A Desire to Teach Psychology Is a Natural Career Transition

Deliberate steps that can set you on the right path.

Posted Jan 21, 2019

Does this sound familiar? You’re well along in your flourishing career and considered an expert.

You’ve amassed tons of real-world experience. You’re proud of your accomplishments and grateful for the people and things that got you here. That’s when it hits you—a feeling that it’s time to give back or take a different career track. It’s time to take all your training, experience, and wisdom and pass it along to the next generation. It’s time to teach.

You make some exploratory calls to universities. You anticipate a warm and inviting reception as you humbly offer to teach for them. You have no idea where you would fit into their programs, but that’s not your problem. Certainly, they’ll figure it out once they review the success and track record outlined in your glowing resume, right? “They’ll love me!” you think.

But it’s not quite that easy. The warm reception from academia is often anything but. In fact, most people don’t even get a return phone call. Why? For starters, competition for these positions is fierce. Few spots open up and when they do, there is a long line of people with extensive experiences waiting at the dean’s doorstep.

So, what to do? To be successful, there are deliberate steps to take that will, at least, set you on the right path.

  1. Determine if it’s right for you. It’s tempting to want to jump into the classroom due to stressful careers or simply feeling unfulfilled but these are not the right reasons alone. You must want to teach—even those who seem unteachable. You must have patience—even when you’ve reached your limit. You must accept criticism—even when reviews are harsher than anything you’ve experienced in the professional world. And you must have the ability to explain things—even when it feels you’ll never break through.
  2. Determine if your expertise is needed. Good news for you, psychology is still in the top five most popular college majors. Chances are a spot will open up if you dedicate time to developing your plan of action.
  3. Start now. Waiting until you retire is not the right time to seek a teaching position. You need to begin now, start building your network and get some teaching experience through conferences or trade organizations. You want to be able to prove you can lead a classroom when a position opens up.
  4. Connect, connect, connect. Develop a list of target schools and start making connections to get on the radar of administration and faculty. Invite them to your workplace or sponsor a student. There are a number of ways to start making those connections.
  5. Develop your own unique view. Take your career experiences and transform them into a set of frameworks or models that represent what you stand for within your profession. It’s time to “plant your flag” on your values and opinions that you’ll bring into the classroom.