Private/Independent School Job Search


If you are considering a career in independent school teaching, this handout will provide you with information regarding the schools and what they are looking for, and advice and resources related to your job search.

For most liberal arts students interested in pursuing a teaching career, private or independent schools offer the best and most likely opportunity for employment. Most independent schools do not require their secondary level teachers to be state certified (as do the public school systems) or have extensive background in professional education coursework; a bachelors degree is the minimum requirement.

Note: At the elementary level, however, most independent schools are looking for certified teachers. While most independent schools do not require certification at the time of hire, many schools require new teachers to pursue certification within several years. For example, schools that are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) require new teachers to obtain 12 hours of professional education coursework within two years in order to meet SACS accreditation requirements. In order to be certified in the state of Virginia, for example, the twelve hours includes courses in Foundations of Education, Human Growth and Development, Methods of Teaching in your subject area and 3 hours in a related area.

What is independent school teaching like?

According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) brochure Choosing: An NAIS guide to finding the right independent school job, Independent schoolteachers work in a personal, family-like environment, with a strong sense of community, high academic expectations, motivated students, and involved parents. They have opportunities to shape courses and curriculum, to collaborate with colleagues, and to affect the development of young people through their work in and out of the classroom. Classes are small, and discipline problems are rare.

The typical independent schoolteacher's contract is for twelve months; however, teachers generally only work during the school sessions, which allows for the pursuit of other interests during the summer months. Many schools can offer teachers employment opportunities in special summer programs, thus increasing earning potential; however, summer work is not expected or required in most cases. Another benefit of teaching in an independent school is the existence of numerous opportunities for continuing education, pursuing research interests, and collaborating with others in one's field of interest. Such opportunities can take the form of special fellowships, summer institutes, sabbaticals, and various other competitive grants and awards.

While there are many attractive factors involved in an independent school teaching job, it is certainly not a job to be chosen lightly. Teaching--in any setting--is a challenging and demanding job, and, especially at the beginning, an extremely time consuming one. Researching, planning and preparing lessons will consume the majority of a new teacher's time; extracurricular activities and meetings with other faculty, administrators and parents will take up most of the rest. In addition, a certain amount of emotional and attitudinal adjustment is required to make the transition from student to teacher--to become a leader, an 'authority figure,' a disciplinarian, a counselor and a role model.

It can be a heavy responsibility, although one most teachers agree is worth the effort. If you are considering pursuing an independent school position, it is strongly recommended that you conduct informational interviews with current teachers and visit schools in order to develop a clear understanding of the nature of such positions, including both the benefits and the difficulties involved.

What is the average private school teacher's salary?

According to the NAIS, the 2006-2007 median beginning teacher's salary was $32,000 (for teachers with bachelors degrees and no experience in NAIS member schools only). The median salary for the most highly experienced teachers (at NAIS member schools) in 2006-07 was $66,729. Salaries for teachers at independent schools vary dramatically, depending on such factors as candidates holding advanced degrees or having some prior teaching experience, and (for experienced teachers) number of years in the profession, the type of school (day/boarding, coed/single-sex, elementary/secondary), the school size and the region. These figures are 'cash salary' only; in cases where free or subsidized housing and/or board is provided, the cash salaries are likely to be somewhat lower.

What are independent schools looking for in prospective teachers?

As mentioned earlier, most private schools do not require that their teachers be state certified or, necessarily, have extensive teaching experience. However, there are a number of factors which will be considered heavily in the decision making process.

  1. Expertise in a subject area.
    This is one of the most important considerations for a prospective teacher. Independent schools are looking for the best-qualified candidate--a bachelor's degree (preferably in a subject area commonly taught at the secondary level) is the minimum requirement (a master's degree would carry even more weight; a doctorate may be considered a liability if the candidate is not primarily focused on a secondary teaching position). Independent school personnel report that while majors such as Foreign Affairs, Sociology, Psychology, Religious Studies and others are interesting and useful courses of study, there is relatively little demand at the secondary level for teachers in these disciplines. A school might have only one or two courses, if any, in such subjects, and therefore would be looking for a teacher who could teach other subjects as well. A double major or a major/minor, particularly in math, sciences, English, history, languages or other subjects typically integral to a secondary curriculum, would expand your opportunities by increasing the number of subjects you might be qualified to teach. Most employers will want to see a major or its equivalent in the subject(s) you wish to teach. (In other words, the fact that you are good at math and have had several math courses in college would probably not qualify you to teach math at most private schools.) However, requirements and hiring practices do vary, usually according to the size of the school. Also keep in mind that most independent schools maintain standards of excellence for their students, and, therefore, will expect excellence from their teachers. Private school employers will be looking for candidates who have demonstrated a high level of academic achievement during their undergraduate (and graduate) work.
     
