How to Find Advancement Opportunities in Your Teaching Career

Lori McDonald
Lori McDonald
Ed.D. in School Leadership/Administration; Elementary School Teacher, TN.
Male teacher standing in front of a blackboard filled with difficult math problems.

As a teacher, it is often hard to think about opportunities for teaching career development when the day-to-day operations of a classroom are so expansive. However, there are increasingly more opportunities for teachers to advance their careers in the educational field. The following are some positions for those searching for career development and advancement.

Lead Teacher

One example of a teaching career development opportunity is becoming a lead teacher. Lead teachers are usually experienced teachers that work within a grade level or high school department (English, math, etc.) to help guide and support the other teachers in that grade. Also, lead teachers often serve on leadership teams with the other lead teachers and the school administrators. More often than not, lead teacher positions do not come with a salary increase. However, by stepping up to be the lead for an entire grade level or department, you gain leadership experience and recognition that could result in opportunities to move up to other positions that do come with a pay increase.

To become a lead teacher, it is helpful if you have several years of experience in the same subject or grade level. There are always opportunities for leadership at the school level. Volunteer to lead a PLC group or offer to share newly acquired information on a teaching method at the next faculty meeting. Be the one that volunteers to go the extra mile and help out when needed. These kinds of actions will definitely let your principal know that you are a leader and that you are up to a new challenge!

Department Head/Chair

Department head/chair positions are becoming more common in most school districts today. These might also be called instructional coaches or instructional facilitators. These positions may come with a pay increase. They are often at the district level. For example, in my district we have instructional coaches for primary, intermediate, middle and high school grades. These coaches head their given grade-level departments and provide support to all the teachers in the district in those grade levels. They also lead professional development workshops. These types of positions are the next logical step from a lead teacher and they are a way to set yourself up for the next big move.


Many teachers looking for career development think of school-level administrator as the ultimate goal. To make yourself eligible for principal or assistant principal positions, you must acquire a degree in school leadership/administration. This would mean at least a master’s degree, and many districts require an Ed.S. or Ed.D. for principal positions. Not only do you have to make sure you have the qualifying degree and licensure to be an administrator, but you also need to be a familiar name and face. By volunteering for committees or other duties at the district level, and by serving in other roles such as PLC leader and leading professional development, you can gain recognition in your district that will make you a logical consideration when leadership roles become available.

Teaching in Higher Education

Another option for career development would be teaching at colleges and universities. Many of these institutions welcome applicants with higher degrees and years of experience in the field. Often teachers serve in positions like supervising student teachers or part-time adjunct professors while still teaching in their other district position. Some teachers choose to go on to teaching in higher education institutions after retiring from their school district positions. Either way, teaching in higher education is one of many ways to pursue career development that can supplement your current teachers’ salary or provide the brand-new adventure of teaching college students.

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