posted: Dec. 28, 2010 @ 10:43a
Greetings and Happy Holidays to All! It's time to start the 2010 Career Thoughts and Compensation Thread. I started doing these threads annually on the FW Finance board in 2006. When I originally started this thread four years ago, I thought it could serve as a great resource for people to learn about the ups and downs of various careers, including information such as salaries and benefits. I have always found these threads particularly informative and interesting.
I thought last year's thread was probably the best of all of them. Lots of people contributed information about their careers, and the thread remained active until May. The 2008 thread was a bit of a disappointment, but things got better last year, so let's try it again!
Now gang, here's a reminder of the rules, which 99.9% of you have been great at following over the past four years:
If you participate, please try to keep this a positive, informative thread, and let's not get into any arguments about how one's career/education/compensation makes him/her superior/inferior to other people. Contribute as much or as little information as you're comfortable sharing, but please be honest so that this may serve as a truly informative thread for people mulling their career options.
So, now that the ground rules have been set, how did your job go this year? Did things go well or not so well? How well were you compensated for 2010? Did the poor economy have a serious effect on your career? Maybe each person can give a brief description of themselves, their job, their education levels, and their salaries, present and maybe even projected salaries for the future. As always, since I'm starting the thread, I have to bite first:
Location: Northern NJ
Occupation: Urban Educator (My fancy title for a teacher in a city of low socioeconomic standing)
Education: M.A., plus 33 additional credits
2010 Compensation: $90,000 (Base Pay + Retro Pay from a newly settled contract + a little extra money from some after school work and a few other extra things.) Base salary for the 2010-2011 school year, without extra money, is just about $88,000.
Future Salary Projection: This is a tricky one this year. There is a strong possibility that my salary (and the salaries of many other teachers) will be frozen for at least the next year. If salaries are not frozen, my salary should be in the $95,000 ballpark for the 2011 calendar year, and in the $100,000 range for the 2011-2012 school year. (More on why our salaries may be frozen later in the thread.)
Benefits: Full medical, modest dental, generous sick and personal time, a decent pension plan (for now, more on that later), tremendous job security once you achieve tenure (but virtually none before that, and even with tenure, you can still have the daylights menaced out of you. Also keep in mind that not all states offer tenure, in which case you can pretty much be fired at will no matter how much time you have in a particular district.) In almost all districts in NJ, you can accumulate sick time from year to year. This is a tremendous benefit, as I found out two years ago, and again just a few weeks ago when I suffered two major long-term illnesses. It was nice not having to worry about getting paid during my absences.
What's the job like?
Very difficult and getting more difficult bu the year. Tremendously long hours, almost no down time during the school day (I don't take lunch very often),lots of work at home, deplorable working conditions, with some classrooms reaching temperatures of 90+ degrees and others below freezing. Prepare to adopt some small scurrying pets who have made your classroom their home in older buildings in urban districts. You will also most likely need to spend a decent amount of money on supplies for students because your school won't provide them, even though they insist on your using them. Very little respect and support from most supervisors, parents, and students. I do it for the good kids and because I love teaching. Massive budget cuts have made the job even more difficult. Many teachers (myself included) are now finding themselves doing two jobs for the price of one due to massive retirements and staffing cuts.
Would you recommend the career to others?
Every year, it's become harder and harder for me to recommend teaching as a career. If you get a job in a district that treats you with some respect, is on solid financial footing (along with your corresponding state), and pays you a salary that ensures you won't be eating cans of tuna for the rest of your life, then I can recommend teaching as a career.
However, things here in NJ have gotten real rough over the past year. Our governor has pretty much made it his mission to make things much rougher for teachers, and has publicly vilified us on many occasions. He reduced state aid for all districts, resulting in massive layoffs. He wants to drastically alter our pension system, and there is a lot of fear that he is going to try to significantly reduce pension benefits for all public employees. This resulted in massive retirements of veteran teachers. He put tremendous pressure on teachers at the end of the last school year to accept salary freezes, even in districts that had valid contracts, and he is likely to increase the pressure this year. He wants to eliminate tenure, and while total elimination is unlikely, it's likely going to be made much tougher to get and to retain. He wants to institute merit pay, basing teacher salaries on their students' performance on standardized tests. This, of course, is infuriating many teachers, but especially those in urban districts like mine, where teachers sometimes get kids who have never attended school a day in their life show up to begin their educational careers on the day the standardized test starts. How is the kid going to pass the test if he doesn't even know his alphabet, let alone how to read? How is this kid going to compare to the kid in the affluent district who has a private tutor?
Then of course, you have to deal with all of the discipline problems, especially . What do you do when a kid curses you out, flips a desk over, smacks another kid in the head without provocation, and runs out of your class? You could tell your building administrators, but chances are they will not impose serious consequences on the student. They don't want to make the school look bad or deal with angry parents. Then, if you have administrators who are unsupportive, they may ask you, “What did you do to make the kid curse you out, flip over a desk, and smack another student in the head?” Then they'll tell you to better motivate your students to learn. When you ask how, they won't tell you. (Yes, this stuff actually happens.)
There are great moments, however. There are a lot of great kids in all districts who will give you their all every day. This is what keeps me going in my district. I know that I'm helping these kids to have the best future possible, even though they often face difficult circumstances.
Teaching is not an easy job, especially in an urban district. If you think that you will be able to face the challenges that await you, then go for it! Just be aware that it's going to be a bumpy ride.