Educational Services Industry

Significant Points

Nature of the Industry[About this section] [To Top]

Goods and services. Education is an important part of life. The amount and type of education that individuals receive is a major influence on both the types of jobs they are able to hold and their earnings. Lifelong learning is important in acquiring new knowledge and upgrading one's skills, particularly in this age of rapid technological and economic changes. The educational services industry includes a variety of institutions that offer academic education, career and technical instruction, and other education and training to millions of students each year.

Industry organization. Because school attendance is compulsory until at least age 16 in all 50 States and the District of Columbia, elementary, middle, and secondary schools are the most numerous of all educational establishments. They provide academic instruction to students in kindergarten through grade 12 in a variety of settings, including public schools, parochial schools, boarding and other private schools, and military academies. Some secondary schools offer a mixture of academic and career and technical instruction.

Postsecondary institutions—universities, colleges, professional schools, community or junior colleges, and career and technical institutes—provide education and training in both academic and technical subjects for high school graduates and other adults. These institutions may offer associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees, depending on the type of institution. The undergraduate bachelor's degree typically requires 4 years of study, while graduate degrees require additional years of study. Community and junior colleges and technical institutes offer associate degrees, certificates, or other diplomas, usually involving 2 years of study or less. Career and technical schools provide specialized training and services primarily related to a specific job. They may provide courses or programs for cosmetology, computers, business, practical nursing, and trades like automobile repair or welding.

This industry also includes institutions that provide training, consulting, and other support services to schools and students, such as curriculum development, student exchanges, and tutoring. Also included are schools or programs that offer nonacademic or self-enrichment classes, such as automobile driving and cooking instruction, among others.

Recent developments. In recent decades, the Nation has focused attention on the educational system, because of the growing importance of producing a trained and educated workforce. Many institutions, including government, private industry, and research organizations, are involved in improving the quality of education. The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 established Federal guidelines to ensure that all students in public elementary through secondary schools receive a high-quality education. Through this act, States are given some flexibility on how to spend the educational funds they are allocated. However, the Act requires standardized testing of all students in core subject areas. Students, teachers, and staff involved in education are held accountable for the results of testing, and teachers and teacher assistants must demonstrate that they are sufficiently qualified in the subjects or areas in which they teach. States are responsible for following these guidelines and can lose Federal funding if standards are not met. Despite this increased Federal role, State and local governments are still the most important regulators of public education. Many States had already begun to introduce performance standards individually prior to passage of the Act, and the Act still allows States a considerable amount of discretion in how they implement many of its provisions.

In an effort to promote innovation in public education, many local and State governments have authorized the creation of public charter schools, in the belief that, by presenting students and their parents with a greater range of instructional options, schools and students will be encouraged to strive for excellence. Charter schools, which usually are run by teachers and parents or, increasingly, by private firms, operate independently of the school system, set their own standards, and practice a variety of innovative teaching methods. Businesses strive to improve education by donating instructional equipment, lending personnel for teaching and mentoring, hosting visits to the workplace, and providing job-shadowing and internship opportunities. Businesses also collaborate with educators to develop curricula that will provide students with the skills they need to cope with new technology in the workplace.

Quality improvements also are being made to career and technical education at secondary and postsecondary schools. Academics are playing a more important role in career and technical curricula, and programs are being made relevant to the local job market. Often, students must meet rigorous standards, set in consultation with private industry, before receiving a certificate or degree. Career and technical students in secondary school programs must pass the same standardized tests in core subject areas as students who are enrolled in academic programs of study. A growing number of career and technical programs emphasize general workplace skills, such as problem solving, teamwork, and customer service. Many high schools now offer technical preparatory ("tech-prep") programs, which are developed jointly by high schools and community colleges to provide a continuous course of study leading to an associate degree or other postsecondary credential.

Computer technology continues to affect the education industry. Teachers use the Internet in classrooms, as well as to communicate with colleagues and parents; students use the Internet for research projects. Distance learning continues to expand, as more postsecondary institutions use Internet-based technology to conduct lessons and coursework electronically, allowing students in distant locations access to educational opportunities formerly available only on campus.

Despite these improvements in quality, problems remain. High school completion rates remain low, particularly for minority students, and employers contend that numerous high school graduates still lack many of the math and communication skills needed in today's workplace. School budgets often are not sufficient to meet an institution's various goals, particularly in the inner cities, where aging facilities and chronic teacher shortages make educating children more difficult.

