With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the AES curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.
It’s daunting deciding whether to switch from the healthcare industry to teaching health science full time. Though you have a strong passion for what you do and want to help raise the next generation of healthcare professionals, teaching is an entirely different job with its own unique set of challenges. And if you approach it without doing your research, you might find it isn’t the right fit for you.
At AES, we speak to thousands of health science teachers every year, many of whom are former industry professionals who have made the jump to teaching. And always they tell us of the biggest challenges they faced switching from industry to teaching, and the things they wish they’d known before making their decision.
In this article, you’ll discover 3 of the biggest challenges healthcare professionals face when switching from industry work to teaching:
Learning the Fundamentals of Teaching
Managing Classroom Problems
Accepting Lower Pay
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better grasp of the challenges new teachers often face in order to decide whether teaching is a good career choice for you.
Challenge 1: Learning the Fundamentals of Teaching
Though it may seem obvious, this is one of the largest challenges healthcare workers contend with when leaving the industry to teach.
Teaching can be a difficult skill to learn. Even if you have experience with public speaking or training new staff, there’s no guarantee those skills will transfer evenly to running a full-fledged classroom.
There are several classroom fundamentals you need to learn before you can succeed as a health science teacher.
Using the Right Teaching Strategies
One of the most important challenges new teachers face is not knowing how to add structure to their lessons with the right teaching style.
What will your class look like? What kind of teacher will you be? Do you imagine your students will learn from computers, or do you want to stand at the front of the room and give lectures? A mix of both? Neither?
There are many potential teaching strategies you can use to structure your class:
Traditional instruction is one of the most common teaching methods out there. This is teacher-led instruction that often involves lectures and presentations--the teacher directly imparting their knowledge to students.
New teachers can’t rely solely on personal experience or material left behind by previous teachers to fill their classes. They have to decide where to draw the bulk of their course content from, and that choice can go a long way toward what your class will look like.
Understanding the Mechanics of the Classroom
After you’ve grasped the essential teaching strategies and materials you want to use within your class, the next challenge that arises is administering that class.
There are several specific classroom mechanics that many first-time teachers know very little about how to implement:
Course standards are topics and subjects essential to the course at hand that students are expected to develop an understanding of as your class progresses. Rather than teaching your health science students whatever healthcare topics you want, you’re obligated to meet your school’s course standards so that the students learn what the administration deems most important for their education.
Grading may be self-explanatory, but many new teachers find they have no clue where to start when assessing student performance. Most schools have a digital management system to record grades, but these systems require training to use, and the details of how students are graded may be mainly left up to you.
Testing can be more complicated than it seems. Depending on your health science program, you may have standardized tests available to assign to students, or you may have to create tests of your own to assess them with. Many healthcare workers have never written a test before, and wouldn’t be sure how to go about the process.
Understanding these mechanics is crucial to getting your class off the ground, but inexperienced teachers can often underestimate the work it takes to learn them.
This applies even to teachers who have received formal college training in education. What do you do when students seem bored and uninterested in your lessons? What if you have a student who’s disruptive, or who refuses to get to work?
Not every classroom has such dramatic problems, but no classroom is perfect, either, and learning to manage things when they go poorly is a staple of being both a leader and a teacher.
Handling Students Who Are Disengaged
New teachers like to imagine their students will be passionate, engaged, and eager to contribute to discussions, but this won’t always be the case.
In fact, it’s very common for students to occasionally lose interest in class. This occurs in every classroom, no matter the course or the instructor’s experience. You should expect it to happen here and there and correct for it, as it’s quite easy for young minds to drift.
However, some teachers find their students are regularly disengaged or uninterested in learning course material.
There are a variety of reasons this happens:
Often, students are experiencing personal issues at home and your course just isn’t a priority for them at the time.
Other times, students might feel overwhelmed by their course load and aren’t sure they have the focus to pay attention in class.
It could also be that you as a teacher just haven’t done enough to engage your students and excite them about the course material.
Students being openly disruptive probably isn’t as common as you think. Though teachers sometimes tell horror stories of students who are openly defiant or rude in the classroom, most students just want to come in and learn the material as best they can.
These are CTE health science classes, after all, and the students who choose to attend are those who want to develop the valuable skills necessary to seek out careers in healthcare.
However, there may still be situations where students are outwardly disruptive in a health science class.
This can take several forms, including:
Students refusing to do their work.
Students being blatantly rude to the instructor or to fellow students.
Students loudly joking or distracting the class in ways that make it hard to teach.
However it looks, this kind of disruption often happens because the student is experiencing personal issues, or is trying to make an impression upon their peers.
Either way, new teachers have to be prepared to deal with confrontation in the classroom to get their students back on track when necessary. Teachers who know when to do this--and how to do it well--will find themselves better equipped to successfully manage their classes.
Challenge 3: Accepting Lower Pay
One of the biggest challenges healthcare workers face when they leave the industry to teach is accepting the lower pay that results.
It’s an unfortunate reality, but new health science teachers will have to deal with the fact that they will generally make less money than they would have if they had kept their jobs in the healthcare industry. After all, when they first shift to teaching, they’ll essentially be starting a brand new career and taking the wages that go along with it.
However, it’s also important to remember that these salary ranges are approximations and are bound to vary based on location, experience, and education. If you decide to make the change, you may not find the pay cut to be this drastic--it’s also possible you may not receive much of a pay cut at all.
And either way, if you fall in love with teaching and decide to stick with it, in a few years you may find yourself earning a comparable salary to the one you earned in healthcare.
Need More Guidance on Whether Teaching Is Right for You?
Many healthcare workers feel a passion for education and a desire to help raise the next generation of nurses and technicians. But there’s no denying that teaching is a tough job, and if you dive into it unprepared, you might find yourself drowning in work or troubles you never expected.
In this article, you’ve learned some of the most common challenges new health science teachers face when they make the switch. Between learning how to teach, how to manage a classroom, and accepting inevitably lower pay, it can be too much even for those who truly believe in teaching.
However, despite all of these problems and challenges, teaching can still be a deeply rewarding career. If you’ve read this article, know this is what you want, and are still eager to take the leap into teaching, why not get further guidance from experienced teachers?
Check out this article on life-changing teaching advice from health science teachers with years of experience in front of the classroom. They provide excellent insight into what it means to be a teacher on the frontlines and truly prepare yourself for the job: