An educator’s ability to influence the future is endless. With nearly 25% of the U.S. population enrolled in school at any one time, educators have a huge responsibility to ensure their pupils are properly prepared to contribute to society. The people who choose education as a career path usually have a strong desire to make a difference and willingness to find creative solutions to problems both in and out of the classroom.
Job opportunities for educations are found in all 50 states in public, private and parochial schools. Some teachers may specialize in a single subject, while others will teach multiple subjects. Regardless of the subject, class size, location or type of school, the mission of educators remains the same; to ensure that every student is successful and meets set milestones for progress. Counselors, principals, librarians, media specialists and teacher’s aides who provide specialized assistance in key areas, often support teachers.
The Vault Guides offer a sample of careers in education. Each guide gives, among other valuable information, an overview of the job and entry-level requirements.
Just about every teaching opportunity will require applicants to submit a resume. Most hiring managers will use your resume to verify whether your credentials qualify you for a particular position and will to determine three things:
- Can you do the job?
- Will you do the job?
- Will you fit in?
Perhaps the most important tip for making your documents stand out is to use industry lingo. Review the position description, highlight key words or phrases, and reflect that same terminology in your resume or cover letter. This shows you have done your research and are familiar with the culture of the industry.
- VA State Teaching (or Counseling) License
- Child Abuse and Neglect Certification
- First Aid and CPR with the name of the accrediting agency
- Any additional certifications you may have earned that relate directly to education
Student teaching, internship and practicum experience
- Student teaching and practicum experiences should be in a prime spot on your resume. These are the first experiences principals and human resources representatives are looking for
- Identify the school, city, and state of your placement
- Make sure you include bullet points (2-4) that identify the SKILLS you used effectively in the classroom. Be specific. Include education-specific terminology. Name the methodology (ex: Singapore Math, Scaffolding) and/or assessment techniques (ex: PALS Testing)
- Be sure you highlight how you included technology in your instruction
Educational and/or childcare experience
- Be sure to include any paid or volunteer experiences you’ve had that relate to education and/or working with children including; substitute teaching, tutoring, mentoring, camp counselor, and babysitting/nannying
- If you have additional work experiences outside of the field of education you may include them
- Be sure you focus your bullet point(s) on skills relevant to those you will need to be an effective teacher
- Include any student and professional organization of which you are a member
- Highlight any leadership positions you’ve held
- If you have not yet joined and professional organization, please consider doing so. It is important to the field that you are an active member of a professional organization
- Schools like to see that you are involved in the community. If you are actively involved in the community in ways that cannot be listed under Educational and/or Childcare Experiences include them in a separate section
- If you have skills and experiences that will benefit the school, you can include these. For example, if you were a college or high school athlete who is interested in coaching a sport.
Cover letters play two important roles in the application process.
- Demonstrate your desire to be a teacher
- Highlight your ability to communicate.
Teaching is a career that requires a strong dedication to the students and the craft. Applicants need to demonstrate enthusiasm for education and show that they can effectively communicate via the written word. Many cover letters for teaching follow the same guidelines as cover letters for other industries. The cover letter must be no more than one page in length and in a business format.
Address some of these topics in your cover letter:
- Why their mission connects with the work you hope to do
- Why you are the right person for the job and support it by discussing why you have some of the skills listed in the position description
- How you have made a positive difference in the academic growth of your students
- What makes you an effective educator
- How you have gone above and beyond the typical daily responsibilities of a teacher to help a student or your class succeed
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the school system to which you are applying by researching any news or highlights
- Our Cover Letter guide (part-time and full-time) offers more in-depth information on how to write an effective cover letter. It’s always a good idea to have someone edit your cover letter before sending. Make a career advising appointment, or visit us during drop-in hours for assistance.
An interview is simply a conversation between the candidate and a hiring manager. An interview provides you the opportunity to highlight your skills, express your personality and demonstrate your knowledge about the school.
For those interviewing for teaching positions with the K-12 public school system, you will likely be required to complete a screening interview with the county or school division human resources office prior to interviewing for an actual position for a particular school. If you are a right fit for that school division, the human resources representative will refer you to the principal for a school-based interview.
If you’ve never interviewed before, explore our interviewing tips to learn the basics of a successful interview.
Typical screening interview questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why did you go into teaching?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- Tell me about a lesson you taught and how you planned it.
- Tell me about a time you were faced with a difficult situation and how you handled it.
- What is your classroom management plan/style?
- How do you facilitate learning in your classroom?
- How do you use technology in your classroom?
- Why do you want to teach in our school division?
