In this article, we will discuss working in public schools. Topics include the advantages to working in public schools, different types of jobs in public schools, teaching at a public school versus teaching at a private school, benefits to working at a public school, preparing for work in a public school, and looking for jobs in public schools.
Some Key Advantages to Working in Public Schools
Better Salary. You’ll probably receive more pay working for the public school system as opposed to working for a private school. A recent PayScale survey of both private and public school teachers put the median salary for a teacher in the public school system at $37,000 whereas the median salary for a teacher in the private school system is $30,000. The main difference is pay has to do with the fact that most public school teachers are unionized.
Diversity. You’ll be working with a diverse population. If you like busy city corners and airports for the exciting diversity, then you’ll be happy in the public school system. The public school systems are mandated by law to strive for diversity. While many private schools have decided to place an emphasis on diversity as well, you’ll probably find it slightly more diverse in the public school system. According to data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2000b), 77% of all students in private school are white compared to 63% of all students in the public school system.
Different Types of Jobs in Public Schools
In this section, we’ll focus on teaching positions. Let’s look at their job description and salary information:
Teacher. The teacher is responsible for educating students in her class to set expectations. Depending on the grade level, the teacher may be responsible for a multiple subjects or he may just focus on one subject. In addition to their teaching duties, teaches may have extra roles in study hall, the cafeteria, sports, and other after school activities. We have two different sources for average public school teacher salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2004) puts the salary from $44,000 to $48,420 (depending on the grade level, kindergarten teachers getting paid less than secondary school teachers). PayScale (2005) puts the public school teacher salary in a slightly lower range: $35,460 for kindergarten teachers going up to $40,910 for secondary school teachers. Teaching positions can specialize in special education, vocational training, and athletic training.
Teacher’s Assistant. The teacher’s assistant helps the teacher maintain the educational milieu of the class, prepares class materials, and works with students. Salary range will be less than what a teacher makes. Salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that median annual salary for a teacher’s assistant in the public school system was $20,400 in 2004.
Administrative & Support
Administrative and Support positions in the public school systems include:
• Office Staff
• Guidance Counselor
• School Social Worker
• School Nurse
• Food Service
Average Annual Salaries
Here is a summary table of the average annual salary for public school teachers, categorized by grade level.
Teacher, Middle School
From the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2004).
From PayScale (2005).
Teaching at a Public School as opposed to in a Private School
Your experience teaching may differ depending on whether you decide to teach in a public school or a private school. Please remember that these findings are not always the case and that each public school should be considered on an individual basis. Here are some of the more common attributes where public and private schools differ:
Salary. Generally speaking, salary will be more for a public school position as opposed to a private school position. According to a recent PayScale survey, the median salary for an educational position within the public school system is $37,000 and the median salary for an educational position in the private sector is $30,000. This may have to do with the fact that most public school teachers are unionized.
Diversity. The student population will be generally be more diverse in a public school as opposed to in a private school. In a study published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES 2000b), public schools have 15% more minorities than private schools.
Academic Rigor. Public Schools tend to offer more AP courses than private schools. According to a recent study by the NCES (NCES 2000a), more public schools offer AP courses than private schools (67% compared to 45.7%). However, as followed in an article by Jay Matthews of the Washington Post (Matthews, 2005), some private schools have chosen to stop teaching AP courses as they feel the AP courses distract from their core teaching objections.
Safety. School safety may be a slightly bigger issue in public schools than it is in private schools. The National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics recently produced a report on school safety, “Indicators of School Crime.” Their report, based on data collected from the 1999/2000 school year, indicated that teachers were threatened (13%) and attacked (4%) more when in a public school setting than when they were in a private school setting then when in a public school setting (4% had been threatened and 2% attacked) (NCES, 2000a). According to the joint study, a teacher was more likely to be attacked if he were male and in an urban area. Male teachers were attacked at a rate of 3% compared to 1% of female teachers. Teachers in an urban area were attacked at a rate of 2.8% compared to 1.2% in a suburban area).
Class Size. Class size will probably be slightly larger in a public school setting. Student to teacher ratios average 20.9 in public schools compared to 18.9 in private schools (U.S Department of Education, according to their latest published survey on student/teacher ratios based on data collected over the 1999/2000 school year).
Impact on Curriculum. In public school, teachers may feel that they have less impact on the curriculum. Curriculums are often set at state levels and teachers may not deviate from them. An exception to this would be independent charter schools, which are run somewhat like private schools within the public school system.
Typical Benefits for Public School Jobs
Teachers working in public schools often have the following benefits:
• Health Benefits
• Disability Benefits
• Leave Programs (Sick, personal, holidays). Because most teaching positions are only for nine months, teachers may not receive annual vacation time (in either private or public settings).
• Retirement Plans
• Life Insurance
• Savings Plans (457 and 403b)
• Career development plans
• Tuition Reimbursement
• Long term care benefits
• Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and mental health benefits
• Meal Plans
Career Paths to Public School Jobs
The career path to a public school will rigidly follow the state regulations dictating what teacher qualifications must be met before teachers are allowed to teach in public schools.
Education. Teaching in a public school setting requires a bachelor’s degree, either in education or in the subject to be taught. Advanced degrees normally warrant pay increases.
Certification. All public schools require certification; teacher certification requirements differ state by state. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) advocates National Board Certification that your state may or may not make a necessary prerequisite to teaching within their public school system. Most states have acceleration plans for professionals who have college degrees and wish to transition to teaching; especially in hard to fill subject areas. Certification usually involves coursework and examinations and may include internship.
Experience. Teachers can begin teaching as soon as they have graduated from college. Most college programs for education include internships so that when graduated, students can be fully certified to teach that following fall.
Where to Look for Public School Jobs
When looking for a public school job, you have the following choices online: looking at national job banks and looking at state and local job banks. You can also attend job fairs in your area.
Here are popular online site with national job banks:
has a job bank for teaching and administrative positions. Create an account first so you can access the site.
is a database that school districts enter vacancies into that teachers can search.
is the US Government’s official job site; you can look for Department of Defense (DoD) public school positions, many of them overseas. To narrow your search, use DoDEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) as a search filter.
Public school districts sometimes post their needs on “commercial” job search sites such as Monster.com
(keyword “public school”), careerbuilder.com
(keyword “public school”), and hotjobs
.com (keyword “public school”). Every state and many school districts or divisions have their own job search site. You could pay a subscription to a website that will provide these links to you or you can find them yourself with a little bit of work.
For example, let’s find out what public teaching positions are available in New Jersey . Go to a search engine like Google and type in “New Jersey Department of Education.” The first website that comes up looks official: www.state.nj.us/education/
. So click on that and look for gateways to a job bank. On the New Jersey Department of Education’s homepage, they have a link for both “people
” and “nj educators
.” Either link takes to where we want to go – access to “Career and Job Opportunities
.” On this page, we see the link “Assistance in Seeking Career Opportunities
.” That looks promising. Now we’re getting somewhere. On this page, we see the link for NU Teaching Vacancies at NJHire
. At this site you can search for all open teaching positions within the state of New Jersey.
Let’s try to find public teaching positions in Virginia . After typing in “Virginia Department of Education,” we find the following address: http://www.pen.k12.va.us/
. Clicking on that gets us to the Virginia Department of Education’s main page. On their main page, they have a “jobs
” link that will let us review open teaching positions within the state of Virginia . They also offer a web-based recruitment site at TeachVirginia
. This site offers you a listing of job openings in a web-enabled interface.