Margo Bartsch, Contributor

In his 1991 Academy Award speech, George Lucas gave a shout-out to teachers: “All of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices. But we will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student’s ear.”

The pandemic has taken its toll on teachers with many leaving the classroom to pursue other professional opportunities. This has opened teaching slots for recent college graduates.

Students can pursue education courses to be qualified for a job after college or as a back-up degree to get teaching experiences that are transferable to other industries.

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First, the teaching profession is hiring! Federal data reports that in 2021 teachers quit at a rate higher than in any other industry. The Wall Street Journal published the January article, “Teachers are quitting, and companies are hot to hire them.” Businesses recognize the transferability of teaching skills, such as quickly absorbing information, multi-tasking and managing stress. LinkedIn reports that corporations value these relevant skills in jobs like sales, instructional coaches, software engineers and behavioral health technicians.

Job vacancies in education are a great opportunity for college graduates to consider teaching in gaining professional experience and financial independence. In January, Politico reported that the pandemic has created an education crisis that also has become a labor shortage. This opens the door for the next generation of teachers to build skills, earn income and morph their experiences into other future careers.

To earn teaching credentials, the University of Vermont has the College of Education and Social Services for both undergraduates and graduate students. A student interested in education can combine classes with their other academic interests.

For example, a UVM business student majoring in marketing could consider adding a double-major in physical education or a minor in sports management. Thus, they could begin their career as a teacher and a coach. In the future, they could become an entrepreneur in opening a sports academy for children or young adults.

For graduate studies, UVM offers a master of education (M.Ed) in curriculum and instruction. With the M.Ed, there are 30 required graduate credits (around 10 classes with many online or hybrid courses) from four areas of specialization. UVM also offers graduate students a one-year option to earn a master of arts in teaching (MAT) with certification to teach for middle school or secondary education. These education pathways are not time intensive and could result in a fulfilling career.

Finally, education can be a back-up degree. When high school students consider making a college list, they could research whether a college has an education major or minor. This could act as an insurance policy to get an immediate job in teaching and start building their resume if other professional pursuits do not pan out.

Middlebury College offers an education minor in completing five courses in the Education Studies Program.

Since Middlebury College is a liberal arts school, it requires a range of classes for students to have well-rounded academic backgrounds that are also relevant to teaching. For example, it requires taking seven of eight distribution requirements: literature; arts; philosophical and religious studies; historical studies; physical and life sciences; deductive reasoning and analytical processes; social analysis; and foreign language.

An English major might want to be a speech writer in the future. However, without political writing experience, those entry-level jobs could be very competitive to land. In starting their career as an English teacher and a debate coach, they could get experiences to achieve the long-term goal of speech writing.

The pandemic has reinforced how teachers are essential workers in both educating students and in building transferable skills. Professional success does not necessarily require a linear career path. With increasing college tuition, adding education classes can be cost effective.

Margo Bartsch founded College Essay Coach, a full-service college admission business, and has been an adjunct professor in business at Champlain College and at Middlebury College.