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Changing Careers: Is it a Smart or Dumb Move?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/xedos4

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/xedos4

A couple of weeks ago, we received the good news that my husband, Jim, had passed all of his tests and requirements to receive his second master’s degree in education administration. He has worked extremely hard to keep up with written and practical work while teaching 5th grade, volunteering for several committees  at work, and being a Dad.

His first master’s was more to satisfy state requirements without much change in status or salary, this one would open the door to whole new positions with higher pay grades. In fact, he has an interview tomorrow for a position that would give him quite a bump in salary. While I really hope he gets the new job, I am also nervous. Is changing careers at this point a smart or dumb move?

We’ve Had Lots of Change Already

Over the past two years, I have completely changed my work schedule and am rapidly closing in on the point of not owning my own business. Owning your own business is never a sure thing, but at least you can’t get fired. I have three different part time positions now that seem pretty solid, but I could lose one at any time.

He is a Really Good Teacher

While I am biased, Jim is an excellent classroom teacher. He taught seventh grade reading for several years, then moved to 5th grade. His 5th grade class has had the highest scores in the distict for three years running.  I can’t tell you how many people have told me how great he is or how much their son or daughter loved him. I tell him it’s because he operates on a 10-12 year old level, but he seriously does try to treat pre-teens as people. He’s very strict, but fair, and tries to relate on their level, even if that means playing Justin Bieber music in the background during class. His school district is one of the worst paying ones in the state, and often loses good teachers to admin positions or to other districts. I’m happy for us, but sad for the students who won’t get to have him as a teacher.

New Positions are Fickle

Since Jim has been teaching for 12 years, and he does a good job, his position is pretty secure. Unless he does something crazy, he really won’t get fired. In about 11 years, he can retire and receive a small pension for the rest of his life (as long as the state doesn’t go broke!)

 All administrative positions are at will, so if he gets this new job, he could be let go for any reason. This position is new and won’t be popular, I’m afraid.

Colorado is in the process of adopting a new teacher evaluation system. It would mean that teachers will be evaluated on merit, test scores, and student surveys. Essentially, bad teachers with tenure can’t stay forever if they suck. The position Jim is interviewing for is as a coordinator for the new evaluation system. He has been on a test committee for the past year to determine requirements. The state said districts have to implement this policy, but didn’t say how it should be done, so this committee has been deciding how the new evaluation system would work, and the new position is to make it happen. While any change is scary, good teachers aren’t too worried, while the crappy ones are a bit nervous. I’m doubtful things will change much for a while, but change has to start somewhere, and the person in charge is not generally popular with those who might have to actually work a bit harder.

Even if he didn’t get this job and was able to get hired in another position, like principal, it’s still at will. Principals get fired all the time, especially in districts with bad test scores.

Sometimes You Have to Go For It

We decided a while back that if a position came available, Jim would go for it. While nothing is ever a guarantee, we’ve made huge financial strides over the last few years, and I think we could weather a job loss. At worst, he’d have to go back into the classroom, essentially taking a demotion. While it might be hard on the ego, we’ve talked about it, and he says he would do that if necessary. 

I think burnout is a reality with most jobs if you are there long enough. Neither of us wants to be that person who hates his or her job but keeps showing up because of fear or complacency. So, I’m nervous for this new change, but also very excited. Fingers crossed that Jim gets a new job!

What do you think of teacher evaluations? Would you give up a secure job for a more risky one if it paid better and was more exciting?

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I don’t work in a field with either tenure or unions. So there are no secure jobs. But I think that burnout happens in almost any job if you never get to move up or onto bigger and better things. That’s one of the reasons I am working aggressively towards financial independence. This way when/if burnout happens I have options. I can try shift to a less stable but more exciting job if I’m burned out. And if the new job doesn’t cut it, who cares, I can still pay the rent.

  2. I suppose it all depends on how much risk versus reward their was. If I was to take a more risky job I would probably have a larger fund.
    Kim, I wish you and your husband luck with this new job prospect.

