Sometimes the best way to find out how to break into a field is to ask the people who place folks in that career. These people see a large number of candidates for open positions, so they know what works and what doesn't. We fired off an e-mail with some questions to Carney, Sandoe, & Associates (CS&A), a Boston-based recruitment firm that places teachers and administrators in private and independent schools across the United States and abroad. Benjamin L. Bolté, director of placement services, and Sarah Gordon Littlefield, a placement associate who specializes in science placement, took a stab at answering them.
What qualities are the top schools looking for?
Good teaching experience, either in independent or public schools (or as a TA or graduate assistant if in grad school); prefer undergraduate and/or advanced degree in one's field (master's can be in education); mastery of subject; prefer ability to teach in one other science.
What can a candidate do to improve their chances of being selected?
Using a firm, they can be geographically flexible, be willing to look at boarding, day, single-sex schools, etc. Often, the ability to teach more than one science well helps (chemistry/physics, chemistry/biology, biology/earth science); desire to help out with coaching, extracurriculars--in independent education, teachers teach outside as well as inside the classroom. A Ph.D. is helpful sometimes, MA/MS always helps.
Is there a demand for science and math teachers?
Yes, math and science are the areas in which we are experiencing the highest demand, especially chemistry, physics, upper levels of math (Algebra II through BC calculus), and computer science. The biology market is larger, but has more candidates as well.
Is it possible to get a teaching job without teaching experience?
Yes, many independent schools hire beginning teachers right out of college or graduate school. Beginning teachers can be hired into regular teaching positions or into 1-year intern or fellow positions as an "apprentice year." CS&A works with candidates at all experience levels, including many coming right out of college or another career. With no traditional teaching experience, some "kid" experience (tutoring, camp counselor, mentor, etc.) can be very helpful.