  2. Desire/ability to become involved with students outside of the classroom.
    An important factor in your 'employability' will be your interest in participating in and overseeing extracurricular activities. Most independent schools believe that learning happens as much outside of the classroom as inside, and encourage faculty to become involved in many aspects of students' lives. Your enthusiasm for coaching a sport, advising a club, overseeing the school newspaper or yearbook, directing the choir or a theatrical production, or any other participation in extracurricular activities will be an asset in your job search. It is necessary to note that, although experience and expertise in these areas can be important, even an interest in or willingness to try an activity can be helpful. You should be sure to design your resume to reflect any participation and/or interest in activities during your high school and college years. In addition, when contacting schools regarding teaching openings, it is helpful to state in your cover letter the activities in which you would be willing to participate.
     
  3. Experience working with young people.
    Many, if not most, independent schools will want to see some record of your interest in and ability to work with young people. This experience need not be formal teaching in a school setting, although certainly any type of teaching experience would be a plus. Pursuits such as working as a camp counselor, leading a Boy Scout or Brownie troop, coaching a little league team, working with a church youth group, tutoring local students or any other activity which enables you to develop leadership skills and an understanding of the nature and needs of young people will be beneficial. It will be of primary importance to prospective employers that you are able to relate to the students with whom you will be working and, in some instances, living. Experiences such as these will also help you to explore and/or confirm your desire to pursue a teaching career. Many private schools have special programs during the summers, for their own or other students. Check with schools near you to find out about such programs as a possible source of summer employment and as an excellent way to gain experience.
     
  4. Ability/willingness to live on the school's campus.
    This is usually pertinent only to boarding schools, but can play a large part in the hiring decision at such schools. Many schools stress the personal interaction between students and faculty, and the establishment of a sense of community, as an important part of the private school experience. Many boarding schools require faculty, especially beginning teachers, to live on the school grounds or in the student dormitories. If you are unwilling to accept this type of living arrangement, you should be sure to investigate schools thoroughly and should simply not apply to schools where on-campus living is required. Also keep in mind the on-campus housing factor when considering salary issues. As mentioned earlier, free or subsidized faculty housing and/or board (meals) is often provided at boarding schools, which is a significant 'fringe' benefit and clearly changes the total salary and benefits package.

How do I conduct a private school job search?

According to the NAIS brochure, Being Chosen: An NAIS guide to finding the right independent school job: Independent schools usually begin planning ahead for the next academic year as early as December. Most hiring happens between January and May, although positions occasionally remain open as late as August. You should be ready to begin contacting schools in December or January and/or registering with a placement agency over the Fall semester a number of these agencies actively recruit through the On-grounds recruiting process at University Career Services. In order to conduct an effective search you should begin during the Fall semester (whether using a placement agency or not) to give yourself sufficient time to complete the following steps:

  1. Establish your parameters.
    The first step in any job search is to decide what you are looking for. In the case of the independent school job search, you may want to consider some of the following factors: Geographic location (flexibility in geographic preference will significantly increase your opportunities for employment); Type of community (large or small; urban, suburban, rural); Type of school, including: residence (boarding, day school, or combination), gender (all male, all female, co-ed), size, affiliation (religious or other), special emphasis (military, students with special needs), grade levels included (elementary, middle, secondary, all), etc.
     
  2. Identify and research potential employers.
    Once personal parameters are established, you can use directories available in many libraries or online directories such as PrivateSchoolReview.com or BoardingSchoolReview.com or Petersons.com to identify schools in your geographic area of interest. Both the Curry School of Education library and the UCS library house the Market Data Retrieval set of directories which lists all of the private, Catholic and public schools by state. It would be to your benefit to look online or call the schools and request more detailed information such as a school handbook, curriculum guide, etc. -- research the school as thoroughly as possible before you make the decision to apply, potentially saving yourself and the school from wasting time and effort if the school does not meet your employment preferences. You may also check online resources such as NAIS career center, UCS job listing (CAVLink), or local newspapers in your geographic search area(s) for job listings. However it is suggested to not wait for an ad to appear to begin your outreach to the schools of interest.
     
  3. Develop your resume and cover letter.
    As mentioned earlier, your resume should clearly reflect your interest in and experiences involving teaching, working with young people and any extracurricular activities in which you have participated. Your academic background, including minors or other concentrations, and any awards or honors indicating high academic achievement, should be featured. If you are a graduate of an independent secondary school, you should include the name of your school on the resume, since independent schools are often especially interested in graduates of their own or other independent schools. Your cover letter should identify for the reader the type of position for which you are applying and should highlight your special qualifications. Your cover letter is an appropriate place to communicate to the employer why you are interested in a position teaching in an independent school, or their school in particular, and anything you feel is special about you, which might not appear on your resume. Consult UCS's guides Writing Resumes and Cover Letters and Other Correspondence for 'how-to' information and samples. You should also take advantage of the opportunity to have your resume critiqued by a UCS counselor.
     
