November 2, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Tennessee Tech University
East Carolina University
Concordia University, St. Paul
Wayne State University
University of Denver
William & Mary
University of Idaho
Department of Education Leadership
Dr. Johnny O'Connor Ph.D.: During my career in PK - 12 public education, I was fortunate to serve in various executive positions. Specifically, as it relates to answering this question, my role as Executive Director of Human Resources offers the best perspective. As an HR executive, my department was often tasked with screening and identifying top candidates for campus and district-level curriculum and instruction positions. Through this experience, as well as my experience as an educational consultant, I found the following skills to stand out on the resumes of top curriculum and instruction candidates:
-Exceptional communication skills
-Strong background and knowledge in pedagogy
-Successful teaching experience
-Advanced degrees and certifications
-Ability to effectively collect and utilize instructional data
-Robust theoretical and practical knowledge of best practices in curriculum and instruction
Dr. Johnny O'Connor Ph.D.: Curriculum and Instruction professionals in PK - 12 settings consistently interact with various stakeholders (i.e., students, teachers, and staff). Given this, soft skills are a vital part of their success. Successful C&I professionals often present with the following soft skills:
-Ability to effectively communicate
-Strong desire to support student success
-Ability to effectively plan, organize and execute timely
-Inherent capacity to develop and work with interdisciplinary teams
Given the everchanging demand of this role and its direct effect on student achievement, C&I professionals must also be equipped with an unwavering work ethic.
Dr. Johnny O'Connor Ph.D.: Over the last two years, the role of a Curriculum and Instruction professional in PK - 12 settings has quickly evolved. While technology continues to be a fundamental part of curriculum and instructional practices, the emergence of COVID-19 has further solidified the relevance of technology in education, as virtual learning environments have been added to the academic offerings of many schools. Furthermore, in addition to having a deep knowledge of research-based curriculum and instructional strategies and the ability to utilize data to inform curriculum and instructional decisions, C&I professionals should now be prepared to demonstrate contemporary knowledge and understanding of instructional tools and practices within a virtual environment. This skill will become even more important as schools adapt to what has been termed as the "new normal" in education.
Dr. Johnny O'Connor Ph.D.: In most professions, those that offer the most value to an organization earn more. Careers in curriculum and instruction are no exception. The skill level and experience of C&I professionals can vary widely. Nonetheless, only the most well qualified can demand top pay. C&I professionals with the following qualifications can expect to earn more than their less qualified peers:
-Advanced degrees in Curriculum/Instruction and/or Educational Leadership (i.e., M.Ed., Ed.D., Ph.D.)
-Experience with online instructional tools and learning platforms
-Experience developing and facilitating large scale professional development
-Knowledge and experience with curriculum and instruction in multiple content areas
-Experience as an instructional coach
-Ability to design, interpret and implement various models of response to intervention
-Previous leadership role in curriculum and instruction
-Ability to create and design customized curriculum
-Expertise in supporting the curriculum and instruction needs of multiple student groups
-5+ years successful teaching experience in a core subject area
Tennessee Tech University
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Jeremy Wendt: Currently, an in-depth understanding of hybrid and online learning is the most valuable skill set for curriculum or instructional design positions. There are always baseline expectations for curricular development that any qualified candidate will learn through coursework or hands-on experience. However, layering in the ever-changing and evolving online learning environment creates a void in the skillset of the typical curriculum designer or educator.
Jeremy Wendt: Job candidates must always consider their impact and role on a team. Communication and interaction with a team and organizational hierarchy will continue to be vital regardless of the in-person or online nature of a job. Software and hardware advances have enabled workers to continue as productive employees, but positive human interaction is still the most important soft skill. All companies have routines, expectations, and identities that are unique to the company. Understanding your skills, personality, and expertise in the context of the organization will contribute to the success of the company and your career.
Jeremy Wendt: The tech skills needed in any curricular environment vary by industry. Within a K-12 school system, educational technologies are widely applied and help manage assignments, grades, attendance, and engage students. Instructional designers will find more technical software that is specific to the organization but will be designed to help employees build curriculum efficiently and effectively. In either case, foundational technology courses are ideal for baseline knowledge, and professional development through conferences and networking will enhance the skillset for a career.
