April 16, 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.
The George Washington University
Lock Haven University
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bank Street College
East Tennessee State University
University of South Florida
Counselor, Leadership, and Special Education (CLSE)Website
Kate Simmons Ph.D.: The biggest trends in the field of special education have probably increased during the pandemic. The country and the state of Alabama are in a teacher shortage crisis. I think we may see a pattern of older teachers retiring early because of the stress the pandemic may have placed on them. The state is in desperate need of good STEM teachers.
Kate Simmons Ph.D.: Graduates should possess the soft skills of being able to address an unfamiliar person and be able to hold a conversation. For special education teachers they need a wider range of soft skills to be affective. They should have excellent problem-solving skills and negotiating skills, whether were there there working with students or parents. They should also be trained and have the ability to explain special education services to someone who might not be educated.
Most people don't realize that special education teachers wear many hats. They are the teacher first but also play the role of parent, guardian, friend, advocate, judge and jury to just name a few. It requires a lot of skills beyond teaching to be an effective special education teacher!
Kate Simmons Ph.D.: Over time, the salaries for a special education teacher have increased with some stagnant years in between. And I think that is safe to say for all teaching positions. Teachers are being asked to do with more and more with very little compensation and very little resources. It would be interesting to know how much a teacher spends out-of-pocket on materials and needs for their individual classrooms. I think people would be surprised at how generous and committed teachers are to their profession.
The George Washington University
Special Education and Disability Studies (SEDS)Website
Dr. Doran Gresham: The whole world has been asked to pivot to online instruction or at least hybrid instruction. This will require graduates to learn from each other and require more from their administrators and coaches on the ground level. For instance, teachers should routinely share best practices with their colleagues to ensure that their lessons move all learners from where they are, forward.
Dr. Doran Gresham: The world around us is becoming more cultural and at the same time, there is a need for customized education. This is why our advanced master's degree program for culturally and linguistically diverse learners is so popular across the United States. The idea is to create coursework that meets at the intersection of culture and special education. Graduates need content that they can use the very next day and that's what we're providing.
Dr. Doran Gresham: Look at your surroundings and fill in the gaps. Find a way to learn something that is unique and then monetize what you know. After all, the happiest educators that I'm acquainted with are the consultants because they get treated like business people.This is a fine time for innovators to shine.
Lock Haven University
Department of Special EducationWebsite
Dr. Erica Moore: In the field of special education, I honestly believe the upcoming trends in the job market will surround the utilization of technology and the inclusion of trauma-informed practices. The pandemic certainly highlighted the need for educators to possess a variety of technological skills and to be seeking unique opportunities to engage students in a virtual learning environment. In addition, graduates in the field will need to be prepared to recognize and respond to students who have been impacted by traumatic stress. Creating a culture of respect and support in a classroom will provide a foundation for coping with extreme situations.
Dr. Erica Moore: In my opinion, all graduates in education should possess the soft skills of motivation, dedication, and enthusiasm. Educators should be constantly evolving and motivated to seek innovative instructional activities to best meet the needs of their students. Dedication to the students and to the profession is a must! Graduates should be entering the field of special education for the love of watching students grow and achieve. Some days can be extremely stressful; therefore, the love and commitment for supporting the success of individuals with exceptionalities makes everything worthwhile.
Finally, enthusiasm to continue learning and sharing the joy in the classroom can be contagious. One of my favorite quotes I have lived by as an educator is; "Nothing great is every achieved without enthusiasm" - Ralph Waldo Emerson. I truly believe that passion and enthusiasm should be at the core of your mission as a special education teacher. If students are able to see an excitement for teaching, their spark for learning will ignite.
Dr. Erica Moore: Over the years, salaries have increased as the cost of living has been raised. Certainly, depending on the area in which a graduate is seeking a job, salaries will vary based on rural, suburban, or urban communities across the United States. Special Education continues to remain a high area of need and most states are currently in teacher shortages. As with any field, supply and demand may also impact salary options for teachers.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of EducationWebsite
Jennifer Anne Diliberto Ph.D.: As for our grads completing that licensure within special education, mom some benefits are that they are going to be uniquely prepared to Teach virtually or face-to-face. By the end of the semester most of our candidates will of had experience with both of these modalities of instruction. This is a huge benefit to our grads as most teachers are not taught how to provide virtual instruction Within an educator preparation program. We've intentionally discussed the pedagogical differences between virtual and face-to-face instruction for providing "specially designed instruction" a.k.a. special education.