Working Conditions[About this section] [To Top]

Hours. Most elementary and secondary schools generally operate 10 months a year, but a small percentage operate year round. In schools with a 10 month school year, summer sessions for special education or remedial students are common. In addition, education administrators, office and administrative support workers, and janitors and cleaners often work the entire year. Postsecondary institutions operate year-round, but may have reduced offerings during summer months. Institutions that cater to adult students, and those that offer educational support services such as tutoring, may operate year-round, as well. Night and weekend work is common for teachers of adult literacy and remedial and self-enrichment education, postsecondary teachers, and library workers in postsecondary institutions. Part-time work is common for this same group of teachers, as well as for teacher assistants and school bus drivers. The latter often work a split shift, driving one or two routes in the morning and afternoon; drivers who are assigned to drive students on field trips, to athletic and other extracurricular activities, or to midday kindergarten programs work additional hours during or after school. Many teachers spend significant time outside of school preparing for class, doing administrative tasks, conducting research, writing articles and books, and pursuing advanced degrees.

Work environment. Elementary and secondary school conditions often vary from town to town. Some schools in poorer neighborhoods may be rundown, have few supplies and equipment, and lack air conditioning. Other schools may be new and well equipped and maintained. Conditions at postsecondary institutions are generally very good. At all levels of education, seeing students develop and enjoy learning can be rewarding for teachers and other education workers. However, dealing with unmotivated students or those with social or behavioral problems can be stressful and require patience and understanding.

Employment[To Top]

The educational services industry was the second largest industry in the economy in 2008, providing jobs for about 13.5 million wage and salary workers.

Table 1. Percent distribution of employment and establishments in education services by detailed industry sector, 2008
Industry Employment Establishments
Educational services, public and private, total 100.0 100.0
Elementary and secondary schools 66.5 48.1
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools 28.2 8.1
  Colleges, universities, and professional schools 22.5 6.5
  Junior colleges 5.7 1.6
Other educational services 5.3 43.7
  Other schools and instruction 2.5 24.7
  Technical and trade schools 1.2 5.7
  Educational support services 0.9 6.9
  Business schools and computer and management training 0.7 6.4

Occupations in the Industry[To Top]

Workers in the educational services industry take part in all aspects of education, from teaching and counseling students to driving school buses and serving cafeteria lunches. Although 67 percent of workers in educational services are employed in professional and related occupations, the industry also employs many administrative support, managerial, service, and other workers. (See table 2.)

Teaching occupations. Teachers account for 47 percent of all workers in the industry. Their duties depend on the age group and subject they teach, as well as on the type of institution in which they work. Teachers should have a sincere interest in helping students and should also have the ability to inspire respect, trust, and confidence. Strong speaking and writing skills, inquiring and analytical minds, and a desire to pursue and disseminate knowledge are vital prerequisites for teachers.

Preschool teachers nurture, teach, and care for children who have not yet entered kindergarten. They provide early childhood care and education through a variety of teaching strategies. They teach children, usually aged 3 to 5, both in groups and one-on-one. They do so by planning and implementing a curriculum aimed at covering various areas of a child’s development, such as motor skills, social and emotional development and language development.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers play a critical role in the early development of children. They usually instruct one class in a variety of subjects, introducing the children to mathematics, language, science, and social studies. Often, they use games, artwork, music, computers, and other tools to teach basic skills.

Middle and secondary school teachers help students delve more deeply into subjects introduced in elementary school. Middle and secondary school teachers specialize in a specific academic subject, such as English, mathematics, or history, or in a career or technical area, such as automobile mechanics, business education, or computer repair. Some supervise after-school extracurricular activities, and some help students deal with academic problems, such as choosing courses, colleges, and careers.

Special education teachers work with students—from toddlers to those in their early twenties—who have a variety of learning and physical disabilities. While most work in traditional schools and assist those students who require extra support, some work in schools specifically designed to serve students with the most severe disabilities. With all but the most severe cases, special education teachers modify the instruction of the general education curriculum and, when necessary, develop alternative assessment methods to accommodate a student's special needs. They also help special education students develop emotionally, feel comfortable in social situations, and be aware of socially acceptable behavior.