Jeremy Wendt: Flexible, adaptable, and confident job candidates are the most desirable. These abilities will create agility in a workplace, especially if the employees are always willing to grow, refine, and rebuild their skillset. Setting goals for the future, but adapting to change when it takes place, will always create unique opportunities for advancement and progress.
East Carolina University
College of Education
Todd Finley Ph.D.: Curriculum specialists should be fluent in appraising and conducting research, both qualitative and quantitative. This is because classroom professionals are often tasked with making data-informed instructional decisions. They should also be up-to-date in reading new research on the brain and high-impact practices.
Todd Finley Ph.D.: Being able to read the social contexts of different schools and classrooms is critical for curriculum specialists. With strong interpersonal skills, they should be able to critique classroom instruction without causing the teacher to feel threatened. They should also be able to read when students are simply being compliant instead of actually engaged by a rich curriculum. Finally, a spirit of generosity needs to be the curriculum specialist's ethos instead of applying a deficit mindset to a teacher's abilities.
Todd Finley Ph.D.: Knowing how to leverage technology in the classroom is a critical curriculum specialist disposition--especially given the COVID-19 landscape when schools might go online again. It's not enough that the curriculum specialist knows about education technology; they also have to help teachers scaffold tech use by students.
Todd Finley Ph.D.: As in any profession, the skill most useful for earning more is the ability to enhance the effectiveness and bolster the emotions of everyone around you. This often involves positively reframing sticky situations. Given that teaching is an emotionally intensive profession, that last skill is super important.
Concordia University, St. Paul
Graduate Teacher Education
Dr. Barbara Wissink: First and foremost, the candidate needs to have the required credentials in the specific curriculum area they seek to become specialized in. For example, if a candidate was interested in becoming a literacy coach or reading specialist, they would need to highlight the specific license, endorsement, or certificate required in their state. This means that the candidate needs to research their state's specialist requirements before committing to a graduate program, ensuring that they will have the correct credentials when they complete the program.
Dr. Barbara Wissink: Two soft skills really stand out at this time in the school settings: adaptability and coachability. By adaptability, curriculum and instruction specialists must modify the curriculum and instruction based on the students' needs and the instructional delivery model. During the COVID-19 pandemic, specialists had to learn to adapt their instruction and curricula to ensure that distance learning was relevant and meaningful for their students. In addition, many specialists also were charged with mentoring teachers who were facing the same challenges of creating a meaningful distance learning experience for their students.
Secondly, curriculum and instruction specialists need to be coachable. This soft skill proved necessary during the pandemic, as specialists needed to expand their existing instructional style and learn new ways of delivering content to the students and teachers they interact with in the in-person, distance learning, and hybrid modalities.
Dr. Barbara Wissink: For curriculum and instructional specialists, having the right credentials is essential. For example, a literacy specialist needs to have a strong foundation in K-12 literacy provided by an accredited graduate school program. After completing the graduate program, most states require testing to add the specialist license or endorsement to the candidate's initial teaching license.
In addition, a strong understanding of assessment and experience in data analysis will ensure that the candidate can utilize the testing results to discern the best instructional plan for the students they are serving. Curriculum and instruction specialists often mentor and coach K-12 teachers on utilizing their students' assessment data to improve their teaching.
Dr. Barbara Wissink: A candidate's resume must demonstrate that they have the correct credentials (master's degree and an endorsement/license in a specialized field) for a curriculum and instructional specialist position. Without the correct credentials, the candidate may be considered for a lower-paying "instructional support" position within a school district.
Wayne State University
Kinesiology, Health and Sport Studies
Dr. Leah Ketcheson: Flexibility with the delivery of course content. We like to feel confident our instructors are ready to teach online, in person, or in a hybrid model.
Dr. Leah Ketcheson: Listening to feedback from students and building relationships with community partners.
Dr. Leah Ketcheson: Keeping the delivery of content up to date with multiple forms of representation. Students must digest content in various ways, such as through presentations, videos, discussion boards, etc.
Dr. Leah Ketcheson: Hard work, resiliency, and creativity.
