Where Your Teaching Certificate Can Take You: 6 Alternatives to Teaching in Traditional Public Schools

Free public primary and secondary education are cornerstones of the US educational landscape. Public schools exist because of funding from the local, state, and federal governments. In return, public schools must admit any child that lives within the district or school boundaries.

Public school gets a lot of flak from people who think its methods are outdated and incompatible with today’s economy. Complaints range from there not being enough parent involvement to overcrowding to too much (or too little) reliance on technology to students not being prepared for college and/or careers. And lately, with the controversy over the Common Core State Standards, it seems like many teachers are wondering if there are any alternatives to teaching in public schools.

If you’re wondering what alternatives you have to applying for jobs in your local district, you’ll be happy to know there are lots of different opportunities for experienced, certified teachers.

1. Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are public schools that focus on a specific type of curriculum. For example, you’ll find science and technology magnet schools, health care professional magnet schools, performing arts magnet schools and many other magnets with various concentrations. The magnet school movement became popular in the 1970s as a way to integrate schools. The idea was that students from anywhere could apply and attend the school based on interests or talents, rather than neighborhood location. Some magnets have rigorous application processes, including auditions, while some admit students based on a lottery system. There are magnet elementary, middle, and high schools, so no matter what your specialty, so long as you have a certificate, you should be qualified to teach at a magnet school.

2. Online Platforms

There’s no doubt that technology is used more in education than ever before. That includes many students taking courses online. In order for students to get credit for these courses, there have to be certificated teachers keeping track of their work and available for instruction. Some online teaching requires you to meet in person with your students periodically, while other programs allow you to hold lessons and advisory type via video chat. Most online teaching positions require a teaching credential from the state in which the students reside. So, you can’t have a Florida teaching certificate and teach students in Indiana.

3. Private Schools

Private schools are independent of district, state, or federal government oversight. This means they can select students they want to attend and charge them tuition. Private schools are sometimes related to religious organizations and include that dogma in the curriculum. Other private schools, such as Waldorf programs, follow specific pedagogies that aren’t traditionally supported at public schools. Because private schools don’t receive government monies, they don’t usually require teachers to be certified. However, many private schools pride themselves on their rigorous curriculum and want teachers to be highly qualified. 

4. Charter Schools

Charter schools are also public schools, but they are not governed by district school boards. They have independent leadership. Charter schools are often parent- or teacher- initiated
or founded. Some are run by for-profit organizations. There are charter schools that have special themes, missions, or pedagogies, like this public Montessori charter school. Other charters run similarly to traditional public schools but without the district oversight. Most charter schools require that you have current certification to teach in their programs.  

5. International Schools

There are American-style schools that are assisted by the US government in countries all over the world. The schools often support the children of expats or children whose parents work as diplomats. To work in these schools, you need a valid teaching certificate. Besides the specialized American schools, international jobs are available all over through programs that vary from country to country. Some of these programs don’t require a teaching certificate, especially when the content focuses mainly on teaching English.

6. Movie Sets

If you love to travel, this teaching environment might be right up your alley. When child actors are present on movie sets, they are required to received instruction by credentialed teachers for several hours during the day. Set teachers are responsible for keeping the children immersed in their school curriculum while they’re away filming. Some set teachers are required to work internationally, deepening on where the movie or TV show is being filmed. Other teachers find work on studio lots, where their schedule is more steady.

If you find yourself ready to look for a new teaching job, keep in mind the many options you have. Sometimes a change of environment makes all the difference in keeping you motivated and in love with the work that you do. No matter where you teach, you’ll find great colleagues and smart students.

Amanda Ronan is an Austin-based writer. After many years as a teacher, Amanda transitioned out of the classroom and into educational publishing. She wrote and edited English, language arts, reading, and social studies content for grades K-12. Since becoming a full-time writer, Amanda has worked with a diverse set of clients, ranging from functional medicine doctors to design schools to moving companies. She blogs, writes long-form articles, and pens YA and children's fiction. Her first YA series, My Brother is a Robot, is slated for release by Scobre Educational Press in September 2015.