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I am currently at the beginning of my math PhD career at a university in the U.S. after getting higher and college education in Europe (where I am from). I have always liked teaching and math, but I'm realizing that even though I am doing quite well in pure math research, I find it really stressful and I don't think I would like to that for the rest of my life. I enjoy much more teaching, and I would like to that in the United states. Now my question is in regards of the following 3 different opportunities. From what I understood, I could search for a job as a professor at:

  1. High school

  2. Community College

  3. Liberal arts school

Is the salary increasing from 1 to 3? This is what I would expect, but I heard that, for example, the salary of a high school teacher is higher than the salary of a no tenure track position/ lecturer even at a good university. Is this true?

Would the PhD be enough to teach in a high-school? And also, is it going to be much harder for a non American to get hired at a high school rather than a college?

Would a position in either of the 3 types of institution give me vacations for the summer? I assume high schools are closed in the summer, but maybe colleges will require to teach during summer.

Any other suggestions or insights on the matter would be greatly appreciated, and I apologize if the question is a little vague, but I guess others might be in my same situation.

  • Hi, and welcome to Academia.SE! You are likely to get more focused and helpful answers if you focus on one key question; right now, you've got a lot of different questions and thoughts all together here. Can I please suggest that you edit this down to your most important question? You can ask the others as additional, separate questions if you like. – jakebeal Jul 8 '15 at 13:56
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Is the salary increasing from 1 to 3?

Generally, yes.

This is what I would expect, but I heard that, for example, the salary of a high school teacher is higher than the salary of a no tenure track position/ lecturer even at a good university. Is this true?

The median 2012-2013 starting salary for US high school teachers was (ugh) $36,141. This varies considerably based on the state: see here. There is so much variation in the nature of a non-tenure track university position as to dissuade me from trying to look up figures, but in the cases I know of non-tenure track teaching positions at universities which are (i) full-time and (ii) with a PhD, their starting salaries are at least $45K.

In 2013 the median annual salary for US high school teachers was $55,360. Teachers generally have strong unions and get steady annual raises, which is something that university professors have had a lot of trouble with in recent years, and non-tenure track faculty even more so. Most people I know who are PhDs and have been in non-tenure track teaching positions for at least ten years are making $50K to $60K. I would not be surprised if the median salary for these positions was less than $55K.

Note also that the average US high school teacher certainly does not have a PhD. (In fact, fewer than one percent of such teachers have a PhD. This is such a small percentage that the "converse percentage" of PhDs who go on to teach high school must be rather small as well. The last link is to an article which explores this a bit.) In the realm of high school teaching, having a PhD puts you into a very elite group which is competitive for the best teaching assignments, the best students, and so forth. If you have a PhD, I think you would have an easier time bringing home a salary upwards of $75K as a high school teacher than as a non-tenure track college faculty member.

Would the PhD be enough to teach in a high school?

In many states, public high school teachers need to be certified. My understanding is that certification is not require for private high schools (though this too probably varies by state) and I know of at least some private high schools which do not require it. Anyway, though I have not done it, my understanding is that certification is a fairly easy process compared to getting a PhD. In fact many students with teaching interests acquire this certification before they graduate, so it can't be that bad.

And also, is it gonna be much harder for a non american to get hired at a high school rather than a college?

Sorry, I don't really know. My guess is that if you do not already have a green card and are looking for immigration status coming from your teaching job, that will be harder. If you are a permanent resident, speak fluent and intelligible English, and have a PhD (again, this confers highly elite status among high school teachers) from an American university, you're going to look like a catch. Do recall that America is a nation of immigrants. If you're teaching in an urban environment, there will be many other foreigners and first generation Americans milling about. If you go to a small town, maybe they'll chase you out with pitchforks...but probably only if you have bolts sticking out of your neck.

Would a position in either of the 3 types of institution give me holidays for the summer? I assume high schools are closed in the summer, but maybe colleges will require to teach during summer.

Yes, you should get summers off in all three positions. For high school this is of course one of the major perks of the job. In a college or university they will probably offer you summer teaching, and they may pay you little enough to make that attractive, but you certainly don't have to.

Let me put in a vote for high school teaching. America needs competent, intelligent, serious high school teachers more than anything else I can think of. Like many jobs, it has some negative aspects, but it's truly important, good work.

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    My local grocery store poached teachers off the school system by offering better wages, benefits, and more job security. You can continue to bag groceries no matter what tantrums the politicians throw. you can put your phd to better use bagging my groceries. – emory Jul 14 '15 at 23:47
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    I would also note the stress that comes with teaching in public schools is far greater than teaching in colleges. Most high school teachers are unhappy unless they're private high schools. – Danny Rodriguez Apr 14 '16 at 23:23
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    Some additional information about the possibility of teaching high school are given in the answers and comments to the Mathematics Educators Stack Exchange question Devising backup plan to become HS teacher as a late undergrad. – Dave L Renfro Apr 15 '16 at 13:34

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