The field of education is extremely broad and diverse, encompassing many types of positions.  The experience and background of educators may vary widely based on the age of their students, the location of their institution, and the availability of resources. Some career paths include teaching or administration in public, private, K-12 or primary institutions, and universities.

Industry insights

Check out the latest Vault guide to Education and other related industries.

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Focus Areas in Education

Here is a sample list of applied areas in this industry:

K-12 Education:

  • Teaching—Public Education: Teaching positions are available at traditional public schools which are funded by local, state, and federal entities. The majority of schools in the United States—over 98,000 as of the 2010 school year—fall into this category and vary greatly in size, climate, and quality. As a result, the experience of being a public school teacher is not a singular one. Educational standards and curriculum are set by individual states and are administered through the district and individual school.
  • Teaching—Charter Schools: Charter schools receive public funds but operate autonomously from the school district in which they are located, and are more accountable for the success of their students. They may be managed by a for-profit (such as Edison Learning) or non-profit (like Uncommon Schools) organization, by an academic institution, or by a school district. In considering employment at a charter school, research is important, as these schools are very different.  The culture of a particular charter school is heavily based on the nature of the organization that runs it. Some schools are dedicated to a specific pedagogical orientation while others are designed to prepare students to gain admission to top universities.
  • Teaching—Private Schools: Private schools (often called independent schools) are primarily funded by endowments, tuition, and other relevant governing bodies. Private school teachers are typically paid less than public school teachers, but on the whole, have better working conditions. Like charters, the workforce is not unionized and therefore does not receive union benefits such as tenure and pensions. Additionally, private schools do not require state licensure, although many schools do prefer to hire certified and/or experienced teachers. Class sizes tend to be smaller than those in traditional public schools, and teachers may have more flexibility in their curriculum. 
  • Teaching—International Schools: Teaching abroad in foreign schools or on military bases, in juvenile facilities or institutions, and online are all other common fields open to educators. These positions vary by type of school and location, so it is best to do thorough research into both the school and the country before committing to a position.
  • Administration: Regardless of type, every educational institution employs administrators who handle the day to day school operations and also oversee its educational goals. In general, public school administrators have earned at least a master’s degree, and many are former teachers who have risen through the ranks. Private schools do not always require a master’s degree, but education and certification are usually the best ways to become competitive for these types of positions. There are many types of administrative positions including, but not limited to librarians, paraprofessionals, principals, and superintendents. 


  • Teaching: Teaching at a 4-year college or university will typically require a doctorate or other terminal degree (MFA, JD, MBA, etc.), regardless of the field. Some community colleges accept lecturers with a Masters-level degree, but these individuals often have extensive experience in their field or are working on a terminal degree. Due to the finite amount of such institutions and lack of movement in the tenured professoriate, open positions are often extremely competitive, especially those that are on the tenure track. Though wages are relatively low, the job tends to be very fulfilling, as professors work with motivated colleagues and students, pursue personal research interests, and gain the prestige of expertise in a given field. 
  • Registrars, Bursars, and Financial Aid Officers: These administrative professionals oversee student registration, tuition, and financial aid documentation. Education varies by institution, but entry points to these types of positions often require a bachelor’s degree. Sometimes, these jobs are filled by current graduate students.
  • Deans: Deans are often former or current professors, who have been put in charge of a specific department. Depending on the institution, deans may or may not continue to teach, in addition to their administrative duties. Because these positions are usually filled by academics, they usually require an advanced or terminal degree.
  • Directors, Deans, or Vice Presidents of Student Affairs or Student Life: These administrators are often in charge of admissions, student well-being, academic services, and residential and recreational life. There are no required educational or certification requirements for these types of positions, although they are often filled by PhDs or EdDs who enter administration rather than the classroom.
  • Advisers and Counselors: These professionals work directly with students on a variety of social, emotional, and practical issues surrounding academic and/or career-related issues. Individuals in these roles typically have a Masters (or higher) in counseling or higher education, but people with relevant experience with college students are also found in these roles.


Columbia University Resources

  • Look into Community Impact at Columbia University which serves individuals in need in the communities of Upper Manhattan. Community Impact provides meaningful volunteer positions for adult education classes and one-on-one tutoring with neighborhood elementary children.
  • Explore The Double Discovery Center, which works with low-income and first-generation college-bound Manhattan area youth from ages 12–27 to ensure high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, and responsible adulthood. Our core services include afterschool tutoring, Saturday enrichment classes, and college application and financial aid assistance.
  • Our International Opportunities will allow you to explore a number of ways to teach abroad.

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K–12 Education:

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