If a career as a teacher sounds like a good fit for you, you might be wondering what the work hours are like. The answer to that can depend on who you ask and what data you believe. Here we’ll look at some of the surveys and research that have been done to figure this out. Then we’ll tell you why the question isn’t particularly helpful.
First, the evidence.
Both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Scholastic conducted major surveys into the matter, asking current teachers to report on the number of hours they worked each week. The results were a bit surprising for both surveys. When the teachers’ answers were compiled and their numbers were crunched, they added up to 53 hours per week on average. This figure raised some eyebrows because teachers are non-exempt salary employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), meaning they aren’t eligible to receive overtime. You don’t have to be a math major to know that those extra 13 hours a week can add up over the course of a year.
One teacher, tired of hearing that she “has summers off and “works a part-time job”, decided to log every minute she worked for an entire year. Her decidedly (and admittedly) anecdotal study ended with a figure of 2,200 hours, divided thusly:
- 1,170 hours engaged in instruction
- 450 hours prepping for classes
- 100 hours of professional development in the summer
- 300 hours grading papers and homework
- 40 hours doing emails and phone calls
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has also weighed in on the debate. According to the BLS’s numbers, teachers were more likely to work at home than other professionals (30% to 20%, respectively) and much more likely to work on Sundays (51% to 30%). The BLS’s figures also found that, during the school year of 37 weeks, teachers worked an average of 37 hours per week.
Several other groups have released data as well. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)’s School and Staffing Survey aligned with the Gates Foundation and Scholastic, finding that teachers spend an average of 52.8 hours per week teaching, grading or preparing for classes, as did the National Education Association (50 hours per week). The Current Population Survey (CPS) landed closer to the BLS at 43.5 hours per week and the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) fell in the middle at 46 hours per week.
So, we have hard data that says being a teacher usually means working more than full-time hours every week, taking your work home with you and logging lots of time prepping and doing professional development.
These numbers tell one side of the story. There’s another side, though, and it’s arguably more important. Being a teacher is tough but you probably didn’t need any numbers to tell you that. It’s also one of the most important and rewarding jobs there is. This is backed up by numbers as well — 90% of teachers in the U.S. say their job brings them satisfaction, which is higher than most other countries in the world.
The takeaway? If you’re passionate about becoming a teacher, don’t let the numbers or the hard work scare you.