Initial Publication Date: March 5, 2015

Explore Careers in Education

Pursuing a career in formal or informal education offers an opportunity to engage others in sustainability topics through hands-on learning. It is easy to feel ill-equipped and underprepared to teach, as teaching skills are typically not taught outside of the education department. This set of pages aims to equip you with resources for teaching assistantships, volunteer opportunities, or a career in teaching.

Find Teaching Experience

Many students with teaching assistantships or other teaching opportunities have not had formal training and wonder how to build their teaching skills. Practice is an effective way to improve a skill, and this is true for teaching as well. Not only do teaching experiences help you to become a better teacher, they also strengthen job applications, both in and out of academia. Explore opportunities for getting formal or informal teaching experience in your area. This can be through volunteering to give a lecture at a local school, volunteering to teach as part of an after-school or summer program, or taking part in fellowships or internships (e.g. the Soil and Water Conservation District, among other agencies, may have opportunities for you to participate in informal teaching experiences at a local event or in a classroom setting). Find resources on and learn more about getting teaching experience from the On the Cutting Edge Preparing for an Academic Career module.

Find your Fit

Finding a job that is compatible with your interests ultimately results in higher job satisfaction. As a first step, as advised in our section on non-academic jobs, take an inventory of your interests and find career opportunities that align with those interests; you may not be able to find your 'dream job' but an inventory gives you a place to start your search. Also, keep an open mind - many students approach the job search process with tunnel vision that they want to teach at a specific type of institution in a specific location. While it is great to know what you want, you may be over-limiting yourself and missing opportunities that are well aligned with your interests. Participants from several years of the On the Cutting Edge Preparing for an Academic Career annual workshop indicated that learning about jobs at two-year colleges, informal education, primarily undergraduate institutions, and research institutions broadened their perspective and opened them up to seeking out opportunities at institutions outside of their initial interest.

Learn more:

Get Started in the Classroom

Getting started in the classroom can be daunting: while you are more of an expert on the subject matter than the majority of your students, you may be intimidated by the public speaking aspect of teaching, planning a course/lesson, and/or teaching students of similar age or older who may have hands-on experience in the field. Don't let this sway you from teaching! Use the resources below to equip yourself for the classroom.

Remember that you are most likely the 'expert' in the classroom and you are likely more interested and excited about the material than your students are. Your job is to deliver the information to your students in an informative, and hopefully, interesting way. Ideally, the intent is to spark their interest and engage them in learning the material. If you are teaching introductory level students or non-majors, you may think of it like teaching a foreign language - be careful with overusing jargon. This Getting Started: The Basics of Teaching website from Colorado State University includes tips for new teachers, including making content interesting, making yourself understandable, accounting for different learning styles, and providing a useful context.

Finding a mentor, asking for help, and learning where to look for help and resources can help make teaching less daunting. No one has to go it alone in teaching. There's always help and you don't have to reinvent the wheel. You can find a mentor, ask friends what they are doing, attend a workshop or professional development event, or learn to use web resources (such as the [link / SERC websites), for starters.

Build Your Teaching Tool Kit: Pedagogic methods, supplemental resources, and assessment

Are you looking for something beyond lecture to get students engaged in the classroom? Spice up your teaching with activities that utilize active learning techniques such as interactive lectures, jigsaws, or gallery walks. Explore resources on:

You can also find support for teaching through professional development opportunities, such as those offered by workshops, webinars, and lectures and events offered by Teaching and Learning centers. Seeking these out and making the most of the information and networking can be critical for some instructors.