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Five Alt-Ac Careers for the Passionate Teacher

What else can you do with that Ph.D.?

September 8, 2016

Anne Guarnera is a doctoral candidate in Spanish at the University of Virginia. You can find her discussing teaching and learning on Twitter as @aguarnera and learn more about her work on her website.


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The school year may have just begun, but for those of us approaching the end of our MAs or PhDs (finally!), thoughts of next year likely loom large on the horizon.


While we here at GradHacker have written on alt-ac careers before—including Adopting an Alt-Ac Strategy from the Start and the First Steps to Launching an Alt-Ac Search—most of our posts have been very general, and as I’ve been working on my own alt-ac strategy for the past year or so, I realized that a more specific resource might benefit GradHackers who, like me, love being in the classroom but are seeking career opportunities outside of a tenure-track position.


To that end, I’d like to suggest five career options beyond teaching in a private school or tutoring (i.e. the standard advice). While my short descriptions obviously cannot cover all that these roles entail, hopefully they will serve to pique your interest and lead to some productive research. If you do explore these opportunities further, I recommend complementing any online research with informational interviews to get a sense of the day-to-day responsibilities of each career and to evaluate them for a good fit with your personality and work style.


1. Faculty/Instructional Developer: If you’ve ever used your university’s Center for Teaching and Learning, you have likely already met a faculty developer. In the higher education setting, faculty developers are charged with encouraging the professional development of faculty members—principally in their role as teachers, but also as productive researchers. Among their many responsibilities, developers lead workshops, observe classrooms, consult one-on-one with faculty members, and conduct research to determine best practices in college teaching and how to implement those practices on their home campuses.


If you’re interested in knowing more about faculty development, I suggest this PDF overview of the profession, which reviews the basic responsibilities of faculty developers and includes more resources, and checking out the resources available through the POD Network, the leading professional development organization for faculty developers.


2. Instructional Designer: The job market in instructional design is booming right now and experts estimate that the market will grow up to 13 percent over the next eight years. Instructional designers develop curricula (often using online models) across all public and private sectors: jobs of this kind are available in government, non-profit, and corporate settings, as well as all education sectors, including K-12 and higher ed. For those who have specialized in the digital humanities, or who enjoy applying new technologies to the classroom, instructional design may be a particularly good fit. This is a field where formal training is highly valued though not necessarily required. Luckily, instructional design certificates and graduate programs are available online from many institutions, and some take as little as eight months to complete.


To learn more, consider perusing Christy Tucker’s helpful blog series on instructional design.  


3. Corporate Trainer: In a corporate training role, you can use your hard-earned teaching skills to help others improve their job performance—an opportunity that should appeal to many who enjoy the coaching element of classroom teaching. Working in-house or as a consultant, your responsibilities can vary from designing corporate curriculum to delivering skills workshops to providing one-on-one coaching to employees. Like many of the other fields highlighted here, corporate training is a growing industry—the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that these positions will grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022.


Those considering this career path might enjoy learning about the experiences of Allessandra Pollizi, who has has written for Karen Kelsky’s popular blog The Professor Is In regarding her personal transition from English Literature Ph.D to corporate trainer.


4. Educational Consultant: If you enjoyed mentoring undergraduates during your graduate career, then educational consulting might be an excellent alt-ac option for you. The field itself is extremely diverse; while some educational consultants focus on college admissions coaching, others help students with special needs navigate the K-12 educational system, and still others work on the institutional side, in a role that is similar to that of instructional designers. While educational consulting firms do exist, especially in big cities like New York, this kind of job would also be a good fit for those who consider themselves more entrepreneurial at heart, as many educational consultants operate independently.


A good place to explore opportunities of this type is the blog The Cornerstone for Teachers, written by a K-12 teacher who became an educational consultant. Aside from teaching advice, she offers a (monetized) course on how to start your own educational consulting business and also offers a helpful overview of her work for those looking into this industry.


5. Virtual Educator: The increasing popularity of online educational programs, including online charter schools and homeschooling programs, has created a wealth of opportunities for those with specialized skills who desire to teach at the K-12 or college level. In some cases, you have to be certified to teach in the state where the program is headquartered, but my research indicates that certification is not always a prerequisite to employment.


Indeed.com and HigherEdJobs.com seem to have a good concentration of virtual teaching jobs to consider.


Have you pursued an alt-ac career that puts your teaching skills to use, or are you looking into such opportunities? Comment with your experience below!

[Image by Flickr user kate hiscock and used under a Creative Commons License]


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