Vocational education teachers, also referred to as career and technical education (CTE) or career-technology teachers, instruct and train students to work in a wide variety of fields. Coursework in career and technical education is focused on assisting students enter a particular career or be better prepared for the world of work. Career and technical teachers can be found in middle, secondary, and postsecondary schools. Postsecondary teachers, or faculty, as they are usually called, often are organized into departments or divisions, based on their subject or field. They teach and advise college students and perform a substantial part of our Nation's research. They prepare lectures, exercises, and laboratory experiments; grade exams and papers; and advise and work with students individually. Postsecondary teachers keep abreast of developments in their field by reading current literature, talking with colleagues and businesses, and participating in professional conferences. They also consult with government, business, nonprofit, and community organizations. In addition, they may do their own research to expand knowledge in their field, often publishing their findings in scholarly journals, books, and electronic media.

Adult literacy and remedial education teachers teach English to speakers of other languages (ESOL), prepare sessions for the General Educational Development (GED) exam, and give basic instruction to out-of-school youths and adults. Self-enrichment teachers teach classes that students take for personal enrichment, such as cooking or dancing.

Other professional occupations. Education administrators provide vision, direction, leadership, and day-to-day management of educational activities in schools, colleges and universities, businesses, correctional institutions, museums, and job training and community service organizations. They set educational standards and goals and aid in establishing the policies and procedures to carry them out. They develop academic programs; monitor students' educational progress; hire, train, motivate, and evaluate teachers and other staff; manage counseling and other student services; administer recordkeeping; prepare budgets; and handle relations with staff, parents, current and prospective students, employers, and the community.

Instructional coordinators evaluate school curricula and recommend changes. They research the latest teaching methods, textbooks, and other instructional materials and provide training to teachers. They also coordinate equipment purchases and assist in the use of new technology in schools.

Educational, vocational, and school counselors work at the elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary school levels and help students evaluate their abilities, talents, and interests so students can develop realistic academic and career options. Using interviews, counseling sessions, tests, and other methods, secondary school counselors also help students understand and deal with their social, behavioral, and personal problems. They advise on college majors, admission requirements, and entrance exams and on trade, technical school, and apprenticeship programs. Elementary school counselors do more social and personal counseling and less career and academic counseling than do secondary and postsecondary school counselors. School counselors may work with students individually or in small groups, or they may work with entire classes.

Librarians help people find information and learn how to use it effectively in their scholastic, personal, and professional pursuits. Librarians manage library staff and develop and direct information programs and systems for the public, as well as oversee the selection and organization of library materials. Library technicians help librarians acquire, prepare, and organize material; direct library users to standard references; and retrieve information from computer databases. Clerical library assistants check out and receive library materials, collect overdue fines, and shelve materials.

Teacher assistants, also called teacher aides or instructional aides, provide instructional and clerical support for classroom teachers, allowing the teachers more time to plan lessons and to teach. Using the teacher's lesson plans, they provide students with individualized attention, tutoring and assisting children—particularly special education and non-English speaking students—in learning class material. Assistants also aid and supervise students in the cafeteria, in the schoolyard, in hallways, or on field trips. They record grades, set up equipment, and prepare materials for instruction.

Other occupations. The educational services industry employs many other workers who are found in a wide range of occupations. This industry employs many office and administrative support workers such as secretaries, administrative assistants, and general office clerks. They also employ many school bus drivers, who transport students to and from schools and related activities.

Table 2. Employment of wage and salary workers in educational services, 2008 and projected change, 2008-2018. (Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2008 Percent Change,
2008-18
Number Percent
All Occupations 13,471.1 100.0 12.5
Management, business, and financial occupations 863.1 6.4 12.9
Professional and related occupations 9,076.8 67.4 14.5
  Counselors 219.5 1.6 13.9
  Postsecondary teachers 1,660.6 12.3 15.2
  Preschool and kindergarten teachers 230.5 1.7 13.7
  Elementary school teachers, except special education 1,520.1 11.3 15.8
  Middle school teachers, except special and vocational education 652.5 4.8 15.4
  Secondary school teachers 1,172.5 8.7 8.9
  Special education teachers 451.6 3.4 16.8
  Librarians, curators, and archivists 148.3 1.1 6.8
  Teacher assistants 1,091.7 8.1 9.5
Service occupations 1,431.6 10.6 7.9
  Food preparation and serving related occupations 474.9 3.5 10.8
  Building cleaning workers 480.8 3.6 -1.3
  Child care workers 147.7 1.1 22.1
Office and administrative support occupations 1,528.4 11.4 7.5
Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations 163.1 1.2 10.7
NOTE: Columns may not add to totals due to omission of occupations with small employment.

Training and Advancement[About this section] [To Top]

The educational services industry employs some of the most highly educated workers in the labor force. About 64 percent of employees have at least a bachelor's degree, as a bachelor’s degree is required for nearly all professional occupations in the industry. Many professional occupations also require a master's degree or doctorate, particularly for jobs at postsecondary institutions or in administration.

Teaching occupations. The training and qualifications required of preschool teachers vary widely. Each State has its own licensing requirements that regulate caregiver training. These requirements range from a high school diploma, to a national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, to community college courses, or to a college degree in child development or early childhood education.

Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers in public schools must have a bachelor's degree and complete an approved teacher training program, with a prescribed number of subject and education credits, as well as supervised practice teaching. All States require public school teachers to be licensed; however, licensure requirements vary by State. Many States offer alternative licensure programs for people who have bachelor's degrees in the subject they will teach, but lack the education courses required for a regular license. Certain teacher occupations require additional specific training: special education teachers need either a master's degree in special education or some other form of specialized training in the subject, while vocational education teachers often need work experience in their field.

Teachers in private elementary, middle, and secondary schools do not have to meet State licensing standards; however, schools generally prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree in the subject they intend to teach for secondary school teachers, or in childhood education for elementary school teachers. They seek candidates among recent college graduates, as well as from those who have established careers in other fields. Private schools affiliated with religious institutions also desire candidates who share the values that are important to the institution.

With additional education or certification, teachers may become school librarians, reading specialists, curriculum specialists, or guidance counselors. Some teachers advance to administrative or supervisory positions—such as instructional coordinator, assistant principal, or principal—but the number of these jobs is limited. In some school systems, highly qualified, experienced elementary and secondary school teachers can become senior or mentor teachers, with higher pay and additional responsibilities.

Postsecondary teachers who teach at 4-year colleges and universities generally must have a doctoral or other terminal degree for full-time, tenure-track employment, and usually also for part-time teaching at these institutions as well, though a master's degree is sometimes sufficient. At 2-year colleges, however, most positions are held by teachers with master's degrees. Most faculty members are hired as instructors or assistant professors and may advance to associate professor and full professor. Some faculty may also advance to administrative and managerial positions, such as department chairperson, dean, and president. At some institutions, these positions are temporary, with the holder returning to the faculty of their department after a set term.

Other professional occupations. School counselors are required to hold State school counseling certification; however, certification procedures vary from State to State. A master's degree is generally required, and some States also require public school counselors to have teaching certificates and a number of years of teaching experience in addition to a counseling certificate. Experienced school counselors may advance to a larger school; become directors or supervisors of counseling, guidance, or student personnel services; or, with further graduate education, become counseling psychologists or school administrators.

Training requirements for education administrators depend on where they work. Principals, assistant principals, and other school administrators in school districts usually have held a teaching or related job before entering administration, and they generally need a master's or doctoral degree in education administration or educational supervision, as well as State teacher certification. At postsecondary institutions, academic deans usually have a doctorate in their specialty. Other administrators can begin with a bachelor's degree, but may need to get a master's or doctorate to advance to top positions. In addition to climbing up the administrative ladder, advancement is also possible by transferring to larger schools or school systems.

Training requirements for teacher assistants range from a high school diploma to an associate degree. The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that all teacher assistants working in schools that receive Title I funds either have a minimum of 2 years of postsecondary education or an associate degree, or pass a State approved examination. Districts that assign teaching responsibilities to teacher assistants usually have higher training requirements than those that do not. Teacher assistants who obtain a bachelor's degree, usually in education, may become certified teachers.

Librarians generally need a master's degree in library science. Many States require school librarians to be licensed as teachers and to have taken courses in library science. Experienced librarians may advance to administrative positions, such as department head, library director, or chief information officer. Training requirements for library technicians range from a high school diploma to specialized postsecondary training; a high school diploma is usually sufficient for library assistants. Library workers can advance—from assistant, to technician, to librarian—with experience and the required formal education. School bus drivers need a commercial driver's license and have limited opportunities for advancement; some become supervisors or dispatchers.

Outlook[About this section] [To Top]

Greater numbers of children and adults enrolled in all types of schools will generate employment growth in this industry. A large number of retirements will add additional job openings and create good job prospects for many of those seeking work in educational services.

Employment change. Wage and salary employment growth of 12 percent is expected in the educational services industry over the 2008-18 period, comparable to the 11 percent increase projected for all industries combined. Over the long-term, the overall demand for workers in educational services will increase as a result of a growing emphasis on improving education and making it available not only to more children and young adults, but also to those currently employed and in need of improving their skills. Much of the demand for educational services is driven by growth in the population of students at each level. Low enrollment growth projections at the secondary school level are likely to limit growth somewhat, resulting in average growth for these teachers, However, enrollment growth is expected to be larger at the elementary (grades 1-5) and middle school (grades 6-8) levels, which will likely result in slightly higher employment growth for teachers at these levels. Reforms, such as universal preschool and all-day kindergarten, will require more preschool and kindergarten teachers.

Due to continued emphasis on the inclusion of disabled students in general education classrooms and an effort to reach students with problems at younger ages, special education teachers will experience relatively strong growth. School reforms calling for more individual attention to students will require additional teacher assistants, particularly to work with special education and English-as-a-second-language students.

Enrollments are expected to grow at a faster rate in postsecondary institutions as more high school graduates attend college and as more working adults return to school to enhance or update their skills. As a result, postsecondary teachers will experience growth that is faster than the industry on a whole.

Despite expected increases in education expenditures over the next decade, budget constraints at all levels of government may place restrictions on educational services, particularly in light of the rapidly escalating costs associated with increased college enrollments, special education, construction of new schools, and other services. Funding constraints generally affect student services (such as school busing, library and educational materials, and extracurricular activities) before employment of administrative, instructional, and support staff. However, supplementary programs, such as music and foreign language instruction, also often face cuts when budgets become tight. Even if no reductions are required, budget considerations also may affect attempts to expand school programs, such as increasing the number of counselors and teacher assistants in elementary schools.

Job prospects. In addition to job openings due to employment growth, retirements will create large numbers of job openings as a greater-than-average number of workers are over the age of 55 in nearly all the major occupations that make up the industry—from janitors to education administrators. (See chart.)

Some of the largest occupations in educational services have a high proportion of workers aged 45 and over.

School districts, particularly those in urban and rural areas, continue to report difficulties in recruiting qualified teachers, administrators, and support personnel. Fast-growing areas of the country—including several States and cities in the South and West—also report difficulty recruiting education workers, especially teachers. Retirements are expected to remain high over the 2008-18 period, so the number of students graduating with education degrees may not be sufficient to meet this industry's growing needs, making job opportunities for graduates in many education fields good to excellent. Currently, alternative licensing programs are helping to attract more people into teaching, especially those from other career paths, but opportunities should continue to be very good for highly qualified teachers, especially those in subject areas with the highest needs, such as math, science, and special education.

At the postsecondary level, increases in student enrollments and projected retirements of current faculty should contribute to a favorable job market for postsecondary teachers. However, candidates applying for tenured positions will continue to face keen competition as many colleges and universities rely on adjunct or part-time faculty and graduate students to make up a larger share of the total instructional staff than in the past.

Earnings [About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

Industry earnings. Wages of occupations concentrated in the educational services industry—education administrators, teachers, counselors, and librarians—are higher than the average for all occupations, because workers tend to be older and have higher levels of educational attainment. Among teachers, earnings increase with higher educational attainment and more years of service. Full-time postsecondary teachers earn the most, followed by elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers. Most teachers are paid a salary, but part-time instructors in postsecondary institutions usually are paid a fixed amount per course. Educational services employees who work the traditional school year can earn additional money during the summer in jobs related to, or outside of, education. Benefits generally are good, but, as in other industries, part-time workers often do not receive the same benefits that full-time workers do. Wages for selected occupations within the education industry appear in table 3.

Table 3. Median annual wages of the largest occupations in educational services, May 2008
Occupation Educational services All industries
Postsecondary teachers, all other $61,500 $61,360
Secondary school teachers, except special and vocational education 51,230 51,180
Middle school teachers, except special and vocational education 49,740 49,700
Elementary school teachers, except special education 49,370 49,330
Teachers and instructors, all other 30,120 31,100
Secretaries, except legal, medical, and executive 30,110 29,050
Bus drivers, school 25,710 26,600
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners 25,600 21,450
Office clerks, general 25,180 25,320
Teacher assistants 22,700 22,200

Benefits and union membership. About 38 percent of workers in the educational services industry are union members or are covered by union contracts, compared with only 14 percent of workers in all industries combined. Unionization is more common in public elementary, middle, and secondary schools than in other school settings. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are the largest unions representing teachers and other school personnel.



*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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