There are few things more rewarding than a career in education. Affecting change, instilling knowledge, inspiring hope, and driving progress — these are all values on which our educational system is built. It’s a noble path for those who are smart, determined and passionate about their career goals.

But if you’re just starting your career path, the options may seem daunting. Finding a position that aligns with your values ensures a long and satisfying career, but where do you start?

Articulate Your Passion

When choosing an educational career path, it’s best to remember what motivates you. Are you inspired to make a positive impact on people’s lives? Want to drive institutional change?

There’s no denying that teachers have an invaluable impact on students’ lives every day. Or perhaps you prefer to work behind the scenes. There are many essential, non-teaching positions in the field of education, so if you’re a person who likes to participate in operations, or wants to lead, an administrative job is probably better suited to you.

K-12 or Higher Ed? Determine the Best Fit

Choosing the population that you want to serve is the next step. A career in K-12 allows you to affect students at very impressionable stages of their educational trajectory.

Higher education, on the other hand, is focused more on developing the intellectual ability of young adults and empowering them with the career tools necessary to succeed in life.

However, there are more administrative roles in higher education than K-12. Communication specialists, academic advisors, and financial officers are just a few non-teaching positions that make the higher education field run smoothly.

Identify a Job Goal

When choosing your ideal position, it helps to know what each job entails. Here’s a brief breakdown of some common education careers.


Teacher: K-12 teachers provide the backbone of education. They instill critical thinking and life skills that are essential for the real world, as well as foster intellectual and emotional development.

Guidance Counselor: Guidance counselors are certified professionals that provide students with academic, career, and college advice. Counselors have exceptional people skills, compassion, and keen understanding of human nature.

Principal: The role of the principal is to provide leadership and develop a strategic direction for the school. Principals monitor and support teachers, communicate with parents, hire new faculty, and oversee the budget.

Superintendent: The superintendent is the boss’ boss, so to speak. They oversee the operations of the entire district, supervise principals and faculty, and work with the school board. Superintendents must be very detail-oriented and innovative.

Higher Education

Dean: Deans perform a balancing act between teaching and administration. As the head of their department, they ensure that student and faculty needs are met while liasoning with senior management.

Academic Advisor: Advisors help students with course selection and develop solutions for academic problems. They’re also responsible for identifying issues within respective departments in order to achieve higher student retention.

Vice President of Enrollment: The VP of Enrollment develops an institution’s recruitment strategy. VPs also oversee marketing campaigns and materials with the purpose of attracting graduate and undergraduate students.

Director of Advancement: This role oversees all the fundraising efforts. The Director of Advancement develops relationships with donors, alumni, parents, corporate sponsors and anyone else who can financially support the mission of the institution.

Consider Graduate School

If you’re serious about pursuing your passion for education, you should consider attending graduate school. Administrative careers in particular require master’s or doctoral degrees, although many schools offer master of arts in teaching programs as well.

Pro tip: research schools’ missions. This is the best way to know if they align with your values. Schools that are committed to promoting equity in education or empowering disadvantaged students may be more appealing than schools without an underlying philosophy.