  3. I would change careers simply for the fact that the new job offered something that I wanted to do. It is nice getting paid more, but I think that even if a new career pays less, if it is what you are passionate about, you will be much better off in the long run as opposed to keeping a job that you hated or disliked.

    • Honestly, the pay is way down the list. More money is always nice, but being challenged and making a positive change in an outdated system is the real motivation for this change.

  4. I know a lot of teachers in my area and they are not happy with some of the new teacher evaluations that have been implemented. I think that being a teacher would be an incredibly difficult job. In fact, my sister went back to school to get her teaching license and only lasted about a year. She said it was just too stressful.

    • It takes a certain personality. No one likes to be evaluated. I certainly hate it, but I think as long as it’s done fairly, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  5. Congratulations to Jim! It looks like you guys have thought this through and can survive on one income anyway. Being a teacher is great, several of my family members are but usually they get pretty tired from age 50. Repeating the same thing, the noise, the discipline… it gets harder to bear. They tend to move to school supervisor positions, with or without part time teaching. Best of luck with the new position, I hope it works out well.

    • Thanks Pauline. Your post a while back about the survivalist budget caused me to really run some serious numbers, and I actually have a post coming up about it. We would be OK even if he takes the job and they later eliminate the position or fire him.

  6. Burnout happens in pretty much any job, but I would expect teaching to have one of the highest rates as you would require a lot of patience.
    Hopefully it all goes well for him.

    • Agreed, I just read Life, Etc’s ebook Life After Teaching (a post on giveaway on that coming up on Friday). I think the turnover/dropout rate is very high.

      • I would have to agree. People think it’s great with the benefits and summers off, but it’s hard work for the pay and amount of education you have to have to get a job.

    • Honestly, the kids never really get to him. It’s mostly the parents and other teachers who do nothing but complain.

  7. I think it’s good that Colorado is giving a new evaluation system a try, and it sounds like an exciting thing to be a part of. Crossing my fingers that Jim gets it, but also it seems like you guys both realize there are other jobs out there if it doesn’t work out. I think leaving a secure job can be a good choice if you are not challenged in that position.

    • This one would certainly be a challenge. I guess if all else fails, he could go back to his college job as a landscaper!

  8. Congrats to Jim! I can tell that you have seriously thought this through and that it does come with a certain level of risk. That said, I totally would go for the higher paying and more exciting job. Not only does it mean a nice pay bump for your husband, it could also be more rewarding as well as potentially provide other opportunities.

    • He has already made some great connections just by being on the volunteer committees, so he’s pretty sure about this path. I think it will be great. I refuse to believe otherwise.

  9. I don’t see any issue with Jim taking this one on. While it can be scary, you can’t run your life on the “what-ifs”. This could be a potentially great career change that he may enjoy. Yes, there is risk, but it seems that the reward outweighs that risk.

  10. How exciting! Good luck to your husband and I hope he gets the job 🙂

  11. When I had plans on becoming a teacher, I had no intention of ever going into administration. I tend to be more of an “in the trenches” kind of guy.

    This won’t help with your dilemma so much, but I’ve been facing a similar issue. Last year it was more intellectual, but it’s getting a lot more real now. I’m good at my current job and my supervisors believe I would be very good at their position. I’m getting close to having logged enough hours to start training for the promotion. In fact, I’m supposed to be getting a copy of my MVR to send in.
    The only problem is I don’t find the job intellectually stimulating at all and would rather be working in another field. But try as I might, I haven’t been able to break into that field yet. I’m worried that I’ll become like my one supervisor who started when she needed a job during the LAST recession and now can’t leave because it would involve too large of a pay cut.

    • I’d go for it, but with the caveat that you will not become complacent and continue to search for your ideal job. Having more money would certainly give you more options after debts are paid off, but I understand getting stuck if you can’t find something better paying.

  12. Teaching is so different than other jobs. I have been teaching for 12 years. I had a lot more control over my performance in industry. You only have so much control over the results. In administration, you have even less because you have to depend on others to perform. Under the right circumstance, it can be more rewarding. Good luck.