School of Professional Studies, Education Division
Desiree Pointer Mac Ph.D.: Based on my experience creating and advising others in creating educator preparation programs in the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru, I believe that the skills that stand out on International Curriculum Specialist resumes highlight outcomes that are not context-specific, but that transcend country- or culture-bound educational contexts. The model of Alverno College (http://alverno.edu) provides one internationally-renowned example of how to do this - it highlights that well-prepared educators, including those charged with developing curricula, should be adept in five advanced educational abilities, which incorporate soft skills and hard/technical skills within the knowledge, skills, and dispositions therein.
Desiree Pointer Mac Ph.D.: For example, an international curriculum specialist should have the ability to conceptualize, which is to say, they deeply understand the relevant content and learning theory required. In this case, an international curriculum specialist should be widely and deeply read in curriculum theory, current research, and the key debates across contexts. But if we are merely knowledgeable or adept in conceptualization ability alone, we lack other essential abilities. Educators must also have the ability to communicate, that is, to speak clearly, listen effectively, be attentive to subtle non-verbal cues, be responsive to cultural nuance, and be adept in the use of technology to facilitate all of the above.
Desiree Pointer Mac Ph.D.: They also must have the ability to diagnose, which indicates that they are observant, inquiring, creating assessments and reflecting on their data, and posing new questions as part of a reflective practitioner cycle of inquiry. They must have the ability to coordinate, which means that they can arrange time, space, personal resources, digital environments, and processes effectively so that people can learn most effectively. And lastly, they must have the ability of inclusive interaction, through which they convey passion for their professional work, advocacy for the people they serve, humility in their own learning, curiosity about what they have yet to learn, and the desire to collaborate with communities of practice. Related to all of these, specific technical skills can come into play, especially as identified first by Punya Mishra in conceptualizing "technological pedagogical content knowledge." The technical skills are in service to the pedagogical purposes.
Desiree Pointer Mac Ph.D.: In terms of having the greatest impact on others' learning, working most deeply within one's purpose and leveraging one's strengths toward the greater good may result in increased earnings. However, most servant leaders do not prioritize financial rewards over benefits to greater humanity.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: Our graduates will experience positive and negative impacts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Our graduates, like many other across the world, are facing a changing work force that must adapt in real time. Our graduates must be flexible, open, and innovative in order to thrive in the current work force. Our graduates are also dealing with looking after their physical and mental well-being, and that of their loved ones. This puts added pressure on graduates to navigate a changing world, while maintaining mental and physical health. Our graduates have learned how to use technology in new ways for online teaching and learning. They have learned from the challenges and successes they have experienced navigating online environments, and they will use this knowledge to make teaching and learning more powerful. Last, our graduates have become more aware of inequities, such as education and health disparities, that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. They emerge as relentless advocates for marginalized communities.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: This is a great unknown. Their experience will be dependent on the ever-changing work force and their ability to adapt and innovate.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: Graduates in Curriculum and Instruction will increase their earning potential by demonstrating that they are innovative and they are able to adapt to changing environments. Moreover, demonstrating an interdisciplinary approach is vital in order to understand the intertwined perspectives and approaches that are necessary to solve community challenges.
Meredith Kier Ph.D.: I think moving forward administrators will look for applicants to demonstrate evidence of adaptability, creativity, and flexibility. Further, teacher candidates will need to show how they are able to use educational technologies to foster connectedness and community building among students. The pandemic has made it evident that teachers are able to flourish amidst countless hurdles to meet the needs of diverse students. It can only be hoped for that this unprecedented event will elevate the profession to show the essential need for teachers in the field.
I think that we will continue to need talented candidates in the field who are prepared in culturally-responsive teaching strategies to promote equitable learning outcomes for students. This being said, it is important for teachers to be supported by their administrators and community to cultivate a network of care for students.
Taylor Raney Ph.D.: I have two answers for this, one conventional and one perhaps less so. First, we'll need teachers of all levels and disciplines. The work it requires to be useful is significantly greater than this time last year, and teachers are burning out. They're burning out easier because they have the same expectations for student learning and less time with which to impact there. They're burning out because they have students whose parents don't know how to help, so they get frustrated with the teachers. In a nutshell, my prediction is, if you take the current needs and multiply them by 1X, we'll have an increased need across the board by X. So the need for special educators, math, and science teachers will continue to be the biggest one, just more so than before.
