Making Sense of the Education Workforce: A Snapshot of 10 Education Careers

How is the education workforce organized? How does a motivated, passionate individual pursue a career in education?

Limited guidance exists about entering the education workforce, moving between roles and understanding job responsibilities. This opaqueness is problematic for soon-to-be college graduates considering entering the education sector, school employees who want to pivot their careers and system leaders who want to enable the recruitment and retention of talent.

For example, some high-achieving students pursue careers in consulting or finance because they are recruited through well-defined processes and promised high salaries and status, even when their passion lies elsewhere. Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, noted, “When a college graduate commits two years to a Fortune 500 training program, it’s clear what the next steps are. But when a college graduate commits to teach at-risk kids for two years, it’s a lot less clear what happens after his or her commitment has been fulfilled.”

In response to this concern, researchers Jacqueline Smith and Laura Dziorny sought to learn more about education professionals’ career pathways. They developed a survey, shared it with more than 500 educators across the country, then interviewed more than two dozen respondents to hear more about their experiences and what drives them. 

Ultimately, this work led them to define 10 types of roles held by those working within and alongside the preK-12 and higher education systems: teacher, student supporter, administrator, instructional supporter, capacity builder, researcher, advocate, funder, policymaker and consultant. 

To read more about these roles and the perspectives of individuals working in each one, see:  

For more commentary about this report, see: