Career Changers: Opportunities for Entering the Education Field

Career Change

Individuals who are looking to move into a more meaningful vocation should consider the myriad opportunities available within the Education field. Teaching, in particular, offers the potential to engage directly with the community, while making a significant impact in the lives of its members.

The South Carolina Department of Education offers multiple pathways for entering the teaching profession, through alternative certification programs. Such programs may be especially attractive for individuals who possess an academic background in a critical subject area, or who are looking to move from STEM fields into teaching positions. While these programs are certainly beneficial for those eager to gain hands-on experience, prospective teachers may find such alternatives to be insufficient in providing the necessary pedagogical foundation.

In partnership with the University of Charleston, S.C. at the College of Charleston, the Lowcountry Graduate Center currently offers two graduate programs designed to prepare teachers for the rigors of the classroom: the Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education, and the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Certificate programs. Both programs provide a strong academic framework, and the experience necessary to lead with confidence.

The M.A.T. in Special Education is a nationally recognized program, providing prospective teachers with the skills required to effectively lead and inspire students with special needs. Specifically designed for individuals whose academic background is outside of the Education field, the M.A.T. in Special Education leads to recommendation for licensure in three areas of teaching exceptional students: Learning Disabilities, Mental Disabilities, and Emotional Disabilities. Individuals who obtain a Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education may also choose move into other professions, such as occupational therapy, speech language pathology and school psychology.

The Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages certificate programs (ESOL) allows prospective teachers to gain an understanding of the principles and strategies related to language acquisition and assessment. While this certificate program does not meet the requirements for initial K-12 teacher certification in U.S. public schools (ESOL is an add-on endorsement: those who already hold initial teacher certification may obtain ESOL licensure upon completion of the program), individuals who are looking to teach in other learning environments may find this program to be well-suited to their needs. Prospective teachers who are seeking positions in U.S. private schools and continuing education programs – or who are looking to teach abroad – may find that only a college degree and an ESOL certificate are required (in addition to being a native English speaker).

The South Carolina Student Loan Corporation currently offers the SC Career Changers Loan Program: designed to provide financial assistance to those looking to enter the teaching profession. To qualify for the program, individuals must meet the criteria for the SC Teacher Loan Program, have possessed a baccalaureate degree for at least three years, and have also engaged in full-time employment for a three-year period. As stated by the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation:

“The (Career Changers) loan is forgiven at the rate of 20% or $3,000, whichever is greater, for each full year of teaching in a South Carolina public school in a 
 critical subject or critical geographic area. If you teach in a public South Carolina school in both a critical subject and a critical geographic area, your loan will be forgiven at the rate of 33 1/3% or $5,000, whichever is greater, for each year of full-time teaching.”

As special education is currently considered a critical subject at all levels, the SC Career Changers Loan Program is a viable funding option for prospective teachers considering the Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education program offered through the LGC. While priority application deadline for the SC Career Changers Loan Program is April 30, due to limited funding, potential applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as the current year’s form is made available.

For more information about loan programs available to prospective teachers, please visit the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation website. For additional information about enrolling in the graduate-level Education programs offered though the Lowcountry Graduate Center, please visit our Programs page.