  13. Good luck to your husband! He sounds like an amazing teacher and would bring a lot of heart and empathy to a position that needs it. My sister was a teacher too. She loved it, but after having her position eliminated again and again, she finally went into the Corporate world, but she misses teaching. I have mixed feelings about teacher evaluations. There are some really bad teachers that are protected, thanks to their tenure and frankly they shouldn’t be. At the same time, some teachers are working so hard but running hard against student and parent apathy.

    • I think it would be ideal to have an actual teacher in this admin position. He would understand all the strikes teachers have against them depending of the population of students.

  14. Personally, I would take the more risky job. The key with the risky job is to just knock it out of the park and make yourself invaluable. 🙂

  15. Personally, I plan on changing careers in my later 50’s. It will pay (a lot) less but I’ll be doing something I love. That’s why I’m working on financial independence now!

    • I hope in about 10-12 years, I can do whatever I want. If it’s checking eyes, great. If not, I might become a dog groomer.

  16. I think a new evaluation system would be great. Let the good teachers stay and kick out the bad ones.

    As for leaving a secure job for a possible unstable one, I would jump at that opportunity as long as I had 6 months of expenses in the bank account and if I believe that the new job will be better for me in the long-run. I would really hesitate making that jump in neither of these were true.

    • We are actually in a really good financial position right now. I have a post coming up later in the week about how we went from being so in debt to being able to change jobs if we want to. If we were still in debt, we would likely not be considering anything risky.

  17. I agree, sometimes you just gotta go for it! Hope he gets the job!

  18. Kim, I think it’s great that they’re changing up the teacher evals in your area so that the crappy teachers can’t just slide by. That kind of a system is totally unfair to the good teachers like your hubby. And I think it sounds like what he’s doing is really good for him. He’d be just as great in an admin position as he is in a teaching position, I’m sure. I hated school mostly, but we had one asst principal that was so great with the kids and treated them with respect, like Jim seems to do. I still remember him some 30 years later and think of him with fondness.

    • That is really what you hope for as a teacher. I think Jim will do great at whatever he does, but it will be a bit sad if he isn’t teaching.

  19. I think it’s mostly about what his heart is telling him, and what is best for you as a whole family. It’s tough to say really…I think if a job excited me that much, I’d definitely take it. I’m sure it’s not going to be an easy decision though.

    • I think he’s excited about the upcoming changes and wants to be a part of them rather than just waiting go see what happens.

  20. It’s never to late to change careers, if you have something of value to offer, and it certainly sounds like Jim does. I hope he gets the job, will keep my fingers crossed for you!

  21. I’d probably go for the more risky job (easy to say that now since I’m in a “comfortable job”). I think the important part for me is being happy. I don’t love what I’m doing right now, but it’s OK. I’m still working on finding exactly what I wand to do, and when I find it I’m more than willing to take the risk and make the move.

    • I think that was kind of what happened. He doesn’t dislike his job but was ready for a new challenge with more opportunities.

  22. My fingers are crossed for Jim to get that administrative job 🙂 Life is about taking chances, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but if you never play then you never know…Good for Jim for taking chances!

  23. That’s a tough one Kim. If he loves his current job and it pays well and has perks then it’s up to him what he really wants to do. I quit my life and moved to a new country so anything is possible if you believe. I was also realistic knowing that I may not find a job. I didn’t because I didn’t have enough “Canadian experience” so I was told. I went back to school to start a new life and a new career and it paid off for me. There is always a risk when you change careers that anything could happen. The job may not work out as one might not be a fit for the organization as originally thought. The most important part is to keep the faith.

  24. I am very interested in the teacher evaluation system stuff, curious to hear what they will do and how it will work.
    The pay bump will be nice, I’m sure, as will the opportunity to do something brand new.
    I’m sure things will go swimmingly. Plus, with his track record, I’m sure he would have no problem at all getting back into a classroom.

    • I think many would see going back into the classroom as a blow to the ego, but I honestly think he’d be fine if he had to do that.

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