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Poor job market leads to surplus teachers

In response to teacher shortages in school districts across the country, many college students decided to earn degrees in education and graduate ready to fill the deficit. However, the tides have quickly turned, and now there are more teachers than there are jobs available. Even substitute teaching positions have dried up.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the education sector now hovers around 9 percent. Since autumn of 2008, school systems, state education agencies, technical schools, and colleges have shed about 125,000 jobs. Even teachers who specialize in math and science -- subjects that tend to have the largest number of shortages -- have found fewer and fewer opportunities. Schools simply are not hiring.

School closings are one reason for the loss of jobs in all areas of education. New York City was recently in the spotlight after Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested some schools be closed. New York City's Panel for Educational Policy voted to shut down 19 of the city's public schools due to underperformance.

Budget shortfalls and poor performance has also jump-started school closings in Illinois, Ohio and Rhode Island. School closings are often based on poor performance on standardized tests, declining enrollment and outdated facilities.

While closing and consolidating schools may or may not help students in the long run, it doesn't bode well for teachers trying to find jobs. Fewer opportunities and more applicants have combined to make the current job market for teachers less than bountiful.

And that problem is not uniquely American. According to TeachNZ in New Zealand, the number of school teachers leaving the profession is at its lowest point in a decade. And, not surprisingly, the number of teaching vacancies is also the lowest it has been in a decade.

A new Nova Scotia report detailed a "critical" overabundance of qualified teachers in that province. Furthermore, the Ontario College of Teachers published an article in its in-house magazine about a dire surplus situation in the province, which is expected to continue for years.

Some students are taking notice and making changes with regard to their education. Though a degree in education once nearly guaranteed a job, that is no longer true. Some teachers are electing to specialize in certain subjects that generally offer the most amount of vacancies. Others are considering relocation to different areas of the country in an effort to find jobs. Some teachers have decided to travel overseas and teach English to others until the job market at home levels off.

Teaching was once a profession that was seemingly immune to the ups and downs of the economy. Today, budget constraints and other factors have greatly diminished the number of employment opportunities for teachers, leaving a surplus of teachers out of work or working in another field.