- Do you have any questions for me?
- Typical school interview questions
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to teach at this school?
- How do you assess your students’ learning?
- Tell me about how current trends in education are influencing your teaching strategy.
- How do you make sure you meet the needs of a student with an IEP?
- What methods do you use to communicate with parents?
- What was your greatest challenge during your student teaching experience?
- How would you describe your teaching style?
- If I were to observe your class, what would I see you and your students doing on a typical day?
- How do you motivate students to become active learners in your classroom?
- What do you expect from your school administrators?
- How do you work with a difficult student?
- How do you infuse the Standards of Learning into your curriculum?
You’ll feel more comfortable during your interview with a little practice first. Interview Prep is a web-based video interface that allows you to respond to a series of pre-recorded interview questions from your computer. Afterward, you will be able to review your recording to see how you did.
Got an interview coming up? Practice with one of our career advisors. Schedule a one-hour mock interview - we will help you prepare to answer interview questions and offer tips to help you make an excellent impression. Please email a copy of your resume and the job description to the advisor you are meeting with at least 24 hours prior to your mock interview.
The majority of schools require a Master’s Degree in Education as well as licensure in order to teach. VCU’s five-year program allows students to earn both bachelor and master degrees. As a part of the program, prospective teachers are usually required to complete observation and student teaching hours. Student teachers usually begin by observing the class and then take on greater amounts of teaching, grading and lesson planning activities during the student teaching semester. In the public school system, teachers must also pass a state certification exam in order to teach, and participate in continuing education to maintain licensure.
While degree and licensure provide the foundational requirements to become an educator, most successful teachers have realized the need to develop additional skills areas such as time management, public speaking, conflict resolution and integrating technology into their lessons.
Teachers who possess practical skills have a much easier time positioning themselves as highly sought after candidates. VCU has a partnership with LinkedIn Learning, formally Lynda.vcu.edu, to provide free skills training. Consider taking some of these recommended courses as a part of your training.
- Google Classroom 2016
- PowerPoint Essential Training
- Captivate projects: Building eLearning games
- WordPress in the Classroom
- Public Speaking
- Write effective learning objectives
- Communication in the 21st-century classroom
- Classroom Management Fundamentals
- Having Difficult Conversations
Common career paths
- Elementary School Teacher
- Secondary Education Teacher
- Special Education Teacher
- English as a Second Language Teacher
- Teacher Aide
- Guidance Counselor
- Media Specialist
Use these and our other job search tools to explore opportunities:
- Teach Virginia
- Virginia Department of Education
- Maryland Department of Education
- D.C. Public Schools
- North Carolina Department of Education
- Southern Teachers Agency
Higher education resources
A portfolio is a compilation of select materials that highlight your professional competencies. It not only documents your knowledge as it pertains to pedagogy, but also provides a visual representation of your style and ability to engage with students.
The process of selecting what materials to include in a portfolio requires aspiring teachers to assess their performance in the classroom as well as the subject matter they have covered. A portfolio is not a scrapbook of every lesson plan, unit, or activity an educator has ever engaged in; it is a small sample of work that best represents your teaching skills, subject knowledge, creative presentation, and resourcefulness.
Printed vs. electronic
Portfolios can be in electronic or paper form. Both formats have benefits. A print portfolio can be very useful during an in-person interview because it provides visual examples of your work and creativity to a prospective employer. Electronic portfolios can allow your interviewer to preview the portfolio prior to an interview allowing them a chance to prepare and personalize their interview questions, as well as to review the portfolio after an interview to help them remember who you were among the group of candidates.
Most people create a digital portfolio because it’s easier to share. If web development isn’t your strong suit, try one of these websites as a coding-free alternative to digital portfolio creation.
What to include in your portfolio
- Homepage with a brief professional biography and photo of you.
- A menu or navigation bar linking visitors to the following attachments:
- Teaching resume
- Teaching philosophy
- Degrees/Certificates/Awards/continuing professional development
- A sample (annotated) lesson plan
- Classroom Management information
- Contact page – a way for visitors to contact you
- Optional enhancements to your portfolio
- Links your professional web presence including the school website (at which your working)
- Professional social media accounts
- Technology in the classroom
- Parent Resources/Communication
- Photos of bulletin boards/hallway displays
- Extracurricular Activities (clubs, field trips, etc.)
- Your blog
Whether your portfolio is a hard copy or digital, be sure to proofread before sending it out. It is a good idea to have others review it as well. A trusted professor or mentor is an excellent person to critique your portfolio. You may also schedule an appointment with a career advisor to review your portfolio.