  4. Create an electronic portfolio/recommendations file.
    Independent school employers generally require that you provide letters of recommendation at some point during the interview process. In order to expedite the process of providing recommendations you may establish a recommendations file containing letters from each recommendation. Interfolio.com provides you with more control over your recommendations file, a wider variety of payment options, and improved turn-around time on delivery requests. To create a new file, visit Interfolio.com at www.interfolio.com. There is a one-time fee for creating an electronic portfolio, as well as fees for separate mailings (if you provide an e-mail address for the employer where you want your file sent, it may reduce mailing costs).
     
  5. Contact schools regarding employment.
    When contacting schools, send your resume and cover letter to the headmaster, or, if the school is large enough, the personnel department or the chairperson of the department in which you would like to teach (if one exists). You may also be asked to provide a university transcript and, as mentioned above, letters of recommendation. A week or two after you mail your resume, follow up with a phone call to be certain your information was received and to determine if any openings exist and whether or not you can arrange a time to meet if traveling to the area or an interview if their vacancies are known at that time (but if unknown, focus on getting an in-person meeting to set you apart from other candidates). In addition to full time permanent employment, a number of independent schools offer post-graduate internship opportunities as a way of entering a career in independent school teaching. These programs are generally one-year commitments, are usually paid (although usually at a reduced salary), often provide mentoring by an experienced teacher, and sometimes include the possibility of taking college coursework towards obtaining teaching certification. For more information about these programs, visit the NAIS Career Center at http://www.nais.org.
     
  6. Interview for the job.
    When interviewing for a teaching job, you should be prepared to discuss your academic preparation, any teaching or related experience you have, and the extracurricular activities in which you have been involved. At many independent schools, it is quite likely that you will be asked to teach a sample class as part of the interview process. You need to be able to communicate clearly the fact that you not only understand complex/advanced topics, but also, perhaps more importantly, can teach the fundamentals/basics of a subject. Be prepared to discuss your ideas and beliefs about what makes a good teacher, how you will handle a classroom of your own, how you will design courses in your subject area, etc. Perhaps most of all, independent schools will be looking for your dedication to working with young people, your understanding of their needs, and your ability to relate to them at their level of development. Be sure to highlight any extracurricular involvement of interest to you as well.

What are Education Placement Agencies?

Education placement agencies are essentially employment agencies whose purpose is to match prospective teacher candidates with actual vacancies in schools. The majority of such agencies place candidates only in private schools, although some agencies work with public schools or both public and private schools. Consult the Education Placement Agencies list below for information on the geographic areas in which they specialize, fees charged, if any, and other services they may provide. Please note that many agencies do not charge you a fee, but have a financial arrangement with the independent school that hires you. These agencies can be quite helpful, especially if you are conducting a long distance search.

The general procedure for working with an agency is as follows: you fill out an application, have an interview with the agency (usually but not always), and provide them with your resume and any other information they require. They will then contact schools on your behalf and try to arrange interviews for you. When working with a placement agency you must be clear about your goals--the type of positions and the type of schools in which you are interested. You may want to speak with representatives from several different agencies before you decide which one(s) to register with; you should be comfortable with anyone at the agency with whom you have contact and confident that they understand and are sensitive to your needs and preferences. Remember that you are not obligated to accept a job offer, or even an interview, which has been arranged by an agency. You are in control of your job search and should not relinquish control to anyone else, even an agency representative. You should also guard against becoming complacent in your job search, assuming that the agency will find a job for you. Remain actively involved, both through the agency and your own independent efforts, throughout the job search process. It is important to communicate frequently with your agency representative, and especially important to inform the agency of schools you wish to contact or have already contacted on your own.

One final note--most placement agencies require you to sign an agreement or contract. Be sure to read the entire contents carefully, and question anything about which you are unsure, before you sign. If you follow these guidelines and cautions, utilizing a placement agency can be an excellent job search tool.

What other sources of job search assistance are there?

  1. Attend recruitment fairs.
    An excellent way to identify openings and meet with school representatives is to plan to attend the annual NAIS conference where recruitment fairs are sponsored by some of the placement agencies. For dates, locations and more information on these recruitment fairs, contact the agencies at the telephone numbers listed on the following pages.
     
