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High demand: Teacher shortage and U.S. job opportunities

January 19, 2017 by Lindsay Racen

For some educators, the back to school season means more than stocking up on supplies and new outfits for the first day of school. A recent graduate may be planning to launch a teaching career, and long-time professionals may consider new opportunities for growth. As the teacher shortage intensifies to a national level, we explore the U.S states with the highest demand and the best states to work for educators.

The West


Let’s start with our own backyard. California’s education system has been put through the ringer over the years. During the worst years of the recession, teachers were laid off in large numbers and the amount of students enrolled in education programs at universities in the state dropped drastically. With this experience not too far behind us, there is a shift in many cities across the state from teachers once fearing pink slips at year’s end to having teaching careers in high demand. Here are some quick stats to consider:

  • California is ranked last in the nation (50th) in student-to-teacher ratios, and would need 100,000 more teachers right now just to bring that ratio to the national average.
  • Over the next 10 years, the state would need to replace 106,000 teachers (one-third of the workforce) just to maintain current staffing levels.
  • California’s demand for new math and science teachers in the next 10 years is expected to be over 33,000 – and the rate of teacher production doesn’t come close to meeting that need.

A few communities are in larger need than others including our local residents along the central coast and inland. With the new school year rapidly approaching, districts in the Salinas-area are looking to fill some last minute openings. In addition to the retirement issue, the implementation of Common Core state standards, intended to raise the bar on teaching quality, is impacting the hiring process. Over 230 additional teachers are expected to be hired in Monterey County over the next year according to The Californian. The city is located in beautiful central California and boasts itself as “a great place to live, work, and visit.”

According to ABC news, there are many changes on the horizon for Visalia Unified School District. “After years of a down economy the district is now looking to hire to reduce class sizes and fill positions of the many teachers retiring.” They are expecting to have around 50 open positions that need to be filled in just the K-6 classrooms alone. University of Massachusetts Global is privileged to have a strong relationship with the district with Superintendent Craig Wheaton serving as a cohort mentor to our current Ed.D. class. His expert insight and leadership will directly translate to developing future educators to contribute to moving our school systems into the future.

According California’s reported statewide academic disciplines or subject matter areas most in need are: English/Drama/Humanities, History/Social Science, Math/Computer Education, Science, and Special Education. If you are interested, here is one of our teacher certification programs.


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Glancing at the Department of Education’s (DOE) Teacher Shortage Areas listing, Arizona has had a pretty solid history of reporting significant teacher shortages both geographically and in terms of specific academic areas since the early 90’s. This year, although the state has reported less geographic areas, it still published staffing needs in eight counties including Apache, Cochise, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz, Mohave, Santa Cruz and Yuma.

In fact, according the Mohave Desert Times, the Greater Phoenix Education Management Council, a coalition of 42 Arizona school districts, estimates that 72 thousand employees left the system before reaching full retirement. This is a tremendous number but what does it mean? On one side you have superintendents saying that low pay and no raises are causing the mass exodus, which is of course not a great picture. While on the other, parents are rightfully concerned about their children’s education. So what’s the fix? For recent graduates and those leaders looking for opportunities to positively impact our school systems, launching a career in this market to improve the landscape could be revolutionary!

Other opportunities in the West

New Mexico is another western state working to hire teachers who want to launch their teaching careers, and they are recruiting heavily from the Midwest to fill those positions. Denver, Colorado and Portland, Oregon are also referenced as great places for teachers based on their strong economic foundations. For those looking primarily for financial gain they may want to look farther west into the Pacific with Honolulu, Hawaii being listed as the second highest among all states for starting teacher salary at $43,157.

The Midwest


Special Education teachers have been in demand throughout the country for many years, but for the Midwest, Chicago has seen a lasting and more threatening effect. In January, halfway through the 2013-2014 school year, more than 100 Chicago Public School classrooms lacked permanent special education teachers which has led to month-long delays in providing services. Budgeting is the biggest issue facing the system with nearly $4 million cut from developing autism programming and many schools that offered these important services.

“It is massive, The CPS have so many vacancies, so that means kids with disabilities are not getting the services and the support that they are mandated to get by federal law,” said Dr. Michelle Parker-Katz. CPS says it's managed to decrease those vacancies by 30 percent -- from 349 openings last year to 243 this year. Of those vacancies, 78 percent are in elementary schools and 22 percent are in high schools. Many teachers, especially those serving children with special needs, enjoy a unique intrinsic reward that comes with helping young people thrive. Chicago is the perfect place for these inspiring educators to launch their teaching careers. Teach For America has even set up shop in the area to offer alternative pathways for those looking to become professionals in the field and other nonprofits continue to grow including Chicago’s Academy for Urban School Leadership.

In addition to teachers serving this special population of students, the DOE’s annual report also notes that Chicago School District 299 is in need of Computer Literacy/Technology Teachers, Learning Behavior Specialists, and Standard Elementary Instructors.

South Dakota

Ten geographic regions and seven statewide academic disciplines lack the appropriate amount of teachers in the classrooms in South Dakota. Nearly one-third of the regions are located on Indian Reservations. This trend is commonly due to the rural locations within the state, but when we think the area it might be the perfect place for new teachers to pave the way for their professional future.

