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New transfer report: Why prospective teachers avoid teaching in schools

The university studies for teaching profession (Lehramtsstudium) has been completed, now the preparatory service (Referendariat) begins. This automatic process does not apply to every prospective teacher. One out of five initially turns away from the teaching profession after successfully completing their studies. This further intensifies the currently much-discussed shortage of teachers. A recent analysis of data from the Panel of Teacher Education Students, which is part of the National Educational Panel Study, shows the reasons why potential teachers avoid entering the teaching profession.

The study analyzed data from a total of 2,302 people who completed university studies for teaching profession between 2010 and 2019. 80 % of the graduates take up preparatory service in the first year after graduating or start immediately working as a teacher. The remaining 20 % turn away from the teaching profession, i.e. they continue their studies, do a doctorate, are looking for work, are on parental leave or take up a job outside the teaching profession.

Family-friendly teaching profession
Using a so-called multivariate analysis, the researchers were able to determine the factors increasing the probability of entering the teaching profession after graduation - or not. One of these factors is gender. Women are generally 9% more likely to switch to a school after studies. Motivational factors fit in with this: people who have chosen the teaching profession because of the good work-life balance are also very likely to start their preparatory service immediately after leaving university

Excellent final grades, on the other hand, prevent people from working in schools. Graduates who are particularly outstanding in terms of performance are more likely to take up a non-school-related job. They may have more options on the job market or remain at university to do a doctorate.

Teachers desperately needed
It becomes particularly interesting when the researchers look at the subject combinations or the type of degree. For example, the "Master of Education" degree offered in some parts of Germany results in graduates starting to work as teachers straight away. This trend may be supported by the severe shortage of skilled professionals, which makes it possible to enter the job as a teacher without a second degree for teaching profession (zweites Staatsexamen).

STEM is the key
Those who have studied at least one subject from the STEM group, i.e. mathematics, computer science, natural sciences or technology, are also very likely to take up preparatory service following their studies. On the contrary, people who primarily listened to the wishes of family members when choosing a field of study or chose a subject out of a strong interest in the subject are more likely to turn away from a teaching career after completing their studies.

"Overall, there is not one single factor that prevents people from entering the teaching profession. However, in view of the shortage of skilled professionals, the teaching profession should be made more appealing in the future to ensure that especially men and high-performing individuals do not pursue alternative careers," says Sebastian Franz, author of the transfer report.

All results of the study can be found in the full transfer report "Wer beginnt nach dem Lehramtsstudium das Referendariat?" (German language only) which is available for download at with further background information.

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