It’s not uncommon to find a student majoring in architecture to be in a studio at midnight or a theater major rehearsing lines for an upcoming audition. What about education majors?
They may not work odd hours, but there’s a certain mindset and pressure associated with the major.
“I think it’s definitely the most easy-going major on campus,” said Danny Doherty, a junior secondary social studies education major. “We’ve got to remember that in a few years, we’ll be going into a field that’s not so lax.”
The College of Education requires education majors to complete a state-approved teaching preparation program that includes a student-teaching experience. Students who meet all requirements to graduate with a bachelor’s degree are also eligible for a state teaching certificate within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“We literally spend more time in an actual classroom than most majors because not only are most of us double-majoring in our concentration, but we all have to student teach,” Doherty said.
After a semester of student teaching, the final step in completing the education curriculum, education majors begin looking for careers.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, all student teachers and education-related job applicants must undergo a Child Abuse History Clearance and a Criminal Records Check.
“It’s scary to think that you could have already done so much work, and just one drink could ruin all of your future plans,” said Nick Kirkstadt, a sophomore secondary education and English major. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher for a while, so I try to stay away from frats and any big parties. In the long run, it’s just not worth it.”
Being reported for underage drinking or any other criminal activity is a legitimate fear among education majors, but not all students take the threat to heart.
“You have to be doing something really stupid to get caught and dismissed from the major,” Doherty said. “I know it’s the last thing I’m worried about when I go out. Maybe the freshmen are a little worried about it, but I think eventually even they realize that the cops are here to protect us, not to get us in trouble.”
Tarana Janifer, a sophomore secondary education and Spanish major, recently transferred into the College of Education and isn’t losing sleep because of background checks.
“I feel like [the Pennsylvania Department of Education] should be more worried about sex offenders and things like that, not so much partying,” Janifer said. “At the same time, I do understand it because we are supposed to be role models for kids.”
Janifer said education majors need to learn their concentrations inside and out.
“I always did well in Spanish classes, but it’s one thing to know it for yourself and another thing to be able to teach it to others,” Janifer said. “There’s pressure to learn it all now, and you’ve also got to learn to be quick on your feet.”
Unlike students majoring in engineering or accounting, education majors’ ideal careers in teaching don’t yield stellar financial benefits, especially in today’s economy.
Kirkstadt said he realizes a bachelor’s degree in education won’t rake in a six-figure salary after graduation, as he tries to keep the financial aspect of his future in mind.
“I’ve been trying to save as much money as I can, and I definitely don’t go on any spending sprees,” Kirkstadt said. “I work a lot of hours, and I think that if I apply myself to my schoolwork, future employers are going to see that I’ll apply myself in the classroom as well. Hopefully, that could lead to better financial opportunities.”
Like most students who aspire to work in the field of education, Doherty and Janifer agree the perks to teaching do not lie in the paychecks.
“I’ve had professors that have told me not to become a teacher,” Doherty said. “I’m not in this for the money, and I think most people who major in education would agree.”
“If you’re doing something that you love,” Janifer said, “you’ll find that the money just won’t matter as much.”
Maria Zankey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.