New survey reveals high-performing students say teaching is just not worth it

teaching-students-careerIt’s Teacher Appreciation Week this week, a national campaign to thank the often thankless teachers and faculty for their hard work in encouraging and motivating today’s students. Yet, though students appreciate the teachers who make a difference in their lives, many say teachers are just former students who couldn’t hack it.

By now, most everyone is aware that there’s a national teacher recruitment crisis as aging baby boomers begin to leave the profession and current graduating students often see teaching as the least attractive career path.

But why?

According to a new report, “Teaching: The Next Generation” from Third Way—a think tank that says its mission is to advance moderate policy and political ideas—high-performing college students see teaching as not only a career path with a salary dead-end, but as a last resort profession for underachieving students.

Authors of the report, Tamara Hiler and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, polled 400 high-performing (with GPAs of B+ or higher) college students to get their views on the teaching profession—and what it might take to entice them into becoming teachers themselves.

As EdCentral says, “The results are challenging.”

(Next page: The report’s findings)

According to the report:

  • Almost 50 percent of high-performing students believe teaching has gotten less prestigious in the last few years.
  • Students consistently ranked education as one of the easiest majors, with only 9 percent viewing it as “very difficult.”
  • Only 35 percent described teachers as “smart.”
  • Education was seen as the top profession that “average” people choose.
  • Only 17 percent of students reported that they were “very interested” in teaching, while fully 40 percent weren’t interested at all.

The survey also polled students on what would make them more likely to pursue teaching. The top three answers were, in all honesty, fair:

  • Higher pay for all teachers
  • Higher pay for highly-effective teachers
  • Better student loan repayment for teachers

The report concludes that one of the reasons students feel the way they do about teaching is because the profession has “failed to evolve into a 21st century profession—one that fosters innovation, offers a competitive salary, and provides an infrastructure for dynamic growth opportunities.”

“The same preparation, pay structures, and retirement systems set up 40 years ago are still largely intact today, forcing high-achieving Millennials to fit into a system that no longer meets their professional needs and desires,” the report continues.

By failing to conduct an internal review and correct course, notes the report, the teaching profession pushes excellent teachers out and stops high-achieving Millennials from entering, “creating an unsustainable cycle of mediocrity in a profession that requires nothing but the best.”


The report provides 5 recommendations to better entice high-performing students and lessen the negative stereotypes of teaching:

1. Create a national standard for teaching practice.

2. Stop subsidizing teacher preparation programs whose applicants don’t pass the test.

3. Provide immediate student loan relief to teachers.

4. Promote and pay teachers like professors.

5. Transition the teaching force to a portable, modern retirement system.

For more details on these recommendations, as well as much more information on the survey and its results, read the report:

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