Traditional or Alternate: What Teacher Preparation Program is Better?

When thinking about whether to pursue a traditional teacher education program or enter an alternate-route program, money is unfortunately a major consideration. Some studies suggest that, contrary to popular belief, salary is not the number one reason for teachers’ leaving the profession, although sufficient evidence indicates that it plays a significant role. Those who teach in-demand subjects like mathematics and science are more likely to quit because they receive more attractive offers for opportunities outside the teaching profession. While salary is a major factor in attrition among young teachers who are beginning their careers, it also acts as a deterrent to the retention of experienced and well-qualified teachers.

So, when deciding how to obtain your credentials, you need to take a look at the numbers for each route. How much does each one cost? What’s the payout like for each program? While there is a teacher shortage, there’s also all too often a finance shortage in districts, too. When planning your pathway to becoming a teacher, you need to figure out what journey will get you to the highest-paying destination.

It may come as a surprise that those who opt for an alternative certification program often receive the same salary as traditionally trained teachers. For example, those who success- fully complete the Teach Mississippi Institute’s program receive a pay incentive (Danielson, 2007). In addition, if they complete their first year of teaching, they are paid as a third-year teacher from the second year onward. Note, however, that pay incentives are not offered in all states.

One of the main accusations of the current teacher compensation system is that it’s not designed to respond to market realities. While teacher compensation is considered low when compared with other occupations, there are differences in pay even within the teaching community. For example, rural teachers are generally paid less than teachers in urban areas. This includes beginning salary, average salary, and highest salary on the pay scale. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 39 of 50 states, the pay of rural beginning teachers is less than that of their urban counterparts. The same is true for the average salary and the highest salary.

Still unsure of which program holds the best payout for you? Make a spreadsheet! List out the cost of each program, the average salary for its graduates, and whether typical destinations for graduates include compensation systems or similar pay structures. Run the numbers! Calculating your future is an important task that necessitates time and effort to guarantee the best bottom line.

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