Getting a job in any field is difficult in the current economy: USA Today estimates that half of 2012 college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. Most aren’t using the skills and knowledge specific to their degree.

The outlook for teachers is actually better than for many other fields. Government projections showed suggested that along with computer science, nursing, and accounting, education is one of the most likely areas in which to find employment. However, that doesn’t mean it’s exactly easy: unemployment across the board is still high, and the chance for a job means that many people are going into the field, making any job opening competitive.

If you’re looking to get into the classroom, but aren’t sure exactly what field you’re interested in, you have an advantage others don’t. By assessing your options and knowing which educational fields are more likely to have job openings than others, you can choose a bachelors or masters degree program that caters to that field, increasing your odds of getting a position once you graduate.

The following specialty fields tend to have more openings and hence be slightly less competitive than other positions in education.

Special Education
There’s no doubt that being a special education teacher is difficult. You may work with some of the most challenging students in the school, and you’ll likely have stacks upon stacks of paperwork to complete for IEPs, 504 plans, behavioral evaluations, or counseling referrals.

Because it’s a tough field, fewer people specialize in this area, meaning that if it’s your calling, you have a better chance of landing a position.

Some of the responsibilities of a special education teacher include:

  • Working with students who have intellectual or learning disabilities, as well as those with behavioral or emotional disturbances
  • Evaluating students to determine learning disabilities and needs
  • Developing individual education plans (IEPs) and coordinating IEP meetings
  • Working with students in a one-on-one or small group setting to support reading, math, or daily living skills

To teach special education, you need a bachelor’s degree as well as a teaching license in your state (for public schools). Under NCLB, you’re also required to be highly qualified in special education, meaning you’ve taken the state tests proving that your coursework adequately prepared you for this particular position.

Speech and Language Pathology
Like those in special education, educators in this field are less common than your run-of-the-mill English teacher. If you’re interested in language, speech, linguistics and working with children, this may be the field for you.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that speech and language pathologists can expect to see a 23% growth rate in employment between 2010 and 2020, which is significantly faster than the average outlook for an occupation in the U.S.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) says that the growth rate for audiology, in particular, could be as high as 37 percent. The organization explains that increased demand for audiology services in schools is on the rise, and since this falls under funding for special education, the federal government is required to up its funding to provide for more staff.

While there are speech and language pathologists who work outside of schools, many schools employ one or two pathologists. If you go into this field, expect to:

  • Work with students across grade levels in a school
  • Set up meetings with students, parents, and potentially medical professionals for evaluations
  • Conduct one-on-one sessions with students throughout the day

To teach speech or language pathology, you’ll probably need a masters degree as well as a state license.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
If you haven’t heard about STEM before, you should familiarize yourself: it’s all the rage in the education world. The acronym has been thrown around a lot lately as we see the U.S. fall behind in the hard sciences, and as a result there has been a burst of career openings in science, math, technology and engineering.

According to the U.S. News, occupations in the STEM field are expected to grow by 17 percent by 2018. That’s double the rate of non-STEM jobs. However, in order to fill those jobs, the industry needs smart, educated people, and that’s where you come in: since the demand for high-level engineers and computer scientists is so high, the demand for educators in those fields is growing, too.

Your job responsibilities will vary considerably depending on which particular field you go into, but expect to need a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license in your state.

Playing the Gender Card in Elementary Education
This one’s for the guys: if you’re male, and you want to teach elementary education, you may have a better chance than your female counterparts.

ABC News reported earlier this year that “for the past 20 years, the numbers of male teachers in elementary and middle school grades have stagnated at about 16 to 18 percent.” The statistic was taken from MenTeach.org, an organization devoted solely to getting more males in classroom.

Many worry that having so few males in elementary classrooms is shortchanging boys. Author Michael Thompson, who wrote Raising Cain, stated that the “gap and discrepancy between girls’ performance and boys’ performance is growing ever more marked,” offering the imbalance in teachers’ genders as one possible explanation. Others have mentioned salary and social stigma as reasons that mend tend to teach in high schools rather than elementary schools.

While this is not-so-good news for our elementary schools, it might be good news for you. If you’re interested in elementary and are male, you’re likely to be given a second look by administrators. Though there are nondiscriminatory hiring practices across the country, if other factors are equal you may have the upper hand.