First steps in a second career: characteristics of the transition to the teaching profession among novice teachers


Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 43:5, 660-675

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The present work combines a quantitative approach with a qualitative approach to the study of teachers who start a second career.
The quantitative approach examines all the factors that may be related to satisfaction with work – individual and systemic characteristics.
The qualitative approach examines the processes that take place between teacher training and school integration in the early years, in order to identify the factors that enhance and inhibit job satisfaction of new teachers.
The aims of this study are:
To compare second-career teachers (SCTs) and First-Career Teachers (FCTs)’ experience of their first teaching years, as reflected in three aspects: job satisfaction, types of difficulties and availability of support
To identify enhancing and inhibiting factors in the job satisfaction of second career and first career novice teachers
To examine changes during the first five years of teaching in the experience of second-career and first-career novice teachers.


The corpus of data combines quantitative and qualitative methods.
A structured questionnaire was administrated to a group of SCTs and a comparable group of FCTs.
Qualitative data was collected via open ended questions included in the questionnaire and in-depth personal interviews.

The questionnaire was completed by 80 SCTs and 82 FCTs who had finished their training five or less years before the study began.
All participants received their training in the same professional and social context-one of the largest colleges for teacher training in Israel.
All SCTs in this study went through a traditional teacher preparation programme, which differs from the FCTs’ programme only in its duration – two years instead of three.
The program included a practical component from the first year of training.
SCTs came from diverse professional domains, such as language, law, sciences, humanities and health.
Their motives for choosing teaching, as reported in their interviews were mainly intrinsic – meaningfulness, mission and a desire to influence the educational system.
About one third of them had previous experience in teaching.
They were employed in 28 high schools in Israel.
Questionnaires were sent to all participating teachers at their place of employment.
Personal interviews were conducted with 10 second-career teachers, 8 females and 2 males, who were randomly chosen from the responses to the questionnaire.

Job satisfaction questionnaire
Job satisfaction was measured using a questionnaire developed by Ezer, Gilat, and Sagee (2010) comprising the following themes:
general satisfaction with their current work, satisfaction with choosing teaching as a career and intention to continue working as a teacher for a long period.

Stressful situations of novice teachers questionnaire
The authors applied a questionnaire developed by Sagee and Regev (2002) for measuring experience of difficulty among novice Israeli teachers.

Availability of support questionnaire
Respondents were presented with ten possible sources who may lend them of support and asked to evaluate dichotomously whether they did or did not receive support from each source.
The sources were: mentor teacher, peers, headmasters, instructor in the college for teacher education, pupils, parents.
The measure for perception of a supportive environment was the percent of sources evaluated as supportive.

Personal interviews
Semi-structured personal interviews focused on the following issues:
General experience as novice teachers, factors in the school environment that enhanced or inhibited their efficacy, impact of their former personal and professional backgrounds on their satisfaction and efficacy.

