districts. If your degree is in science, you will probably not have a had time finding employment although you will have to go through an alternative certification program to become a certified teacher. The points in Texas would refer to years of service credit, which would be the same as seniority, and therefore entitle someone to a higher step on the pay scale but that wouldn't apply in your case.
posted by tamitang at 7:41 PM on February 28, 2009

Don't forget about independent schools - they aren't locked into whatever rules may exist for the public school system - in NYC, anyway.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:49 PM on February 28, 2009

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