There will always be a need for great teachers in the world. Regardless of economic conditions, hiring practices, and other factors that impact the education system, teachers will always be needed. Teachers are the backbone of our education system and serve as both instructors and mentors for students everywhere.
There is a real teacher shortage in the United States. A teacher shortage occurs when there are not enough teachers in key subject areas. A few factors contribute to these shortages:
- Years of layoffs during the Great Recession
- A growing student population
- Fewer people are entering the teaching profession
Fewer people are entering the teaching profession for several reasons. The main reason is low pay, with teaching getting paid around 21% less than other professions that require a college degree. Additionally, teachers often work very long hours and are forced to pay for their own classroom supplies. Another big reason for fewer people wanting to teach is the stress of excessive standardized testing. Standardized testing forces teachers to spend a great deal of class time preparing students for testing, destroying teacher creativity and student curiosity.
According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the teacher shortage was 110,000 in 2018 and could reach 200,000 by 2025.
Having enough teachers helps keep class sizes small in schools, which leads to more one-on-one attention from the teacher and ultimately leading to more student success. Increasing class sizes can negatively affect teacher performance as there are more papers, projects, and tests to grade, more children to supervise, and more behaviors to manage.
A shortage of teachers harms students, other educators, and public education systems as a whole. The lack of sufficient, qualified teachers threatens students’ ability to learn optimally and reduces teachers’ effectiveness, and will inevitably harm education quality and standards. A shortage of teachers will lead to hiring lower quality or unqualified teachers to fill in the gaps, which means students will receive a lower quality education.
Furthermore, the teacher shortage then makes it more challenging to build a positive reputation for the teaching profession, and recruit more quality teachers, further perpetuating the shortage.
To combat the teacher shortage, the working conditions for teachers much be improved, and any other conditions the are prompting teachers to quit and preventing people from entering the profession. These factors include low pay, a challenging school/work environment, and weak professional development support and recognition. Funding for public schools cannot be cut, especially those schools in low-income areas.
Every state in the U.S. has a teacher shortage. Some states have more considerable shortages than other states, and individual counties or school districts within states have a greater need for teachers than others. Additionally, states have shortages of teachers for specific subjects and grade levels.
For each state’s teacher shortage data, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Shortage Areas page. This data is especially helpful if you’re looking to become a teacher to see where your desired grade level and subject matters are the most in-demand.