Leave academia for K-12?
February 8, 2011 6:24 AM   Subscribe

My partner is doing her Ph.D in English but is starting to think she wants to teach elementary or high school. We're in Canada. We've got questions about the job market, location, and the benefits and burdens of getting the Ph.D.

I know these are a lot of questions, but they could be summarized as "Uh, what should she do?"

1. How is the job market for K-12 in Canada right now? Specifically, in B.C.? How hard is it to get full-time work if your specialties are English/Language Arts/Drama?

2. If she's got an M.A. in English and she gets a B.Ed from an Ontario university, how annoying is it to get a B.C. certificate? And do out-of-province job applicants get discriminated against in practice?

3. Will she have a harder time getting hired with a Ph.D? She's ABD in her doctorate right now, and she's inclined to try to get the Ph.D. since she's already jumped through all but the biggest, dissertation-sized hoop. She's got another 1.5 years of funding, and a well-enough-defined project that she could probably finish in that time. So on its own merits I think she'd like to have the degree to show for herself, but would it be job market poison (e.g. would it raise her pay grade and make her less attractive of a candidate?)?

Thanks for any tips.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking as an Ontarioan with a number of teachers in the family - certification does tend to be restricted to the province. Out of province applicants would likely not be considered, unless their certification is for the province being applied to.

Here in Ontario, French, maths and sciences are the tickets to jobs as an elementary school teacher. An arts specialization will not get her very far at all. I can't speak to BC's requirements.

Finally, a graduate degree is required in Ontario to move up the ranks to principal, and pay is graded based on level of education. If your wife has ambitions that go further than a classroom teacher, and is hoping for more than the base salary for the next ten to fifteen years, by all means get that PhD. It will stand her in good stead in the long run.
posted by LN at 6:48 AM on February 8, 2011

I teach in the lower mainland. I am a high school art and planning teacher and can tell you that getting into the fine arts is super hard. You are basically going to have to get in to a school teaching something else and wait for the art/drama teacher to leave or retire. English is a bit easier because we need lots of English teachers but a huge number of teachers graduate with English as their teachable, so there is a tonne of competition.

2.The BC College of Teachers should be able to help. There is likely some course they will require her to complete. Not sure about the out of province applicants. But these days with all the lay offs, it's uncommon to get a full-time job without TOCing for a while. So if she wants to teach in BC the best thing to do would be to move here and get on the TOC list in a couple of districts.

3. I don't think it will be a problem to get hired with a Ph.D-- she'll get paid a lot more.

Feel free to email me if you have more questions.
posted by sadtomato at 6:49 AM on February 8, 2011

1) The job market for K-12 teachers, especially English/Language Arts/Drama is terrible right now in BC. Generally speaking, there aren't as many children, and there isn't as much money in the system as there used to be. First Nations communities, because of their younger populations, tend to be hiring teachers, but they will want someone with at least some sort of background in aboriginal learning.

2) If she gets her BEd in Ontario it's no big deal. All she has to do is apply to the BC College of Teachers to get certified; it may take a little more time because her education was done in Ontario.

3) It's hard to say if her PhD will work against her, since the teachers union (BCTF) plays a key role in the public system in the recruitment of full-time teachers. First thing she has to do is get on the TOC (substitute) list in whatever district she wants to teach in, in BC. Then she joins the local BCTF. Then she has to get called for assignments, and I think this is done by computer. Hopefully she will network and make connections in the staffroom, so a teacher will call her directly. As time goes by she will develop more seniority and will be eligible for longer temporary contracts. Theoretically she will one day amass enough seniority so that she will beat out others on the seniority list for a year-long appointment.

So the union plays a big role, although there is quite a bit of politics involved with the administration (the principal), too.

Ain't it a great system?

What's more, seniority isn't what it used to be. Even teachers with 10 years of experience were getting lay-off notices last year. They of course had work in September, but in the past they would have been offered a new teaching contract immediately in June.

With a PhD your partner may instead be more qualified for an administrative position. One strategy would be to stick it out in the trenches of the TOC list for 5 years, and slowly build up a network. At the end of 5 years, try to get a vice principal job.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:50 AM on February 8, 2011

The job market in BC is not good right now, as KokuRyu points out. Most districts, in the lower Mainland at least, are facing declining enrollment. The one major district that isn't is Surrey, so that would be a good place to apply. Outside of the lower Mainland there may be more opportunities.

My mom just retired from teaching and thinks there will be a surge in the retirement numbers because this is the last year in the teachers' collective bargaining agreement for which there is a pay increase. There are lots of teachers close to retirement age who were waiting for that last increase to improve their 'best five years' of salary, which is what pensions are based on. So according to my mom at least, while the market sucks now, in a year or two she thinks there will be a lot more jobs because of increasing teacher retirement.

Also as mentioned above, getting certified in BC with a degree from Ontario is just fine. My friend did it recently and I think she had to take one random course extra, but it was a minor hoop to jump through. She got hired on the Vancouver TOC list almost immediately, so I don't think there was any discrimination.

Best of luck to your partner!
posted by just_ducky at 7:49 AM on February 8, 2011

As an American I can't comment on some of the certification issues. I was a classroom teacher and did pursue and get my PhD. I'm now an Administrator and see the "other side" to the hiring process.

I do see times when teachers with either to many years experience, or a grad degree plus years get beat out by cheaper, less experienced candidates. Sometimes district want to hire the PhD's, but in today's economy with shrinking budgets, it's hard.

Can you try and get hired before completing the degree? She'd get paid less, then enjoy that salary bump if she can then complete the degree once in a district?
posted by rryan at 10:07 AM on February 8, 2011

I just watched my mom spend years getting a PhD in an employable field and then spend years jumping from contract to contract, with much job-application-angst and stress in between. Then, I watched her work 70-80 hours a week at her new jobs, trying to design courses from scratch and establish herself as a valuable academic who publishes, etc. I henceforth recommend no one do a PhD, especially not in the humanities.
posted by whalebreath at 10:13 AM on February 8, 2011

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