Not sure whether to begin graduate school right after completing undergrad? Here’s why you should consider teaching before you re-enter the lecture hall.
December 14, 2018
With many career fields requiring a master’s degree or some graduate school enrollment on the rise nationwide, it can be hard to put off what seems like the inevitable. But gaining professional experience in the classroom before starting a graduate program can give you the context and conviction to thrive in graduate school and deepen your impact afterward—no matter what you ultimately enter.
Teach For America offers hundreds of graduate school partnerships, designed specifically to build on the knowledge and leadership you gain in the classroom. From business schools to law schools to education programs, our partners value the experience that you get in the classroom as a corps member. They recognize the significant impact that you can have as a teacher and the immediate need for your leadership in countless low-income communities. Because of this, many of our partners offer two-year deferrals, allowing you to first serve in the corps even if you’ve already been accepted to a grad program.
Here are four additional reasons why getting experience in the classroom before pursuing a graduate program is beneficial:
1. YOU’LL ACQUIRE THE INSIGHTS AND KNOWLEDGE OF WORKING IN EDUCATION AND LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES
Great teachers matter; they are an essential piece to addressing education inequity. But the solution to educational inequity is not just great teachers—the problem is complex and structural, and so are its solutions. There’s no better way to understand the systemic issues affecting our country’s students and communities than to work on its front lines.
Your classroom experience will give you first-hand experience confronting the challenges in education and the issues facing low-income communities, before you study it through a higher-education lens. And as a result of the corps experience, you’ll be empowered to speak with credibility about our country’s education challenges throughout your own education and career.
2. YOU’LL DEVELOP THE LEADERSHIP SKILLS THAT WILL PUT YOU IN THE FRONT OF THE CLASS
As a corps member, your students will look up to you as a role model and leader every single day. You’ll gain confidence and poise from the experience in ways you can’t imagine. Whether you choose to stay in education after the corps or enter a different field, this immersive experience in leadership development will stay with you.
“In law school, I definitely drew on the practical skills I gained from teaching: organization, how to hold people’s attention, how to explain a complicated topic and make it seem simple...Most importantly, my teaching experience gave me perspective and maturity. I know there were bigger things in life than whether I got an A or B on my constitutional law final.”Maureen MilliganSpecial Advisor to the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization, City of DallasD.C. Region Corps Member 1999
3. YOU’LL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EVALUATE WHERE YOUR PROFESSIONAL PASSION LIES
Throughout your time in the corps, you’ll be able to hone in on specific ways that you want to serve in your career. No matter how you choose to continue pursuing equity—through a policy or legal or school leadership position after the corps, or in some other way entirely—your corps experience will enable you to develop your interests.
While in the corps, Sara John (Baltimore ’11) discovered the negative effects of food insecurity on her students, which led her to implement a program to address this program. Her classroom experience eventually led her to pursue a PhD, where she is researching the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for her dissertation.
Sara’s story is not unique. Countless others discover their passion and additional opportunities to make an impact while teaching.
“In the process of being the best medical school candidate that I could be, I think I lost track of a lot of my motivations for going into healthcare in the first place...My TFA experience definitely colored what kind of residency program and what kind of clinical training I wanted.”Ira LeedsSurgery Resident, Johns Hopkins UniversityMemphis Corps Member 2006
4. MORE THAN A HUNDRED SCHOOLS WILL OFFER YOU DEFERRALS, FINANCIAL INCENTIVES, AND ADDITIONAL BENEFITS IF YOU TEACH FIRST
Top graduate programs around the country recognize the level of leadership the TFA alumni bring to their graduate programs. As a result, many schools offer financial support to alumni as a way to make it financially viable after completing your corps member commitment. Support can include application fee waivers, scholarship opportunities, and tuition discounts. See a list of partners and their specific benefits.
In additional to the impact you’ll have as a teacher and your own personal development and transformation, it’s noteworthy that most corps members are given the opportunity to pursue an education-related master’s while they serve in the corps.
Graduate school opportunities vary from region to region, but generally speaking, you’ll be able to complete a full master’s program during your two-year corps commitment by attending courses at night, on weekends, and digitally, alongside fellow teachers. These programs supplement and enhance the skills that you develop in training in the classroom and at TFA training. Read more about this opportunity on Licensing and Employment.
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