Teacher’s Shortage: A Global Issue

Teacher’s Shortage: A Global Issue

Teacher Shortage, a Pressing Issue for the School Districts in the US: Present Status, Reasons and Ways Forward



The shortage of teachers in the US has become a significant issue for many school districts, impacting not only the quality of education but also the well-being of students, teachers, and the community. The aging of the current teacher workforce, combined with low numbers of young people choosing teaching as a profession and high turnover rates, has created a critical shortage of teachers in the country. Therefore, it is very necessary that educationists and policymakers make minute observation of the concern, and come with evidence-based structural and functional reforms. The National Education Association (NEA), the largest labor union in the United States, representing more than three million educators across the country, has raised concerns about a shortage of teachers and staff in schools. In February 2022, the NEA, as cited in Walker and Writer (2022) showed there were about 10.6 million teachers working in public schools in January 2020. But now in 2022, there are only 10 million, which means they lost about 600,000 teachers. There has been a growing number of vacancies for teaching position (see, Walker& Writer, 2022).

Reasons for Teacher Shortage

Studies and policy reports have identified many reasons for teacher shortage in US.  Some contributing factors for teachers’ shortage are low pay, high workload, lack of support, difficult working conditions, demographic changes, retirement and attrition and limited pathways to teaching. Among them, following appears to be the major one:

Aging of the Current Workforce

It seems that one of the main reasons for the teacher shortage is the aging of the current workforce. Many teachers in the United States are baby boomers who are nearing retirement age. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that almost one-third of all public-school teachers in the US are 50 or older, and they are expected to retire in the next decade (NCES, 2022). This has created a huge gap in the workforce, and the number of new teachers entering the profession is not enough to meet the demand.

Low Interest of College Graduates for Education Degree

Lowering the interest of college graduates for education degrees seems to be the next. Fewer students are graduating from college with education degrees. The number dropped from over 176,000 in 1970-71 to about 85,000 in 2019-20 (see NCES, 2020, as cited in Schaeffer, 2022). One possibility is that college graduates are pursuing other fields that are perceived to be more lucrative or in demand. For example, graduates may be drawn to STEM fields, business, or healthcare, which offer high salaries and job security. Another factor could be a perception among college graduates that teaching is not a desirable career path. This may be due to a number of factors, such as low salaries, high levels of stress and burnout, and a lack of respect for the profession.

Lowering Motivation to Engage in Teaching Profession

Another reason seems to be the lowering motivation to engage in teaching profession. For example, the NEA also did a survey and found out that 55% of teachers were thinking of leaving their jobs earlier than they planned. Lower motivation has been a well-being concern as well. Studies by Vargas and Oros (2021) and Turner and Cohen (2023) claim that teacher’s job satisfaction is at the lowest level in five decades. Also, teachers report higher levels of stress, burnout, and symptoms of depression than other working adults. In many cases, teachers feel that their professional judgment and expertise are not being recognized or appreciated. This problem is widespread and affects teachers across the board. According to a recent survey, only 10% of public-school teachers feel valued to a great extent, while 42% feel valued to some extent and 48% feel undervalued or not valued at all (PDK, 2019).

Low Pay and Relatively Low Salaries

Another primary cause is low pay. Many teachers and staff members in schools are paid relatively low salaries, which can make it difficult for schools to attract and retain qualified candidates. A study found that the pay gap between teachers and other college graduates has been growing since 1979. In 1979, teachers made about 23% less than other graduates, and by 2021, that difference grew to almost 33%. Another study, an analysis of current population survey data by Allegreto and Mishel (2018) showed that teachers weakly wages have not grown since 1996. According to Podolsky et al. (2016), teacher remunerations have been deemed inadequate to sustain a standard of living associated with the middle-class demographic. Furthermore, depending on the size of the household, the income earned by teacher heads of households may fall short of the threshold required to be eligible for public subsidies.2


COVID 19 pandemic

Though not a chronic issue, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education sector, including a potential teacher shortage. The pandemic has forced schools to adopt new safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus. This has created an additional workload for teachers. Many have had to adapt to virtual or hybrid learning, which requires additional training and resources. The working conditions in many schools can be challenging, with high stress levels, long hours, and a lack of support from administrators. These factors can contribute to teacher burnout, which can ultimately affect the quality of education for students. For example, a recent online survey of 2690 NEA members revealed that 3 in 10 NEA members said the pandemic made them more likely to leave the profession earlier than planned (NEA, 2021, as cited in Walker& Writer, 2022).

