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5 Things Young Professionals Should Know About Joining Teach For America

Taking the leap into a new career can be overwhelming—but Teach For America makes it easier.

February 12, 2024

Theresa Mooney

Theresa Mooney

If you’re just getting your feet wet in the working world, it can be daunting to consider switching careers. It helps to ground your decision-making in your values, passion, and purpose. 

If you're considering teaching, Teach For America will support you through this transition and help you unlock a fulfilling and life-changing career that benefits communities and kids.

As a Teach For America corps member, you’ll teach for at least the next two years in a school that needs your leadership and the experience you bring from the professional world. You’ll work as a full-time employee of your school district or charter school, with the same salary and benefits as other beginning teachers.

With over 65,000 people in our network, corps members have entered the classroom from nearly every background and career sector you could imagine. You won’t be the first person from your professional field who’s made this career change to the teaching profession. Learn five more things to consider before pivoting to a career with TFA.

1. You'll Find a Renewed Sense of Purpose 

Even if you’re fulfilled in your current day-to-day work, finding purpose in your career can be a continuous challenge for young professionals. At TFA, corps members are lucky to have purpose stare them in the face every morning: their classroom of students. Kids are remarkable at renewing your energy and reminding you what really matters in life.

Being a teacher also comes with tremendous responsibility and obligation. Your daily work can have a direct impact on the lives of the students who enter your classroom—by teaching them material in new and relevant ways, pushing them to achieve high academic goals, and giving them the love and attention they deserve. Your impact could be seen for generations to come, whether you choose to stay in the classroom after your two-year commitment or move on to another field that affects change.

2. The Work Will Be Challenging

You may hear that being a first-year teacher is intense. It’s true. From the workload to the responsibilities placed on you to the impact that you’ll have, being a corps member is challenging but it’s also transformational.

Depending on where you are in your current career, the corps experience could be just as demanding as your current position, or it could be the new, exciting challenge that you’re looking for. Either way, you will find it to be among the most rewarding and life-changing experiences you’ve ever encountered.

On a practical level, TFA will help you become a strong classroom and community leader through rigorous summer training, preparation for licensing and certification, extensive coaching, professional development, and other resources, like graduate school opportunities, throughout your two years. Learn more about corps member training.

3. You Won't Be Alone

Among the biggest benefits of joining TFA is that you will begin your experience alongside dozens—in some regions, hundreds—of other first-time corps members. All corps members start their summer training experience on equal footing, with feelings of excitement and nervousness. And as a corps, everyone will learn new skills and strategies, work through classroom challenges, and confront issues alongside one another.

You may work in the same school, choose to live with, and/or attend certification courses with other TFA members. Or, you may simply be comforted by having fellow corps members there when your work gets hard. No matter what, the community of support in the TFA corps is unrivaled and enduring.

4. You'll Form a Connection to a Community—New or Familiar to You

Where exactly you’ll work is probably one of the biggest questions you have in thinking about joining the corps. You may want to move to a new city or you may want to stay put for logistical or family reasons. Either way, location should not be a barrier to you applying to the corps.

We know that landing in a region that matches your priorities is incredibly important, so our placement process is designed to assign you to the regions you’re most excited about. It’s important that you have agency in the decision-making process.

This is how it works: You will select one region as your preferred choice. You will also have the opportunity to select one or two alternate regions where you’d be excited to teach, if you choose to, but you don’t have to. If admission to your preferred region is not possible due to space or eligibility, Teach For America would place you in one of those alternates. In the instance where your preferred choice wasn’t available and you didn’t have alternates, Teach For America would reach out to you with solutions. 

Whether you’re drawn to the city where you grew up or the one where you attended college or one entirely new to you, you’ll find opportunities for community involvement and local engagement in whichever of our nearly 40 regions you call home. Check out this guide for navigating regional placement and explore our regions.

5. You Can Continue Growing as an Educator or Move on to New Opportunities

In your first-year teaching, you will be surrounded by people that want to help you grow as a teacher and leader. The relationships you build with fellow teachers in your school, your Teach For America cohort, and regional support will fuel your growth over the next two years. These experiences can lead you in any direction you choose afterward, from school leadership to community organizing to staying right where you are in the classroom.

It is the case that many TFA educators stay in education beyond their commitment. In fact, 13,600 alumni are currently working as veteran educators. More than 2,400 alumni are also currently leading schools as principals, assistant principals, directors, and deans.

After your two-year commitment as a corps member concludes, Teach For America will continue to provide you with opportunities, resources, and leadership development. Working as a teacher will open up new opportunities you might not have ever expected, and you’ll be supported in your career pathway—no matter what route you take—by a supportive alumni community. Read more about the alumni network.

*This post was originally published in 2018 by Theresa Mooney. The post was updated in February 2024 by the TFA Editorial Team to reflect new information.

Learn More about Being a Career Changer at TFA.

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