Commentary: The truth about second jobs

Commentary: The truth about second jobs

Photo by with Flickr Creative Commons License


By James V. Shuls

As a first-grade teacher, I worked a second job. I waited tables. I tended bar. I even did landscaping. I didn’t do it “to make ends meet.” I did it because I could.

That’s one of the great things about teaching that is often over looked. Unlike a lot of other professions, teachers have an incredible schedule. Almost a year in advance, you know every single day that you are required to work. You know the start times, the end times, and you never have to worry about an unplanned business trip calling you out of town. Oh, and did I mention that you have summers off? It is exactly the type of job that is suitable to having an extra job.

So what should we make of the recent survey finding by the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) that 41% of the state’s teacher’s work a second job to make ends meet?

Union officials are keen on using this statistic to call for increased funding for public education.

See for example MSEA president Cheryl Bost’s quote in The Baltimore Sun“Far too many educators are struggling to make ends meet. It’s clear that Maryland needs to do more for our teachers and school staff.” While it’s not surprising that the union would take this tact, it is hardly the conclusion that we should draw—especially with this limited evidence.


This, of course, is not the first survey or study to find that many teachers work extra jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a survey the American Time Use Survey which asks respondents if they have worked a second job within the last seven days. An analysis if the survey’s data by the Brookings Institution found that roughly 11% of non-teachers worked a second job, while 14% of teachers did so. The percentages are even closer when we consider non-teachers and primary school teachers, 11% and 12%, respectively.

A further dive into a different dataset (The Schools and Staffing Survey) by Brookings indicates that about half of the “second jobs” of teachers are related to teaching. They work as tutors, or teachers at other levels or schools, or as consultants. In that survey, 17% of teachers indicated they had a second job.

Maryland is among the national leaders in teacher pay. As I showed in my analysis of the Kirwan Commission’s report, the 2015 average starting pay was $43,235. When adjusted for the cost of living, that ranked the state 4th in the country. According to “The Fact Book,” published by the Maryland State Department of Education, the average teacher salary in the state was $66,443 that year. The MSEA would have us believe that Maryland teachers are two to four times as likely as the average teacher nationwide to hold a second job, despite being among the highest paid.

Undoubtedly, there are some teachers out there who are struggling for money (maybe we should stop forcing them to take out debt for useless master’s degrees), but the teacher working a legitimate second job for 20, 30, or 40 hours a week after school is hard to come by. By and large, they are working a job related to their teaching job. Others are like me, working to make some extra cash.

This constant narrative that teachers are underpaid is bad for the profession. It is time that we admit the truth, teaching is a great profession. The pay puts families squarely in the middle class. The schedule is terrific. And, hey, you can also make a little money on the side if you want to.

James V. Shuls, Ph.D. is an assistant professor and the graduate program director of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Dr. Shuls is the author of the Maryland Public Policy Institute study “The Analysis of the Kirwan Commission Recommendations.


  1. Emily McCoy-Delahanty

    Best article I have read to date on this.

  2. heretheycomeagain

    If you believe that these teachers have second jobs “to make ends meet”, you’ll believe in the tooth fairy. Teachers take those second jobs because they are not in school during the summer months and see the free time as an opportunity to earn additional income. Most everyone can use additional income––teachers included. You could double their salaries and most would continue to work.

  3. Kevin Rodkey

    Is there a breakdown of how many teachers work a second job during their summer break versus those who work a second job year-round?

    For the latter group, it’s reasonable to conclude they are working second job to make ends meet. For the first group, the second job could be to make ends meet or it could be because the summer break in the school schedule affords an opportunity for a second job and the person wants extra income more than they want all that time off.

  4. charlie hayward

    (1) Objective, open-minded, or critical thinkers such as Dr. Shuls are a distinct minority within both the Kirwan Commission and in the State Legislature.

    (2) I suspect teacher unions’ stridency about low wages creates a perverse effect which throttles the supply of new entrants into the field. Shuls made this point, but I think it must be said straight-away.

  5. whycantwejustloveeverybody

    Umm…what? Did you also take into account how much of teacher’s salaries go into buying school supplies, or how many hours outside of school teachers spend grading and preparing for their classes? You know what would be a better suggestion, other than telling teachers that they should get a second job “because they can”, pay them an adequate salary so they don’t have to go looking for a second job.

    As a former educator it is shameful that you would decry any form of extra education as “useless.” How about including in teacher’s salaries the extra hours they spend grading and preparing for classes? How about we invest in summer training for our teachers so that they can provide the best quality education? How about we pay them adequately for the job they do instead of trying to find ways to weasel out of it. Teacher burnout is a very real thing. There is a high turnover because we are not supporting our educators the way they need to be supported and we keep telling them that their education is useless and their jobs aren’t worth spending money on.

    I’m not a teacher or in the education field or even a parent and I know how ridiculous this op-ed is.

    • Dale McNamee

      As for teachers paying for school supplies out of their own pockets… Why is that so ?

      The school districts get $ millions every year from the state and county property taxes… Where does that money go ? Maybe, the “administrative overhead” should be done away with abd that money be used for school supplies…

      As for teachers “spending long hours preparing lesson plans and grading papers”… That’s part of the job… If they can’t hack it, they should resign and get another job or make their “second job” their “primary job”…

      And don’t get me started on the dismal education that the students get for the money spent…

      Also, why aren’t schools air-conditioned or in better repair ?
      Where did the money for that go ?

      I’m not sympathetic to their “plight” at all !

      • Lisa Moore

        As for the supplies: because poverty is rampant in the state of MD and children need supplies so that teachers are able to teach. I’ve had to send in toilet paper mid year in a wealthy district.

        Administrative overhead….YES! lots of bloat both at the state level and the county/city level

        Long hours. Do you like to bring your work home with you every night and every weekend? Schools are overcrowded and teachers have more students per class and more classes to teach during the day so explain to me when they can do this during the workday? If a high school teacher assigns an essay for every student in class with 25-40 students per class and 5-6 classes a day… the math…. and then figure out how much time it takes for a teacher to grade?

        dismal education. YES it is dismal and expensive! MOM and his administration decided to adopt the Common Chore curriculum and the many expensive tests that went along with it. Being right outside of DC with all the “stink tanks” touting their ideas and peddling their snake oil curriculum in a box or newest SEL techniques to pump up test scores is expensive and abusive….and it’s not an education! Children no longer receive an education….they are test prepped. Learning to take a test is NOT an education. Gov Hogan could have made this go away if he would have kept his campaign promise to get rid of Pearson. One stroke of a pen would have been all that he had to do.

        Air conditioning and building maintenance…..All the money spent on the new “rephorm” of the year and it’s implementation costs lots of $$$. Most of these “rephorms” require computer access which costs tons of $$$$$ AND has children sitting in front of computer screens for numerous hours at a time (being data mined by the state….and then the state turns and gives that data to tech companies BTW). Tell me how there is ample money to keep buildings maintained? And lets not forget that there is BLOAT at MSDE and at each county level.

        You may not be sympathetic to the plight of teachers, but you should be sympathetic to the plight of these children. Just remember that this generation of children will likely be wiping your butt as you rot in the nursing home waiting for death. Is it too much to treat them kindly now, so that they aren’t so angry in the future? Is it too much to educate them well so that they turn out to be decent human beings? And NO….I am NOT a teacher. I’m a parent that is angry with the system….but I blame the system.

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