New study reveals many teachers are looking for a career change after the 10-year mark

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Researchers suggest it could come down to needing a better work/life balance

Career changes can occur at any age, and according to a new study, many teachers are opting for a switch after 10 years on the job.

Researchers found that after the decade mark, many teachers are leaving their chosen field to embark on new endeavors, citing the need for a better work/life balance and less pressure on performance.

“It’s not as if they weren’t aware that teaching was going to be demanding,” the authors wrote. “However, they feel that the demands of the job outstrip their capacity to adapt. This raises the questions: what can be done to arrest this trend?”

Deciding to leave

The researchers were most interested in seeing not only what was driving teachers to leave the field, but also what led them to the field in the first place.

To get a better understanding of the thought processes of a large sampling of teachers, the researchers utilized a London school that recruits and trains the majority of teachers in the United Kingdom, known as the UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

There were 1,200 teachers involved in the study, and the researchers developed a six-part survey that asked teachers a variety of questions including:

  • Demographic questions

  • Motivational themes (Why the participants wanted to become teachers)

  • Career goals

  • Teacher training path and outcomes

  • Current employment and future goals

  • Reasons for leaving or reasons to leave the field

At the time of the survey, 18 percent of participants never made it past their initial teacher training, while 13 percent finished their training but left the profession. Of those teachers who quit, over 20 percent were in their third year, while over 30 percent were in their second year.

For those still teaching, many of their initial goals for getting into the field were similar. While half of the participants reported being passionate about their chosen subject, nearly 70 percent had aspirations of making a difference, and over 60 percent wanted to work with kids.

While nearly half of the respondents reported being committed to teaching for the long-haul, 16 percent had plans of leaving within five years, while over 20 percent saw themselves in the profession for another decade. It is important to note that the participants ranged in age from 21 years old to 51 years old, but the majority of the group was between 26 and 30 at the time of the survey, showing that their reasons for leaving weren’t related to retirement.

The researchers had those who left teaching report on why they left, and then also asked those still teaching why they might consider leaving, and found that the responses were very similar.

Seventy-five percent of teachers who left wanted a better work/life balance, while over 70 percent were overwhelmed by the workload. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of former-teachers felt too much pressure for their students to perform well. Those numbers were very similar to the teachers who were just pondering why they’d leave.

“The general response from government is that teaching will be improved by reducing workload, removing unnecessary tasks and increasing pay,” the authors wrote. “This may help, and our study does continue the discourse that workload is key. However, it also indicates that part of the problem lies within the culture of teaching, the constant scrutiny, the need to perform, and hyper-critical management. Reducing workload will not address these cultural issues.”

Consistent findings

This study touches on themes and ideas that have been circulating in the news as of late.

Last year, researchers from the University of Missouri found that over 90 percent of teachers were feeling job-related stress, which was found to have an effect on student outcomes.

Earlier this year, a government survey revealed that teachers are quitting in record numbers -- particularly in public schools.

The survey found that while many teachers are simply getting better offers in other fields, others are looking for better compensation, and others are plagued with disruptive students and a lack of discipline from superiors.

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