Transferable Skills in Teaching

I was recently surprised to hear a recruiter tell me that I wouldn’t have many transferable skills because I used to be a teacher and teaching is such a “niche industry.”  Needless to say, I couldn’t disagree further.  Truly, almost every skill needed to teach is transferable to other fields.  It is, after all, a people profession, and what is more transferable than people skills?

Here is a list of some transferable skills that teachers need to succeed. I narrowed it down to 10 because the list was growing tiresomely long.

Train Others

Teachers know all about training others.  That’s really what the job is.  Teachers train students academically and in other ways too.  Ever go into class knowing that homework had to be placed in the inbox on the desk before class started or that you had to sign your name in the log before grabbing the hall pass to use the restroom? Maybe you knew that two fingers raised in the air meant it was time to get quiet? That’s training, too.


Orally, in writing, through visuals and diagrams, over the phone, using email, in directions, through gestures and other non verbal signals. Teachers communicate with students, parents, peers and administrators daily, and the exchange isn’t one way. Listening to students is the easiest way to assess their progress and modify the style or tone of communication to reach them.

Time Management/Planning/Organization

There is always more to do as a teacher than there is time to do it.  Even if all lesson plans are completed, materials ready and papers graded, there are still parents to call and individualized adjustments to make in order to reach each student more effectively.  Teachers have to manage their time and plan carefully to teach as much material as effectively as possible in small slots of time. They must plan and organize their classroom space for efficient classroom management, organize their teaching resources, plan and organize projects, organize student files and oftentimes organize classroom libraries on top of everything else.

Initiative/Problem solving

Teachers must continually show initiative and be able to solve the myriad of problems that manifest within the school environment. They anticipate challenges in the classroom (behavioral and academic) and work to minimize them.  They set goals for themselves and work towards them. They act independently to address the needs of the students and secure materials when none are available from their districts. The teaching profession is filled with a “can do” attitude.


As much as teachers show initiative to alleviate problems before they are problems, the school environment can be chaotic.  Teachers have to be prepared to step in and take over another teacher’s class for a period or two with little notice. They need to be able to think on their feet and modify a lesson if the students don’t understand it. They have to be able to work in unforeseen circumstances. A last-minute cancellation of an assembly means being prepared to teach a potentially irate classroom (probably not the best time to introduce a new, laborious topic with a lengthy lecture on the chalkboard). Personally, I had to keep a classroom in order while getting medical attention for a girl who became unconscious during a classroom lesson. Clearly, that lesson didn’t continue on as I had planned.


Though I was a mathematics teacher, this is a skill most teachers have. Entering the teaching profession is consigning yourself to a life of graphs, charts, percentiles and confusing standards maps and levels. Furthermore, there is the issue of grading students and weighting their scores.

IT/Computer Literacy

Most school principals will no longer tolerate teachers that fail to use technology in their classroom. Teachers give lessons in several media, using aids such as the internet, interactive chalkboards, video, presentation software, social media and so on. I created a website for my classroom and regularly emailed parents and students.  I also used Microsoft Excel to chart and analyze data from my students.

Motivating/Developing Others

Does this really need explanation? It is a teacher’s job to develop others and help them grow in knowledge and character. Teachers spend a significant amount of time thinking of ways to motivate students that have little interest in their subject. Get a group of teachers together to talk about motivation and very soon you’ll have a debate about the merits of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation with plenty of personal classroom anecdotes.


Students look to the teacher for direction in the classroom. Even if the teacher believes in student lead learning, ultimately they are in control of the class and in setting up a system that leads to student led learning. Teachers must motivate their students, and manage their consequences as well.  The fact that the students are not paid workers and are not adults only makes the job of leading and motivating them harder.

Interpersonal Skills

Teaching is not just about knowing a subject really well. Many academically qualified people are not good teachers because they can’t communicate effectively with other people or have trouble forming relationships.  Teachers have to be able to create relationships with their students, with other teachers and with parents.  It is much easier for a parent to listen to the concerns of a teacher they believe has a personal relationship with their child and cares about them, than a teacher they feel is aloof and emotionally detached.

Interested in other transferable skills that teachers possess? Read more here.

2 thoughts on “Transferable Skills in Teaching

  1. Hi Jaque,

    I am new to your blog.

    Who said teachers are economically immobile. I am a teacher myself, and I am confident that anywhere I go I can find a job because we usually do what most people wouldn’t have the courage to do – teach in the first place. As you so rightly have pointed out, we have so many marketable skills. I think people look at teachers and just brand us as ‘square people’. They aren’t looking at our job, just the personality of teachers.

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