Online Teaching Blog

Best practices, tips & tricks, and career advice—served up fresh

K-12 to Higher Ed Faculty: Making the Transition

K-12 to Higher Ed Faculty: Making the Transition

by Michael Miller
July 16, 2015

If you have been teaching in the K-12 environment and are looking to break into teaching in higher education online, this article will tell you about how to get started and some considerations to take into account as you begin your search.

So you’ve been an educator at the elementary, middle, or high school level for eight, 10, 12 or more years. You likely have an undergraduate degree in education and possibly a Master’s degree, also in education. Now, you would like to venture into the world of online teaching and learning. You know all about pedagogy and best practices, curriculum and instruction, etc…this makes you the perfect candidate, right? Maybe.

I say maybe based on research, experience, and conversations I have had with hiring professionals in the industry. As you begin to look into the possibility of Making a Living Teaching Online, or even if you are just searching for some extra income, there are a few things to consider.

First, do you have experience teaching adults? Have you conducted workshops for teachers at your school or in your district? Have you taught GED courses? These are certainly marketable experiences that can help get you started. If this is the extent of your adult teaching experience, you will want to highlight these in a big way to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you have a solid understanding of andragogical practices and how to work with adults.

If you have very little of this experience or none at all, it is unlikely a post-secondary institution will want to hire you.

So, what can you do?

Holding a Master’s degree in Education is a bit different than one in Business, English, Art, or Political Science. When one holds a Master’s degree in a specialty area, like the ones mentioned above, they have the usually have the required 18 graduate credit hours to teach in that particular discipline at the undergraduate level. There are very few undergraduate degree programs in Education offered online. The field of preparing teachers for the classroom is still largely a program only offered in the traditional classroom setting. However, there are more and more Early Childhood Education programs being offered in the online format at community and technical colleges. If you have the classroom experience with these little ones, this may be an option.

Now, if you have been teaching upper elementary, middle, or high school, it’s a different story. There are many community and technical colleges which are able to hire educators with Master’s degrees to teach lower-level introductory courses. These are the general studies courses that all students have to take when seeking a degree. This may not be the subject matter you are passionate about, but it’s a start! This is always an option to get your foot in the door. At the same time, there is still the caveat of whether or not you have experience teaching adults. If not, try to get into some ground schools to get the experience; trust me, you will be glad you did!

So, when and how do I get to teach a subject I AM passionate about? There are basically two options, both of which require returning to school. The first option would be to obtain the required 18 graduate credit hours in a specific discipline of interest. The second option, if you would like to teach about teaching, curriculum and instruction, or educational leadership, it will be necessary to obtain a Doctorate. There are several online graduate degree programs in Education, but you must have a Doctorate to teach at the graduate level.

In the meantime, focus on getting some adult teaching experience, whether it be on ground or online. It will serve you well!