Where — and why — South Jersey schools aren't filling open roles ahead new year (2023)

The first day of school is fast approaching for most South Jersey schools, but many districts still face heavy staffing shortages.

There were more than 5,000 education job openings across the state as of the end of August, according to data from NJ School Jobs. This includes teachers, secretaries, custodians, administrators and other staff positions.

Across South Jersey, there were 741, with Camden (235), Burlington (176) and Gloucester (114) counties seeing the greatest number of open positions. Atlantic, Cumberland, Cape May and Salem account for 216 positions combined.

At the district level, Penns Grove-Carney’s Point had the most open positions at 26, followed by Washington Township and Lindenwold tied at 19. The rest of the top 10 in descending order were Paulsboro, Glassboro, Hamilton Township (Atlantic), Willingboro, Millville, Salem County Vocational and Special Services and Camden City.

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According to its founder, Todd Lawrence, NJ School Jobs advertises for about two-thirds of public schools in the state as well as private schools, daycare centers and other employers in the education system. As such, these data do not include all open positions, but they do reflect overall staffing struggles, he said.

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Across the state, the largest number of openings are for special education, at about 600, followed by math and science with 200 and nearly 300, respectively, said Lawrence. World language positions are also difficult to fill, he said. There are about 160 world language openings, 128 of which are for Spanish.

Even the typically easier to fill subject of physical education is “in dire need” of candidates, he said. He’s also seen an increase in demand like never before for other special topic positions such as art and music.

For example, small elementary schools often only have one or two art teachers, he said. As such, those positions usually stay filled by the same person for many years, if not decades. Now, however, those positions are opening much more frequently. What’s more is that there are fewer overall candidates applying for those positions. In the past, hundreds of people might apply for an art teacher spot; now there may be only a couple dozen.

Alongside these new demand increases, there’s also the ever-present demand for math, science and special education teachers, he said.

As for non-teacher positions, there are almost 300 paraprofessional openings, about 170 bus driver openings and 150 nurse openings.

“It’s not normal to have these many openings,”said Lawrence, who taught health and PE in the Egg Harbor School District for 29 years.

It’s always been cyclical, he said. During the spring, districts recruited as new teachers finished school. Then over the summer, there would be some departures and last-minute retirements, creating some eleventh-hour openings before the first day of school. Come the fall, most districts would be fully staffed, with parental and medical leaves causing the occasional opening throughout the year. The cycle would then repeat from there, he said.

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But now it appears that there aren’t just more openings but that those openings are getting harder to fill, he said.

“Those openings that occurred in the springtime due to retirements and whatnot, they may still be ongoing because of a lack of candidates to fill them,” he said.

There are myriad factors contributing tomore open positions and fewer applicants — pay, politics, the pandemic and the teacher pipeline, to name a few.

Lower salaries and more expensive health insurance

Poor compensation and benefits play a major role in recruiting and retaining both teachers and support staff.

“It used to be, you might not have made a larger salary, but you had really good benefits when you retired,” said Lawrence. The same went for active teachers and health insurance. That changed in 2011 with the implementation of pension and health insurance reforms which saw teachers take on more costs than before.

“If degraded benefits are not replaced with better wages, young, well-qualified job aspirants will have even less incentive to become teachers,” wrote education policy analyst Mark Weber in a report for New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Teachers alsoface the “teacher pay penalty,” or the difference in weekly earnings as compared to workers in similar occupations, according to a report by the Education Policy Institute. As of 2019, teachers earned 19.2% less than other college graduates.

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The same report also pointed to pay as a reason schools are struggling to fill support staff roles. Custodians and teaching assistants, for example, take home $575 and $500 per week, respectively. The average worker takes home nearly $800 per week. In addition to lower wages,bus drivers and food service workers also contend with fewer hours per week, averaging about 30.

“The combination of low pay and limited hours makes these front-line jobs less attractive to return to — or apply to,” read the report. “Part-time earnings at low hourly rates may simply not be viable for many would-be staffers in these roles.”

