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Nearly one in four Americans is an enrolled student at any given time. This enormous segment of the U.S. population encompasses people of all ages and from all walks of life. American students have a wide range of educational goals—from learning their ABCs to obtaining an M.D.—but each of these students needs the support of dedicated educators in order to obtain the knowledge and skills they need. As a result of this great demand for talented educators there are job opportunities for teachers in every geographical region of the country. Education is among America’s largest industries, and the different career tracks within education are as varied as the national population of its students.

Despite the wide variety of jobs within education, professionals are attracted to the field for similar reasons. The people who become educators usually have a sincere desire to make a difference in the lives of others—they remember the teachers who helped them to reach their own goals and are thrilled by the possibility that they might be able to inspire others in the same way. The classroom can be a challenging place to work, but for the passionate teacher there is no greater joy than watching students grasp a challenging concept or finding a way to capture students’ imagination and spark their curiosity. Successful teachers are dedicated to achieving this goal and often have a tenacious belief in the power of education to transform students’ lives.

A teacher's goal is to advance their students' learning and cognitive abilities during the school year. Teachers have students that range in age from two or three years old up to adult learners of all ages. Some teachers focus on a single subject or even a single aspect of that subject, while others spend their day teaching several subjects. Teachers may have the same group of students every day, or they may see hundreds of students in a large lecture hall. But the goal of teachers and administrators alike is to ensure the success of their students and help them achieve all educational goals.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 9 million teachers and related training, support, and library workers are employed in the United States. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers represent the largest segment of employment, with nearly 2.5 million teaching positions. Secondary school teachers account for more than 1.1 million workers, and teacher assistants number more than 1.3 million. More than 1.3 million postsecondary teachers are also employed.

The industry has its beginnings in the early 17th century, when American colonists first began establishing elementary schools. Today the modern education industry can be divided into four main areas: preschool, elementary education, secondary education, and postsecondary education. Preschool teachers work with children of the youngest age, usually age three to five. Elementary school teachers are those at the kindergarten through sixth grade level, while secondary teachers instruct students at the middle and high school levels. College and university instructors and professors teach at the postsecondary level.

In addition to teachers, other employees in education are teacher assistants, librarians, administrators, and those who teach special populations of children, such as those with disabilities. Educators may work at public schools, private schools, in the home as tutors or online classroom instructors, or at charter schools. There are also school counselors, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, social workers, and others who contribute to the day-to-day operations of academic institutions.

Education is different from other industries in that the number of job openings is largely determined by fluctuations of the American population, with a greater number of enrolled students resulting in a greater number of job opportunities for educators. (Trends within the education industry may have some impact on the number of jobs available for educators, but in comparison to other industries the effect of industry trends is minimal.) Laws in the United States dictate that all children must attend school until the age of 16. Because of this, the bulk of education positions are in kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) environments, with fewer openings at the preschool and postsecondary levels.

There are many different kinds of public schools and many different types of private schools. Both types of schools encompass a wide range of educational philosophies, student demographics, and operating budgets. And a public school in one area might offer the type and style of education that is more typical of private schools in another area. In the United States, most K–12 students attend public schools, meaning that there are more professional opportunities in public education than in private education.

Beginning in 2020, teachers and educators at all levels of learning faced unprecedented changes and challenges. The coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and quickly spread around the world led to widespread school closures, lockdowns, and social distancing requirements. To slow the spread of the disease, schools sent students and staff home and resumed learning via online platforms, requiring teachers to quickly learn new skills and technologies to continue instructing their students. In many places, regular school activities such as athletics, social events, and even graduation ceremonies, were canceled or refashioned as virtual events or socially distanced "drive-in" or "drive-thru" ceremonies.

For the 2020/2021 school term, many schools resumed remote learning, and others adopted hybrid learning models with limited class sizes in school and additional learning over remote platforms. Many elementary level schools returned to full-time, in-person learning. In all cases, schools took extra precautions against the spread of disease, such as requiring students and staff to wear masks, placing transparent barriers on desks, increased distance between student desks, and intensive cleaning of classrooms and facilities. The pandemic started to ease in 2022, following the introduction and distribution of a COVID vaccine, and all schools have since been open full time. Education leaders learned the advantages of online education platforms during the pandemic and many schools continue to offer options for hybrid and remote learning, particularly in higher education.