Results and discussion

Experience of entry to teaching
Quantitative findings revealed that the two groups of novice teachers do not differ on their well-being at work: more than two-thirds of them reported high level of job satisfaction.
The two groups were also similar on the pedagogical aspect, as reflected in the hierarchy of difficulties of the teaching practice: workload was evaluated as the most difficult aspect in their job, a finding consistent with Hooftman et al. (2015) who revealed that teachers reported higher levels of workload compared to other professionals.
Affiliation to school was evaluated as the aspect producing the least difficulty.
These findings show that job-related satisfaction and experience of difficulties can coexist in the professional world of novice teachers, whether their teaching career is first or second.
The qualitative findings support and exemplify this duality.
On the one hand, interviewees reported that their practice in teaching is highly rewarding and meets their needs such as meaningfulness, mission and self-actualisation.
On the other hand, they described stressful experiences, using an abundance of metaphors, similar to those reported in the literature on novice teachers.
The co-existence of professional satisfaction with stressful experiences with such intensity is probably a major characteristic of the entry to teaching phase.
This dual experience does not depend on the previous background of novice teachers and is present in their professional and personal worlds whether teaching is their first or the second career.
This duality can be explained as a joint result of the nature of the teaching profession on the one hand, and the sharp transition from the training, to the real world of teaching, on the other. Being a teacher helps fulfil higher-order needs, which motivates people to this profession, such as a sense of mission, applying creativity and other unique abilities, expression of empathy establishing relationships and participating in the development of children and adolescents.
The transition from the protected world of teacher education to the real world of school, in which full responsibility must be assumed, may produce shock, perplexity, crisis and existential doubts about the profession.
His transition is potentially more stressful, demanding the investment of more resources among SCTs, since they must cope not only with the status of ‘novice teacher’ but also with the change in their already established professional and social status in their former career.
The authors’ findings suggest that the main difference between the two groups is not the experience of entry into teaching but rather strategies employed in order to cope with challenges they faced.
Availability of support was found as the most powerful factor contributing to job satisfaction among SCTs but revealed no significant correlation to the job satisfaction among FCTs.
The findings show that the degree of availability, as perceived by novice teachers, was the same in both groups.
Hence, it is not the amount of support that impacts the experience of job satisfaction, but rather the process utilising available support.
Mature and more experienced SCTs may have acquired strategies for utilising support more effectively.
This suggested explanation is corroborated by the qualitative data, revealing that SCTs are acutely aware of the importance of support, exhibit willingness to seek it and even actually create their own supportive environments when their need is not met by the school.
The skill of using support effectively is particularly vital in view of evidence showing that novice SCTs sometimes do not receive required support.
Their environment assumes that they can manage by themselves owing to their age and experience (Freidus and Krasnow 1991).
Lending support to novice teachers constitutes the main component of training in the transition from pre-service to in-service teaching.
The literature presents an abundance of evidence, retrieved from the practice of teaching and empirical studies, showing the contribution of support to the well-being and the professional development of new teachers (Jason 2008; Skaalvik and Skaalvik 2010; Timor 2017).
The fact that availability of support was related to the wellbeing of SCTs but – not FCTs in the current study, suggests that it is not the objective aspect of the support, but rather its utilisation by new teachers, which makes the difference.
The most powerful predictor of job satisfaction among FCTs is workload.
The intensity of the sense of overload was similar in the two groups of novice teachers, but its impact on their job satisfaction was different.
Among FCTs, high levels of workload were associated with lower job satisfaction, whereas workload was found not to impact on SCTs.
It is plausible to assume that SCTs applied coping strategies that helped them to prevent the potential harmful effects of workload on their well-being as novice teachers.
The authors’ findings show that during the initial five-year period, SCTs’ job satisfaction remains steady, while it undergoes a U-shaped pattern of change among their FCT colleagues. Overload is the main factor accounting for the decrease in their satisfaction, but the other sources of difficulty probably add to their distress, which tempers natural enthusiasm at the start.
One source is particularly interesting – coping with ‘special populations’, which include communication with parents and managing undisciplined students.
The present study indicates that SCTs perceive this source of difficulty as significantly less stressful, owing to their experience as parents and higher self-efficacy in interpersonal interactions.
Diminishing availability of support during the first five years of teaching can be explained by the fact that official systems of support (such as workshops for novice teachers and personal mentors) provided by the Ministry of Education (Schatz-Oppenheimer 2016) are limited to the first two years, during which time teachers are still considered novices.
Although this procedure reflects a natural decrease in the need for assistance after acquiring some experience, SCTs expressed a desire for continued support in the interviews and some even created informal support groups.
The findings of the present study support the current trend in teacher education in Israel – increasing the number of second-career teachers.
However, the authors focused primarily on job satisfaction among novice teachers.
Further study is required to explore whether second-career teachers are more effective and survive longer than their younger colleagues.
Empirical findings supporting this hypothesis may strengthen the tendency to recruit SCTs and enhance the desired change in the professional and social status of teachers in Israel.

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Freidus, H., and M. Krasnow. 1991. “Second-Career Teachers Themes and Variations.” Paper presented in the annual of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
Hooftman, W. E., G. M. J. Mars, B. Janssen, E. M. M. de Vroome, and S. N. J. van den Bossche. 2015. “Nationale Enquête Arbeidsomstandigheden 2014. Methodologie en globale resultaten [National Survey Working Conditions 2014 Methodology and Global Results].” Research Report No. 525236. TU Delft Online Library. nationale.pdf
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Skaalvik, E. M., and S. Skaalvik. 2010. “Teacher Self-efficacy and Teacher Burnout: A Study of Relations.” Teaching and Teacher Education 26 (4): 1059–1069.
Timor, T. 2017. “The Journey of Novice Teachers: Perceptions of Interns from a Teacher Training Program for Academics.” Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (1947–2900) 9: 2. 

Updated: May. 13, 2021