Millennials May Cause a Teaching Shortage, According to Recent Survey

Posted By Terri Williams on November 6, 2015 at 11:18 am
Millennials May Cause a Teaching Shortage, According to Recent Survey

As a result of booming birthrates and a generation of retiring educators, the country will soon need a lot of new teachers to educate its youngest citizens. However, according to a recent report, there may not be enough teachers entering the profession to meet this need.

Third Way recently surveyed a sample of high-achieving college students about their impressions of the teaching profession, and the results were not promising.

When asked about their interest in becoming a K-12 teacher, students responded as follows:

43% Somewhat interested
40% Not interested at all
17% Very interested


Other findings include:

50% Believe the teaching profession has gotten less prestigious in the last few years
9% View education as “very difficult” while over half view it as “easy” or “very easy”
35% Describe teachers as smart


In addition, education was seen as the top profession for “average people.”

What are some of the factors that may be shaping these millennial perceptions of education – and what can the profession do to attract more new teachers?

Preparation and certification

According to Third Way, two-thirds of teachers are in the bottom two-thirds of their classes and almost half of teachers are in the bottom third. The numbers are even worse in poor school systems. This is in stark contrast to most of the countries that surpass the U.S. in student performance. Those countries recruit the top one-third of candidates for teaching positions.

In addition, Third Way noted that while other professions, such as medicine and law, have standard licensure requirements, the teacher certification system varies from state to state, “and in most places, sets an incredibly low bar.” Less than 3% of the country’s teachers are board certified, and less than half of those (40%) pass on the first attempt. As a point of comparison, 90% of doctors pass their board exam on the first try.

Pay and performance

But preparation and pay are not the only issues. A report by the New Teacher Project recently surveyed 15,000 teachers and 1,300 administrators. The results reveal that 99% of teachers receive a satisfactory rating, and 75% do not receive any feedback regarding ways to improve their performance. In five years, half of the school districts in the report did not dismiss a single teacher for performance issues. The teachers also felt that there were low expectations for new teachers.

Other research reveals that teachers aren’t particularly happy on the job. According to a Gallup poll of 7,000 teachers, 70% are not emotionally connected to their work. Also, among all of the professions surveyed, teachers were most likely to say they didn’t think their opinions in the workplace counted.

Wages are another concern. In the Third Way survey, 39% of students said salaries would have to increase for them to think about becoming a teacher. And according to a recent Harris Poll, 60% of Americans don’t think teachers are paid enough, and 61% don’t think enough money is spent on public schools.

Wages for teachers are among the lowest for college graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, education wages range from $53,090 for kindergarten and elementary school teachers to $55,050 for high school teachers.


Once teachers enter the classroom, the vast majority of them have nowhere else to go, because there are very few opportunities for upward mobility. Millennials typically stay at their first job for five years or less – and those in education are no different. As a result, Celine Coggins and Heather Peske declared in an article in Education Week that “new teachers are the new majority,” since 52% of teachers have no more than 10 years of experience. According to Coggins and Peske, “Schools are seniority-driven cultures. The message to younger teachers continues to be: Wait your turn; accept the system as it is; and, in time, it will work for you. In other words: Assimilate or leave.”

And as more young teachers choose to leave, and fewer students choose to enter the profession, we may well end up with a teaching shortage.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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