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Projections for teachers: How many are leaving the occupation?

| October 2018

The writing’s on the blackboard: Opportunities are arising for primary and secondary education teachers. More than 270,000 of these workers are expected to leave their occupation each year, on average, from 2016 to 2026, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And each teacher who leaves creates an opening for another teacher to enter the occupation.

Workers leave, or separate from, an occupation for several reasons. Some workers transfer to a different occupation. Others exit the labor force permanently, such as to retire. The chart shows how these two types of separations break down in selected teaching occupations.

Of the occupations in the chart, elementary school teachers is projected to have the most separations: more than 100,000 each year, on average, over the 2016–26 decade. About 48,300 of those are projected to be from labor force exits; another 54,200 are expected to be from occupational transfers.

Separations are not the only source of occupational openings; other openings come from employment growth. As student enrollments increase in the coming decade, employment growth is projected in all of the teaching occupations in the chart. However, new jobs resulting from employment growth are expected to account for relatively few openings—roughly 1 in 9 of the nearly 300,000 total openings projected to arise each year, on average—in these occupations.

The median annual wage for each occupation in the chart was more than $54,000 in 2017, higher than the $37,690 median wage for all workers. To enter these occupations, you typically need a bachelor’s degree. Teachers who work in public schools also must have a state-issued certification or license.

Learn more about occupational openings, including projected growth and separations, on the BLS Employment Projections site. Also, you can find out what teachers do, what their working conditions are, how to become one, and more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at

Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Projections for teachers: How many are leaving the occupation?," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2018.

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