The most blaring factor that scares most educators away is the fact that the state has a financial disadvantage compared to some of the more metropolitan-driven states. Although the starting salary is just under $30,000 annually, down about six thousand compared to the national average, the cost of living in the state is lower than most and by many opinions, people who live there speak highly of their experience. The open job market and happiness factor may set up the new teacher to plan their roots for a while to gain valuable experience for the future.

Other opportunities in the Midwest

Some states in the Midwest didn’t have any specific geographic areas to list, but rather statewide deficits in areas of study. South Dakota’s neighbor and namesake to the north listed one of the longer lists of subject matter experts needed with 19 disciplines. Shortly behind North Dakota comes Minnesota with 18 core areas from agriculture education to math and reading, including a category for special education that consists of nine sub disciplines from autism to early childhood.

The South


“Like leaks in a levee, teacher shortages are springing up faster than Oklahoma school districts can respond,” author Nate Robson writes in a recent Oklahoma Watch article featured on Tulsa World. It’s a perfect analogy. The two geographic areas in the direst need within the state are the state’s capital of Oklahoma City and nearby center of Tulsa.

The majority of the shortage comes from the low wages associated with the area, but the government is doing its part to remedy this situation. A statewide pay increase went into effect in 2019, giving all teachers a boost of an average of over $6,000, giving educators incentive to stay onboard. Opportunities for teachers are the highest in charter, middle and high schools with an increase in students enrolling across the board with more demand existing in areas like PE, computer technology and foreign language classes. These gaps and other local education factors make Oaklahoma a great place for aspiring teachers to make their mark.  


For years, the state of Texas has accounted for a full 25 percent of the entire U.S. population growth. What does this mean? This means that the teacher shortage in Texas doesn’t have the negative forces that have caused other states’ shortages, rather the strong economy, booming resident numbers increase the demand for teachers for the better! According to

Districts are hustling to fill the tens of thousands of vacancies across the state needed for school year. The demand and competition between districts has pushed starting teacher salaries to record highs, breaking $50,000 in numerous regions across Texas.

“It honestly has never been a better time to get hired”, says Patty Koebke, Director of Customer Relations at Texas Teachers. “Our Advisors talk to hundreds of people a day and so many of them are telling us they already have interviews and offers for jobs next semester. We receive over 700 applications a week and from what I can tell, that’s not nearly enough.”

This is a refreshing statement coming at a time where teacher shortages generally portray a negative climate rather than a hopeful one. It’s also notable to mention that San Antonio and Austin were recently positioned in the top 2 cities for young teachers.

Other opportunities in the South

Mississippi, especially its Delta region, and South Carolina both rank within the top three for states with the highest teacher demand. Math and science are two areas that are in the most need across both states, with South Carolina adding areas such as language, arts, English and special education.

The Northeast

New Jersey

Although the teacher shortage is present throughout the country, New Jersey has a unique advantage that others may not have – it has the government on its side. In other states, sometimes the system must work overtime to solve the problems within the schools, without the help of legislature. But Governor Chris Christie has spoken out to champion “a new pipeline” to bring qualified teachers to New Jersey’s neediest schools. As NJ.com reports:

Christie introduced the first 50 recipients of the Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Teaching Fellowship, a privately funded, $11.4 million program that trains both recent college graduates and veteran professionals to become science, technology, engineering, and math teachers.

"We fully recognize what research has shown us for years: Teachers matter," Christie said. "Outside of parents, they are the single most important factor in how our children learn. With today's announcement, we are reaffirming our commitment to advancing teacher talent."

Each recipient will receive $30,000 to complete a specially designed master's degree program at one of five colleges and universities across the state and in return, the recipients will teach for three years at one of 12 at-need districts across the state. This reciprocal relationship provides a hopeful model to not only attract young teachers, but also serve as a model for other at-risk states to follow.


The state is proud to uphold high standards of teacher performance. The teacher shortage trend does exist in a number of Pennsylvania school districts, but the Philadelphia area has been particularly affected by the recent spike in retirements and resignations. Similar to New Jersey’s condition, the state government is committed to supporting educators. It has over 500 school districts that encompass its over 3,200 schools and a healthy student to teacher ratio.

Teacher salaries in Pennsylvania are on par with the national average for the profession and teachers may improve their chances of landing a great teaching career by specializing in content areas such as foreign languages, math, science, special education and technology education.

Other opportunities in the Northeast

Maryland is another state in the region that has open positions ready to be filled. Just a few days ago, Hartford County officials announced that they needed to hire as many as 100 new teachers before school starts less than a month from today.

Getting prepared

As a university, UMass Global of course believes in the fact that there will always be a need for great teachers, regardless of temporary economic conditions. There are many different pathways aspiring teachers can take to break into the industry and each state has its own requirements and standards to qualify for certain positions. Explore authorizations, credentials, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in California by learning more about University of Massachusetts Global and its School of Education, or visit teach.com to explore careers in your area.



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