Jennifer Anne Diliberto Ph.D.: Collaborative, problem solver, leader, passion for teaching, learning, and helping others - technology savvy, planner, lifelong learner
Jennifer Anne Diliberto Ph.D.: Teaching! Right now is the most exciting time to be an educator! We are at a point where systemic changes can potentially be made as our pandemic has highlighted many of the issues surrounding equitable education for all. What I find most exciting is all educators are having the discussions regarding systemic issues related to the barriers of providing an equitable quality education. In the past, special educators often discussed these issues among ourselves due to the over- and under-representations of different populations within special-education found in our child count data. As well as the school to prison pipeline--roughly 50% of incarcerated people have disabilities
Bank Street College
Early Childhood DepartmentWebsite
Tara Kirton: Yes, I think there will be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates. I think graduates should be prepared to teach children using multiple modalities both online and in person. Children and adults all learn differently and that remains true in any setting. Some children will find entry points into lessons through read alouds and discussions that follow, others will find more meaning through artistic expression or dramatic play. Teachers should keep that in mind as they are planning lessons. In addition, teachers should be prepared to teach in a variety of settings utilizing the lessons learned earlier in the pandemic. Engagement can feel difficult for children, particularly younger ones. Some students have reported feeling more engaged in a remote learning world. It's important to remember that just like there is no one size fits all approach with in person learning the same will be true for remote learning. This will be critical in general education, inclusive settings and special education settings.
Tara Kirton: I think employers will be looking for students who are well versed or quick studies in Google Suite, Zoom, Google Meet and other online resources. Teachers can not spend all of their time reading books and using videos during their lessons. Engagement will be critical both online and in person. Tools like Flipgrid, Padlet, Edpuzzle, Kahoot! and Mentimeter can help students feel engaged. It will also be important to consider how tools like Zoom are being used. Breakout rooms can be a great way to create smaller interactions but should be discussed in detail with children beforehand to outline the expectations for that space. This of course may or may not be an ideal learning space for younger children and will depend on how many teachers you have on your teaching team to support students in breakout rooms.
Tara Kirton: I think recent graduates should not expect teaching to look the way it did before the coronavirus pandemic. While some things should remain the same like having routines in place and communicating with families, some things will look and feel different. A day at work for a recent graduate will probably include teaching responsibilities, planning with their team, meetings with administrators and faculty meetings (this will vary by school), communication with families and cleaning that is specifically related to the coronavirus on top of the cleaning that would typically take place at the end of the day. I also think a day at work may not be so typical until the pandemic ends. Teachers should be prepared to remain flexible since schools may need to move to remote teaching rather quickly due to a positive test result. Flexibility and open lines of communication between colleagues, children and families will continue to be very important and can help to reduce feelings of anxiety during this most uncertain time.
East Tennessee State University
Department of Educational Foundations & Special EducationWebsite
Cathy Galyon: One of the biggest trends in the job market right now are that many teachers close to retirement and retiring so they do not have to worry about COVID-19 nor learning new technology online. While there is always a shortage in special education teachers, the need is even greater than before particularly in rural communities.
Another big trend is that teachers have to be really flexible in how they are teaching. Many are having to learn new online technologies and how to use them to successfully teach their students. this is a very different type of teaching where different tools and technologies have to be used. This can be especially problematic if the teacher is working with young children with disabilities such as preschool age or students with severe disabilities. What does a special education teacher do when most of their teaching is typically very hands on and they are now teaching over the internet?
As well as new technology, many teachers are having work more closely with parents. Sometimes they need to teach the parents how to teach the skills/materials. They also have to be understanding when assignments are not handed in on time. Parents often work and cannot keep up the demands of their job as well as assist in the education of their child. teachers have to keep deadlines flexible and offer necessary extensions when warranted.
Cathy Galyon: For Special Education the technical skills that stand out to employers are the ability to use assistive technology, which is Technology children with disabilities use to learn, communicate, participate in the classroom, etc. Some states use a case management tool, such as Easy IEP. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a document created for each student in special education to direct the skills they need to work on, the goals they need to meet and the things that need to be adapted for the student to be successful. Technology such as Easy IEP is used by special education teachers to create the IEPs for their students. School systems are really impressed if a job candidate is familiar with this tool and can successfully use it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to gain access to this technology unless a teacher is working for a school system.
Cathy Galyon: Most candidates out of college get a job with a school system immediately! Special education teachers are in high demand and some school systems have difficulty finding qualified teachers, with positions going unfilled. Almost all (near 100%) of our graduates find a job the first semester after they graduate. If this type of job is unavailable, a candidate could work as a special education teaching assistant until they find the job for which they are qualified.
