Where Do Teachers Go When They Leave?

brookingslogoWhen teachers leave teaching, where do they go next? Are they getting good jobs outside of education? Or are subsequent jobs more of a lateral move? Do teachers who quit teaching also quit working?

A recent article by the Brookings Institute takes a look at several data sources to see what happens when teachers leave the profession. School districts that lose teachers lose their investment in training those teachers, whether the teachers quit teaching or whether the teachers move to another district. To a significant extent, districts to which teachers transfer get a benefit at the expense of the sending districts. In contrast, when teachers move to another profession, public schools as a whole lose out. (At least to the extent that it’s the better teachers leaving.)

To set the stage, this chart below is taken from data from the “Teacher Follow-up Survey” (TFS) of the School and Staffing Survey, which is administered to school teachers nationwide every four years by the U.S. Department of Education.












We see in the chart that about 16 percent of teachers exited a school in recent years, combining both exits represented here. Roughly half of that 16 percent move to another school. (Some of these “movers” end up in a different school in the same district.) This fraction of teachers switching schools hasn’t changed much over time.

TFS also offers us some information about what teachers who left teaching did next, as shown below:














Pulling this all together, there is a four-point answer below to the opening question:

  1. Schools lose about one teacher out of six each year.
  1. A fair number of teachers, about one out of 12, do leave the profession each year. The bulk of moves might be characterized as “about what we would expect,” i.e. teachers retire, take other education positions, or are taking care of a family member.
  1. Among the modest number of real career changers, there isn’t much of a pattern as to what sort of jobs teachers move to. But…the data isn’t great. The sample is small.

Do you have anecdotal evidence about where teachers go next? Does your district do exit interviews? Are you a teacher…or former teacher…with friends who’ve made the jump? Share what you know.


For more information and data, see Brookings Institute: Where teachers go when they leave teaching.