The second answer, perhaps less apparent, is the increased need for mental health professionals. That's probably not directly tied to teachers, but schools are already significantly understaffed in this area, so they'll be in even greater demand. There are thousands of kids now not getting the nutrition, academic stimulation, support for mental well-being, etc. They need it without being in schools. The needs that will arise from that will be profound. To curb that, we need more mental health professionals in schools. I don't suspect there will be an increase in the job market for that, though, because that's not something I've ever seen legislators care enough about to put money toward.
Taylor Raney Ph.D.: I don't see any technology becoming more important, aside from perhaps expanded access to high-quality Internet, in the next 3-5 years. As long as technology can connect the people behind it to each other, that's what's going to be necessary to get through the world's current state.
Taylor Raney Ph.D.: An increase, without question. See my answer to #1 above. Teachers are burning out and leaving the profession when they can, not sticking around into retirement age because they love what they're doing.
Dr. Lynn Baynum Ph.D.: Today's educators are entering a workforce that will forever be impacted by the instructional adaptations tested and adapted during COVID. Teacher candidates looking for employment must enhance their college experiences to reflect the current and future educational climate, including showcasing professional experiences related to technology integration in teaching and learning. Teacher candidates should include certifications or endorsements sponsored by organizations and agencies, such as Google Classroom and/or learning management systems like Canvas. Accounting for such training demonstrates to school district employers that teacher candidates are well prepared for adapting typical face-to-face instruction within an online format.
Teacher candidates with expansive resumes typically reflect a balance of college-level requirements and student-led experiences. Employers typically look for teachers who have had experience working or volunteering in child and adolescent related organizations. Although at home, child care is often typical on teacher candidates' resumes, future teachers should seek employment in before- and after-school agencies or programs sponsored by school districts. Also, employers recognize civic-minded, future teachers' benefits from volunteering in community lead agencies such as food banks, homeless shelters, and athletic coaching opportunities.
Dr. Lynn Baynum Ph.D.: A gap year is typically seen as an opportunity to expand a worldview, yet many teacher candidates do not have the opportunity to study abroad. This should not preclude a future teacher from taking time to expand his/her knowledge and skills in relation to cultural and economic constructs that influence teaching and learning. One way to do so is to enroll in language courses or to work/volunteer in socio-culturally sponsored initiatives. Emersion is key to optimizing the gap year so that the teacher candidates can examine a cultural landscape. Perspective-taking can also break down biased beliefs.
For example, a teacher candidate who volunteers to work in a homeless shelter would begin to understand the factors that impact academic success. Also, teacher candidates can volunteer or work in urban settings with English Language Learners to better understand language acquisition. Fluency in a second language is not required in teacher training, yet conversational understanding of a second language helps a teacher candidate to not only communicate in that language, but also to empathize with English Language Learners. Knowledge of these factors (language acquisition, poverty, equity) enables teacher candidates to not only reflect on learners' needs but also to learn how to advocate for support. In addition, teacher candidates can become well versed in the service agencies aligned with community wellness and safety. In fact, teacher candidates can enroll in such programs as Youth First Aid Mental Health Training and QPR Training (Question, Persuade, Refer) to better recognize links between cognitive and social-emotional development.
Dr. Lynn Baynum Ph.D.: STEM-related fields are expanding, and all teacher candidates need to be able to address STEM-related connections in the classroom. Teachers do not necessarily need STEM certification to be effective STEM leaders in the classroom, but they need expansive skills that integrate science, technology, engineering, and math into an integrated curriculum approach in the humanities.
Our world is ever-changing, so to be sure that educators are optimizing instruction in K-12 classrooms, teachers need to be able to adapt the curriculum to reflect STEM topics within a multi-cultural landscape. For example, math teachers can profile black mathematicians when discussing a math concept. Students can emerge in inquiry or problem-based learning, specific situations that use data to investigate and solve real-world problems. School-age learners, even young children, can learn to computer code, and teacher candidates must be able to not only adapt instruction using digital tools to construct knowledge within a STEM mindset.