Department of Education & Human DevelopmentWebsite
Dr. Christian Wilkens Ph.D.: In teaching - yes. The technical skills are certainly important (learning how to do remote and hybrid instruction, managing students face to face in classrooms and simultaneously at home, using digital tools to organize instruction, delivering assessments, providing feedback, etc.). We're not going to unlearn any of those things, and I suspect they'll remain important in the years ahead. For example, many teachers that have learned to use Google Classroom or Teams for their classrooms are likely to continue use once the immediate crises have tapered; they're useful.
And school districts are looking hard at things they previously considered set - like policies for snow days, or remote instruction for hospital and homebound students. The ability to reach and support students across geography and through crisis is a huge improvement in skills for teachers and schools alike. But perhaps the most enduring aspect of all this for recent graduates is flexibility. Everyone is finding a way. If there's a silver lining in any of this tragedy, it's that teachers entering the workforce now are figuring out, day by day, how to reach students even in the face of obstacle after obstacle. I have to think this will serve them throughout their careers. Years from now, when the copier breaks or a student calls in sick, I don't think any of pandemic-experienced teachers are going to freak out.
Dr. Christian Wilkens Ph.D.: Right now (still in the middle of the pandemic), teachers are going to work in schools that are either fully remote (hence, they're teaching from home using a variety of digital tools), hybrid (rotating smaller groups of students, sometimes synchronous live in school and remote to students at home), or in-person with spacing, sanitization, and PPE requirements in place. Preparation for teaching often takes longer because teachers must get ready for two approaches for every lesson (remote and face to face)... so teachers are putting in incredibly long hours. At the same time, the work they do has never been more important. Many families and students are struggling with isolation, economic insecurity, etc. Teachers may be the only non-family adults a student sees regularly - and can be the ones who notice and uplift.
Dr. Christian Wilkens Ph.D.: Adaptability and problem-solving. The pandemic has meant so many changes so quickly, the teachers that have proven the most useful to schools are the ones who find a way around, over and through. Certainly the ability to organize classrooms digitally, videoconference, and use software like Nearpod and Flipgrid are handy, but those can be learned quickly. It's really the orientation that's important. Teachers that want to learn new things, and who actively take steps to find ways to engage students - that's what schools and principals need right now.
Department of EducationWebsite
Linda Dauksas: The job market that I am referring to is education and the hiring of teachers. School districts are anticipating a higher-than-average number of retirements. Districts are beginning their hiring processes earlier than usual. Some school districts are encouraging teacher candidates to apply now for Fall '21 employment.
Linda Dauksas: School districts are seeking resilient teachers. These teachers can teach using a variety of different instructional delivery systems (traditional face to face, remote or hybrid instruction). ALL of these formats will be desired after the health pandemic. Districts will continue to use a variety of instructional formats for a variety of reasons (e.g. health-related needs, weather related, natural disasters).
Linda Dauksas: "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life". Any job that you LOVE is a good job out of college! No one can teach you to love your job or to love teaching. During the interview process, the candidate should be selective about the job opportunity, just as much as the district is making a decision about or selecting the candidate.
Corey Barnes Ph.D.: I cannot speak in any meaningful way to pandemic-related trends in the job market aside from the obvious that flexibility and adaptability are and will remain essential skills. We are encouraging our students to cultivate good practices of independent work and of collaborative work carried out remotely.
Corey Barnes Ph.D.: We work with our students to develop their skills in effective written and oral communication targeted for various media. We believe these attuned communication skills best showcase our students' critical thinking, independent research, creative problem solving, and ability to develop understanding across difference.
Corey Barnes Ph.D.: Our students find employment and attend graduate school across the country and around the world. Within the United States, most of our students move to one of the coasts for work. The religion major at Oberlin equips our graduates with broad knowledge and transferable skills that prepare them for success in a variety of endeavors. Most of our majors are double majors, and they tend to pursue employment opportunities at the intersection of their various courses of study.
University of South Florida
College of EducationWebsite
Dr. Elizabeth Doone Ph.D.: During the pandemic the workload for many teachers has compounded as they are expected to teach face-to-face and online simultaneously. Engaging students with special needs in an online environment while beneficial to a few students has proved challenging for others. Imagine engaging a class of three-, four-, and five-year-olds with language impairments and developmental delays in an online format. This becomes a challenge for both working families and teachers.
Dr. Elizabeth Doone Ph.D.: Teachers must be responsive, engaging, flexible and creative. While these skills are not so notable on resumes, having experience with online teaching and a range of educational apps to engage and target instruction is beneficial. For ESE teachers, identifying specific student needs and targeting interventions with appropriate strategies to meet those needs while monitoring progress and adjusting accordingly is a crucial skill set.
Dr. Elizabeth Doone Ph.D.: The need for ESE teachers and paraprofessionals is a national trend, low salaries, lack of respect, an increased work load contribute to an increased need in Florida.