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In today's grim job market, many are turning to one profession that may have been hit less hard than others. Educators seem to be having a relatively easier time finding employment than their job-seeking peers going after corporate positions. As both undergraduates and career-changers recognize this trend, many are deciding to pursue degrees at schools of education like Columbia's Teachers College. TC has already seen a six percent increase in applications—roughly 300—for the summer and fall semesters combined, as well as a five percent increase in committed students compared to this time last year, according to executive director of enrollment services Tom Rock. This increase follows last year's record number of applicants and enrolled students, and Rock said he is hoping to sustain that level. "Certainly when there's an economic downturn ... graduate schools in general do see an upswing in applications," Rock explained, though he added later that "for the teaching profession, people are looking at it because it's through education that we're going to create a better society." Service-oriented programs, such as those for education or social work, tend to see a particularly significant increase in applicants. These programs "really see a big difference because people want to go into a graduate school where they can really feel they're making a difference," Rock explained. "With the economy and with Obama's message about service, places like Teachers College really fit in nicely." To respond to the larger number of applications the institution is receiving, the admissions office at TC has made some changes. The school has admitted nine percent more applicants this year than this time last year, Rock said. The office is also considering waitlisting more students, a tactic Rock said "can certainly be used strategically as a safety net for many institutions" in bad economic times. Acknowledging the importance of enrollment for tuition-based institutions such as TC, Rock said that waitlisting is recommended in the admissions office. Speaking from the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals Conference that took place last week, Rock said that dealing with the current recession, which "is nothing compared to anything any of us has been through" was the theme of the conference. "We all have to reexamine policy, procedures. ... We don't know if we need to rethink them for one year or forever," he said. In addition to recent college graduates, a significant number of "career-changers" are expressing interest in TC, Rock said. "I can't tell you how many phone calls we've been getting from people who've worked in the private and corporate sectors looking to go into education." He also noted that for these students in particular, salary might not be the most important thing anymore. Still, questions remain about the demand of public schools to hire teachers. "Yes, it's not as hard as other industries, but it's not as easy as it's been in the past because school districts might not be doing as much hiring," said Naomi Naiztat, associate director of career services at TC. Naiztat said it will be hard to know exactly how many teachers school districts can hire until budgets are released over the summer. She emphasized that, compared to other sectors, teachers aren't losing jobs in the New York City public school system. But the question is how many new teachers the Department of Education is going to need. Teachers may get job offers later than they have in the past, though this information also will not be definite until August, when schools post all of their open positions, she added. While Naiztat didn't have specific figures on this year's TC graduates' success in job placement, she said that the decrease in employers at the school's career fair—about 94 this year compared to 106 with a waitlist last year—is some indicator of a more difficult job market due to the economy. There are still some types of teachers who will have an easier time finding jobs than others. For instance, Naiztat said, teachers willing to work in more challenging, urban environments, such as the Bronx schools, will have an easier time getting hired because fewer teachers want to work in those areas. She said that there is no clear pattern of whether principals are looking more for new teachers or seasoned professionals. Harriet Barnes, District 5 Community Education Council president, speculated that the rise in the number of charter schools might make it easier for teachers to get jobs. "I see charters coming up, and really coming up, and that's where the jobs are going to be," Barnes said. Many schools in Barnes' district cut their big art rooms and gymnasiums for students long before the current budget cut, she said. Naiztat echoed that teachers specializing in certain areas, such as math, science, and special education, might have an easier time than those focusing on art, music, or English, a very popular concentration. Although there is no way to make a definitive statement yet, Rock said that "someone willing to take risks and think outside the box" will have an easier time finding jobs. news@columbiaspectator.com

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