  2. Contact the National Association of Independent Schools.
    NAIS can assist you with any concerns or questions you have throughout your job search process. For more information on its services and resources, contact NAIS at 1620 L St. NW, Washington, DC 20036 or call them at (202) 973-9700; fax (202) 973-9790; website is http://www.nais.org

Resources


  • Education Placement Agencies

    CalWest Educators Placement Agency
    17141 Ventura Blvd., Encino, CA 91316
    (818) 906-2972; [email protected]
    Contact: Christopher Fleischner, President
    Fee: none for UVA candidates ($35 fee waived)
    Geographic region: California & Select Western Cities

    Carney, Sandoe & Associates
    44 Broomfield St., Boston, MA 02108
    800-225-7986
    Contact: Jonathan Ball, Director of School Service
    Fee: none
    Geographic region: Nationwide and some International

    Education Group
    5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1200, Dallas, TX 75230
    800-369-9102; [email protected]
    Contact: Allison Lorimer, Placement Consultant
    Fee: none
    Geographic region: Nationwide and few International

    Educational Directions Incorporated
    PO Box 768, Portsmouth, Rhode Island 02871
    800-647-2794; [email protected]
    Contact: Christopher Arnold

    Educator’s Ally Inc
    Box 295, Bedford Hills, New York 10507
    (914) 666-6323 [email protected]
    Contact: Lisa Lovering
    Fee: None
    Region: East Coast (New York to Atlanta)

    Educators’ Collaborative, LLC
    614-207-1006; [email protected]
    Contact: John M. Mackenzie, Managing Partner
    Fee: set fee provided after application is received
    Geographic Location: National

    Independent Thinking
    PO Box 600247, Newton MA, 02460
    617-332-3131; http://www.independent-thinking.com/
    Contact: Jane Armstrong or Bill Lyons
    Fee: No Fee

    Search Associates
    3125C Sutton Place NW, Washington, DC 20016
    202-362-1593
    Contact: John Magagna, Senior Associate and Founding Director
    Fee: no fee to register; fee to attend fair (see web site)
    Geographic region: International and some international schools in the U.S.

    Southern Teachers' Agency
    7 Elliewood Ave. Suite 2A, Charlottesville, VA 22903
    434-295-9122; [email protected]
    Contact: Carey Goodman, Director
    Fee: none
    Geographic region: Southeast and some Texas

  • Other Agencies Available to Help

    Association of American Schools in South America
    1911 NW 150 Ave, Suite 101, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028
    954-436-4034; http://www.aassa.com
    Contact: Esther Nicolau, Program Coordinator
    Fee: none to apply; $100 if invited to their recruiting fair
    Geographic region: South Americ

    Fairfield Teachers' Agency
    P.O. Box 1141, Fairfield, CT 06825
    203-333-0611
    Contact: Mark King, Director
    Fee: 7.5% of first year salary
    Geographic region: New England (primarily NY & CT)

    Independent School Placement
    600 West End Ave, #1-A3, New York, NY 10024
    212-769-4600
    Contacts: Cornelia & Jim Iradell, Co-Directors
    Fee: none
    Geographic region: New York (mostly city), Nearby NJ

    International Schools Services
    15 Roszel Rd., Princeton, NJ 08543
    609-452-0990; [email protected]
    Contact: Laura Light, Director of Ed. Staffing
    Fee: $185 to register; $290 to attend Recruitment Fair
    Geographic region: International and some international schools in the U.S.

    Interschool Fellows Program
    260 West 78th Street, Room 706, New York, NY 10024
    212-501-0031; [email protected]
    Contact: Cathy Cramer, Executive Director
    Geographic region: NY City School Consortium of 8 schools

    Manhattan Placements
    501 E. 79th St. Apt. 6A, New York, NY 10075
    212-288-3507; [email protected]
    Contact: Claude Kunstenaar, Director
    Fee: none
    Geographic region: New York City, NJ

  • Organizations Specializing in Working with Students of Color

    Collegiate School Teaching Institute
    260 West 78th St, New York, NY 10024
    617-566-4394, ext. 701; [email protected];
    Contact: Ms. Johanna Aeschliman
    Fee: none (summer $1000 stipend + travel/room/board for professional development)
    Geographic region: New York

    Independent School Consortium of Greater Philadelphia
    450 Lancaster Ave., Haverford, PA, 19041
    484-417-2774; [email protected]
    Contact: Sherry Coleman; Director
    Fee: none
    Geographic region: Greater Philadelphia region

    McMurry Fellowship
    The Education Group, 5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1200, Dallas, TX 75230
    800-369-9102; [email protected]
    Fee: none (yearlong stipend rotation - includes administrators)
    Geographic region: Nationwide

    Phillips Academy Andover Institute for Recruitment of Teachers
    180 Main St., Andover, MA 01810
    978-749-4116; [email protected]
    Fee: none (summer $1200 stipend + travel/room/board for professional development)
    Geographic Location: Massachusetts for training; works with 44 higher education institutions for graduate work