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Masks, curriculum and politics in education

The hostile politicization of education is another factor dissuading potential teachers from joining the profession. In the past two years, teachers have been put in the middle of political debates around everything from masks to racial justice and sex education curricula.

“We’ve been injected into the political sphere, when most teachers just want to teach,” said Lawrence.

Pandemic concerns for an older workforce

Support staff tend to skew older, which means they are more at risk for severe COVID outcomes.Two-thirds of bus drivers and more than half of custodians and food service workers in public schools are age 50 or older, according to the Education Policy Institute report. While the average New Jersey teacher isabout 43-years-old, about a third are 50 or older, per the National Center for Education Statistics.

Pandemic concerns, then, likely moved up the retirement timeline for many education workers, according to Lawrence. The transition to virtual work and learning environments as well as the health and safety risks may have been too much for people who might have otherwise worked a couple more years.

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Bursts in the pipeline

For these reasons and others, fewer candidates are enrolling in and completing teacher training programs in New Jersey, according to Weber’s report.

The 2018-19 school year was the first time in two decades where the number of new teacher candidates was below 3,000, per the report. And, in 2020, New Jersey’s colleges and universities awarded a record low number of teaching degrees.

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One reform that could broaden the pool of candidates would be to make it easier for out-of-state teachers to teach in New Jersey, said Lawrence. Currently, the New Jersey First Act requires all public employees to reside in the state, but this presents an issuefor candidates in more transient areas like South Jersey and Philadelphia, according to Lawrence. Allowing teachers in Pennsylvania and New York to fill open positions, while still holding them to the same standards as New Jersey teachers, might offer some reprieve from staffing struggles, he said.

A decline in new candidates is even reflected in families of teachers. In Lawrence’s family, many of whom are in the profession, there are seven grandchildren but not one intends to become a teacher.

“It’s not an easy profession,” said Lawrence. “You have to be everything to everyone.”


What month do most new teachers get hired? ›


This is one of the best times to apply for teaching jobs, as many openings are posted during the spring. Job fairs are often held during this time, which are a great opportunity to network and learn more about schools you might like to teach at.

Why are teachers leaving the profession 2022? ›

The tension and responsibility that educators like Gillum faced during the pandemic — combined with long-standing issues plaguing the profession, plus the coarsening of debates about classroom control, teacher pay and respect — have caused many to make the tough choice to leave the classroom.

Is there a teacher shortage in NJ? ›

School districts across the country, including in New Jersey, are grappling with a shortage of educators. But school districts are also experiencing vacancies in other areas.

Why do teachers quit teaching? ›

Teachers often cite working conditions, such as the support of their principals and the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues, as the top reason for leaving. More than 1 in 4 teachers who leave say they do so to pursue other career opportunities.

Is it hard to get a teaching job in New Jersey? ›

Landing a teaching job in New Jersey today can be quite tough but not impossible. At present, New Jersey is among the states with the highest unemployment rate, and the government typically cuts school budgets at an alarming rate.

What to do if you cant get a teaching job? ›

Research which certifications are in-demand in your area, and take those licensing tests.
  1. Start in a Private School.
  2. Work in “Less Desirable” Areas.
  3. Move Abroad.
  4. Be Willing to Relocate.
  5. Start as a Paraprofessional.
  6. Become a Substitute Teacher.

What state has the highest teacher shortage? ›

The 11 states in Group 1 have the clearest vacancies. Florida leads the nation with nearly 4,000 unfilled teaching positions for the 2021–22 school year, followed by Illinois with 1,703 and Arizona with 1,699.

What age do most teachers retire? ›

This means that someone who enters teaching before age 25 with a bachelor's and accumulates 30 or more years of service can usually retire sometime between age 55 and 60. In most states teachers are eligible for retirement without penalty once they turn 60 even with less than 30 years of service.

Are teachers quitting in droves? ›

The National Center for Education Statistics says 44% of public schools will report teaching vacancies at the start of this year and more than half of those were from resignations with 1000s of teaching vacancies across the country, the nation appears to be reckoning with an exodus of educators.

How much does a public school teacher make in NJ? ›

As of Oct 13, 2022, the average annual pay for a Public School Teacher in New Jersey is $37,933 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $18.24 an hour. This is the equivalent of $729/week or $3,161/month.

How do I become a teacher in NJ 2022? ›

  1. Step 1: Complete Preparation Program. Approved CEAS programs.
  2. Step 2: Start Employment. Employment requirements.
  3. Step 3: Maintain Employment. Mentoring. Evaluation.
  4. Step 4: Apply for Standard License. Apply.
  5. Step 4: Apply for Standard License. Apply. Resources. Educator Mentoring and Induction Support. FAQs for Regulations.

Where is there a teacher shortage? ›

Kansas is facing what has been called the most severe teacher shortage it has ever had: about 1,400 teaching jobs are unfilled.

When should you quit teaching? ›

5 Warning Signs It's Time To Quit Teaching
  • Teaching leaves you more exhausted than it leaves you energized/excited.
  • Your personal life is suffering due to the stress of the position.
  • You are certain that switching grades, schools, or districts will not help you.

What percentage of teachers quit in the first 5 years? ›

44% of teachers quit in the first five years.

And they don't just quit their current positions - they often leave teaching altogether. This is a much higher rate than most other occupations in the U.S., including those known for high burnout rates, such as police officers.

How many teachers are leaving the profession? ›

In a typical year, about 8 percent of teachers leave, but this year saw more teachers leave in the middle of the school year than normal.

What is a livable wage in NJ? ›

Living Wage Calculation for New Jersey
0 Children2 Children
Living Wage$20.57$29.60
Poverty Wage$6.19$6.37
Minimum Wage$13.00$13.00

Why are their teacher shortages? ›

The Hill reported a couple of possible reasons for the teacher shortage: Fewer undergraduates are pursuing education degrees (there has been a decline since 2019). Pandemic stress causing early retirement. Low pay (96% of educators say that raising teacher salaries would reduce staff burnout).

Do teachers get paid in the summer NJ? ›

No, technically, teachers do not get paid in the summer if they are not actively teaching. However, most teachers have the option to spread their pay for ten months of work over an entire 12 month period.

Are teaching jobs hard to get? ›

While teaching shortages have hit every state in the country, California has been hit particularly hard.

How do I find a new teaching job? ›

The five main ways of applying for a teaching job in a school
  1. Specific vacancies . Individual schools and multi-academy trusts recruit directly through their own advertisements and selection procedures. ...
  2. Teacher registration schemes and databases . ...
  3. Pool applications . ...
  4. Speculative applications . ...
  5. Agencies .

What are your other options if you don't get a teaching job this year? ›

Careers are listed based on their average salary, according to current Payscale data.
  • Administration – Principal, Vice-Principal, Superintendent. ...
  • Standardized Test Developer. ...
  • Educational Consultant. ...
  • Homeschool Consultant. ...
  • After School Program Director. ...
  • Curriculum Design. ...
  • Instructional Designer. ...
  • School/Child Psychologist.

Are teaching jobs hard to get? ›

While teaching shortages have hit every state in the country, California has been hit particularly hard.

How long after a teacher interview should you hear back? ›

In my experience, it takes two to four weeks on average to hear back after your final interview, but there's no standard time. According to a 2019 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the average time from interview to job offer is 23.5 days for recent college graduates.

How long after a teaching job closing date should I hear back? ›

If there's a set deadline, wait seven days before making contact to see if your application has found its way safely to the employer. If there is no closing date then wait two weeks.

How do you stand out in a teacher interview? ›

Teacher job interviews: How to make a great impression
  1. Put away the resources you have used. ...
  2. Be nice to your rivals. ...
  3. Say thank you. ...
  4. Be innovative. ...
  5. Tell your stories. ...
  6. Ask insightful questions.
12 Jun 2021


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