Teachers (especially MA): is it easier to move up or down grade levels?
September 15, 2014 2:42 PM   Subscribe

I have a B.S. in Biochem and Molecular Bio, but after messing around as a bench tech for a while and then substituting at elementary schools, I found I was so much happier teaching then spending hours alone in a lab. Never expected it. So I've substituted mainly K-4 for over a year now (with high praise from the staff), and a few times in Jr. High. I've also done a lot of one-on-one work as a paraprofessional for kids who require accommodations. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, autism, behavioral disorders, etc. The Problem: I'm qualified to teach gr. 7-12 full time right now, but in order to teach 6 or lower I need to complete most of a masters program before I can even get initial (or preliminary) licensure. I'd be willing to teach Jr. High for a couple years, but I suspect I would be happier in the long run as an Elementary teacher.

At one point I figured: well no problem, I have 5 years to complete my masters if I teach 7th or above. So I'll put in a couple years in Jr. High, then when the time comes to start my M.A. I can decide whether I want to continue at this level or get a masters in Elementary Education (in my state that qualifies you for 1-6 usually).

After talking with an adviser, he told me that it's much more difficult to move from secondary to elementary than the opposite. So that kind of screws up the above plan. I really do think I'm better at working with the younger kids than the older ones and it's a more....optimistic atmosphere to work in. It's just so difficult to find an preliminary licensure program for people who where not education majors as undergrads. All of the major teaching colleges in my state (Mass) who I've called have told me flat out that they do not have a program for me and that I'd basically have to repeat undergrad. Seems bizarre.

So anyway, given that background, if I teach math or science at the secondary level for a few years, is it going to lower my chances of being hired at the elementary level? Especially given that most elementary schools will not hire new teachers with masters degrees because it requires a bump up on the pay scale?
posted by WhitenoisE to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking at public schools only? Many private schools are much more lax about the actual paper requirements and licensing. Something to look into. I went to a small private school my entire childhood and I only had maybe 4 teachers with advanced degrees (in anything). Only a few of my teachers actually had actual teacher-degrees and licenses. (I imagine this may vary by state, YMMV, but it's something to look into.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:56 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am not a teacher, but I have had friends who are.

Would it be feasible for you to move to New York State for a couple of years while you get certified or do a master's degree there?

I grew up in NY and had several friends who became teachers. Many of them reported that NYS has among the strictest standards for teachers, so it is very easy to transfer NYS certification to other states.

It might be possible to find an elementary education Master's program in NY that would get you NY certification. Then you could possibly transfer that certification to MA or another state.

Of course, find out for certain if this will work out before you up and move.
posted by tckma at 2:57 PM on September 15, 2014

Response by poster: I did consider private schools, but was told by my mom (teacher for 30 years) that most private schools in MA pay significantly less than public schools.

I am also flexible about the state I would teach in. I probably prefer MA, but would consider NY and any state in New England. But....I would need some sort of job before I moved because I have very little money right now for rent.
posted by WhitenoisE at 3:02 PM on September 15, 2014

When I was doing a mid-life career change into a different field that also required state licensing, I found that private universities were more relaxed about the pre-requisites for admission to their program than that state schools. The local state school required a related BA, one private school required several specific undergraduate classes (you could take them outside of a bachelor's program if you already had a BA/BS) and one that allowed you to take everything you needed as part of the master's. So, if you only called a few schools, you might want to cast your net more widely to see if there might not be a program which will either admit you as is or allow you to just take some very specific courses without having to earn another degree.

If you find that you do need another degree, shop around for programs that will count your prior degree/life experience towards your general ed requirements so all you need to take are the courses in your major.
posted by metahawk at 6:41 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know New England starts later than they do here, but it's getting a little late to be deciding what you'd like to do for this particular school year.

Caveat, I'm in Florida, but when I looked into teaching, it was easier to find work in the middle/jr. high and high school levels. My parents both taught middle school for many years, moved to high school, and moved back to middle school before retiring. My mother went to a new school district, but my father stayed with the same one throughout.

If you're stuck subbing, then stick with elementary school. You can stay with the same plan - teach somewhere for 3-4 years while you finish your education, then try for elementary school. It may be more difficult, but it's definitely not impossible. You'll have some experience working in elementary school, and while you're in school, you can focus on elementary education in order to bolster your resume. Maybe try to teach 7th grade in the meantime. 6th grade can go either way (elementary or middle), depending on where you wind up, and teachers move up and down a grade quite often, depending on need.
posted by PearlRose at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2014

All of the major teaching colleges in my state (Mass) who I've called have told me flat out that they do not have a program for me and that I'd basically have to repeat undergrad.

I think you've been misinformed. To teach elementary in public MA schools, you need a Master's and certification in Elementary Education, and those programs are EVERYWHERE. I got mine at Harvard, my teachers have gotten them at UMass, Lesley, AIC, Simmons, and more. Not one of us has undergrad degrees in education.

As soon as you're enrolled in a degree program, you qualify for certification, so you can teach as an elementary teacher.

If you want to teach elementary, then look into schools; there are tons that offer M. Ed. programs.
posted by kinetic at 9:51 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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