Ways Forward: A Need for Multifaceted Approach

In order to address this issue, education leaders are exploring various ways to entice young professionals to join the field. One approach is to tap into both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, such as highlighting the meaningful impact teachers have on students’ lives and providing competitive salaries and benefits packages. Additionally, higher salaries and incentives can help retain qualified candidates who may be considering alternative career paths. Another strategy is to improve working conditions by reducing workload and increasing support for teachers through autonomy and flexibility. By implementing these changes, education leaders hope to create a more attractive and supportive environment that will encourage new graduates to pursue careers in education. Most important of all, the educational practitioners and policy makers need to find ways to establish teaching profession as a vocation inclined for higher social contribution. In short, I recommend following policy concerns to mitigate the problem of teacher shortage in US.

  1. Make sure that teachers have access to consistent and high-quality lifelong support systems, and involve them in the design of these systems.
  2. Take into consideration programs that alleviate significant financial obstacles that prevent individuals from entering or remaining in the teaching profession.
  3. Make provision for intrinsic and extrinsic motivational supports to students aspired for education degree.
  4. Design professional supports that strengthen teachers’ sense of purpose, career development, and effectiveness.


The shortage of teachers and staff in schools, thus, is a pressing issue that requires immediate and long-term solutions. The decline of interest in education degrees and low pay are contributing factors that must be addressed to attract and retain talented individuals in the teaching profession. A multifaceted approach is needed to tackle this challenge, which may include increasing teacher pay, offering incentives for students to pursue education degrees, and expanding support programs for educators. The education of our youth is too important to ignore, and it is essential that we take action to ensure that all students have access to high-quality education.



Allegretto, S. A., & Mishel, L. (2018). The Teacher Pay Penalty Has Hit a New High: Trends in the Teacher Wage and Compensation Gaps Through 2017. Economic Policy Institute, September 2018.

Turner, c and Cohen, N. (2023). 6 things to know about U.S. teacher shortages and how to solve them. https://www.npr.org/2023/03/23/1164800932/teacher-shortages-schools-explainer

National Center for Educational Statistics (2022). U.S. Schools Report Increased Teacher Vacancies Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, New NCES Data Show. https://nces.ed.gov/whatsnew/press_releases/3_3_2022.asp

Phi Delta Kappan (PDK). 2019. Frustration in the Schools: Teachers Speak Out on Pay, Funding, and Feeling Valued. The 51st Annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Supplement to Kappan magazine, September 2019.

Podolsky, Anne, Tara Kini, Joseph Bishop, and Linda Darling-Hammond. 2016. Solving the Teacher Shortage: How to Attract and Retain Excellent Educators. Learning Policy Institute, September 2016.

Schaeffer, K. (2022). A dwindling number of new U.S. college graduates have a degree in education. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/09/27/a-dwindling-number-of-new-u-s-college-graduates-have-a-degree-in-education

Vargas Rubilar N and Oros LB (2021) Stress and Burnout in Teachers During Times of Pandemic. Front. Psychol. 12:756007. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.756007

Walker, T. & Writer, S. (2021). Educators Ready for Fall, But a Teacher Shortage Looms. NEA news, https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/educators-ready-fall-teacher-shortage-looms

Walker, T. & Writer, S. (2022). Survey: Alarming Number of Educators May Soon Leave the Profession. NEA news, https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/survey-alarming-number-educators-may-soon-leave-profession

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5.3 Teachers Shortage_Daya Simkhada