posted: Dec. 29, 2011 @ 10:17a
Greetings and Happy Holidays to All! It's time to get the 2011 Career Thoughts and Compensation Thread rolling. I started doing these threads annually on the FW Finance board in 2006. When I originally started this thread five 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.
Last year's thread seemed to have a lot of good information, even though it only stayed active for a couple of months. Hopefully this year's thread can remain active for longer.
Now gang, here's a reminder of the rules, which 99.9% of you have been great at following over the past five 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 2011? 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
2011 Compensation: $90,000 (Base Pay + a little extra money taking on extra duties.) Base salary for the 2011-2012 school year is about $88,000 right now, but should be more, since we do not have a current contract right now. (More on that in a minute.) My compensation this year is pretty much the same as it was last year, although last year's figure was inflated a bit due to a pretty large amount of retro pay due to me.
Future Salary Projection: When our contract is settled (very soon hopefully), my base pay should be in the 100K range. This is the top of the teachers' guide in our district, so future raises are going to be smaller after this, maybe 2K to 3K per year more for the foreseeable future.
Benefits: Full medical, although teachers in NJ now have to pay a percentage of their salaries for their medical benefits. (It's currently 1.5% of base salary, but it's going up even more in the new year.) We get modest dental, generous sick and personal time, a decent pension plan (at least if the state doesn't default on the benefits), 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.
What's the job like?
Very difficult and getting more difficult by 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. Public employees all over the U.S. have taken a real bashing over the past couple of years, and teachers seem to be Public Enemy #1 of the group. This is not an easy job. If you're doing it correctly, it's at least a 50-60 hour a week job, and it's 50-60 hours of grueling work. Teachers in urban districts in particular have taken a real beating. They are expected to be miracle workers, solving all of our society's ills. On top of that, there seems to be a growing chorus of people calling for teacher salaries and benefits to be cut to the bone. And, unfortunately for new teachers, your benefits are going to vanish before the benefits for the veteran teachers will.
Once the teacher bashing subsides, I may be able to recommend teaching again as a profession. But for right now, it might be better to see what else is out there.