SRU providing career changers with a path to resolve statewide teacher shortage


Teacher in a classroom

Slippery Rock University’s College of Education offers graduate programs where working professionals can transition to teaching careers and address the statewide shortage of teachers.

July 12, 2022

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is issuing 66% fewer teacher certifications than it did just a decade ago. This, combined with a surge in teacher retirements over the last few years, has created an alarming shortage of teachers in school districts across the state. Slippery Rock University, a longtime leader in teacher preparation, thinks it has a solution to this challenge: career changers.



SRU's secondary education graduate programs are designed for career changers who have a bachelor's degree or appropriate coursework in math, science, social studies and English. Completion of a program will lead to a master's degree and can lead to state certification. Most students complete online programs in one calendar year of full-time study, beginning with the first summer session. All of SRU's College of Education master's programs are offered online for the convenience of working professionals.

"We provide our teacher candidates with tailored coaching and feedback based on the latest research, using the latest technologies and following the time-tested approaches used by the great teachers," said Keith Dils, dean of the College of Education. "I've had countless conversations with graduates who came to SRU after starting a career in a different field or needing to gain traction as a teacher, and they graduate from our programs with the confidence and skills needed to succeed."

According to Mark Hogue, a SRU assistant professor of secondary education and foundations of education, the role of the teacher is changing. Educators are being asked to do more, taking on responsibilities of those of a social worker and adapting to online teaching during the pandemic, safety precautions in response to mass shootings across the country, and other challenges.

"As a state, we're not meeting the demands caused by retirements and teachers leaving the profession," said Hogue. "Postings for job vacancies in public schools have historically always been answered by a strong pool of qualified applicants. That's no longer the case."



Special education teaching positions are particularly in demand because of the credentials they require. SRU offers a variety of graduate degrees, endorsements, and certifications in special education, autism spectrum disorders, and special education supervision and leadership. According to Matthew Erickson, SRU associate professor of special education and department chair, a contributing factor to the fewer number of special education teachers in Pennsylvania resulted from a change to the certification. In 2011, the certification changed from pre-K-12 to separate certifications for grades pre-K-8 and 7-12, in addition to subject matter certifications, but last year the state reverted back to a pre-K-12 certification for special education.

SRU's Master of Education degree in special education can be completed in 18 months, including a 15-week student-teaching experience, and upon completion, graduates will have initial certification in special education.

"We want to do things that other universities aren't doing or to meet the demands of the job market," said Erickson. ""Teachers went through the pandemic with a completely flipped classroom and they want to be shown how to do it the right way, because now their district might want them to continue with some online teaching."

Regardless of the challenges teachers face that may or may not have contributed to the shortage in the workforce, what hasn't changed is teachers' objective as educators.

"Unlike a job where you just go to work and put in your time, teachers have the ability to interact with impressionable students, while supporting and encouraging them in ways that transcend almost any other profession," Hogue said. "Teachers have the potential to make a positive change not only in their community, but individually with a student. That's an awesome thing that is often overlooked."

More information about SRU's education programs is available on the College of Education webpage.

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