5 Terrific Transferable Skills in Teaching

Of all the myriad skills and experiences you acquire while doing your PhD, teaching skills are some of the most valuable, applicable, and transferable to other careers.

What are transferable skills for teachers? Well, many transferable skills in teaching pertain to communication in some way. Good communication is key in just about every job. Teaching experience furnishes communication skill sets in spades.

So, as a teacher, you have valuable skills that qualify you for many jobs.

However, you can’t just slap “Communication skills” or “Pedagogy” on your resume and hope employers will know what you mean.

Instead, you must translate those teaching skills into the terms and jargon that hiring managers (and applicant tracking systems) want to see. 

This article is about presenting your teaching skills in ways that will appeal to non-academic employers. We’ll discuss public speaking, instructional design, management, and other transferable skills in teaching with broad appeal.

At the end of each entry, we’ll look at some resume examples to see how to translate your teacher skills into corporate skills.

1. Public Speaking

No matter your academic field, you’ve probably done some lecturing at some point or another.

And even if not, you’ve led smaller classes as a TA and presented papers at academic conferences, right?

Either way, you have public speaking experience.

Do you remember how nervous you were the first time you lectured or presented a paper? Remember how your heart pounded, your mouth dried up, and you gasped for breath while choking out your lines?

Tons of people have difficulty with public speaking, and many of them never get over it. But teachers speak publicly all the time. It is easily one of the best and most in-demand transferable skills in teaching.

Your ability to stand in front of 200 people and deliver a lecture with clarity and confidence is a rare and valuable skill. Don’t ignore it when writing your resume and cover letters.

Public speaking skills are particularly useful for jobs in marketing and/or sales. If a major part of the job is promoting a brand and appealing to stakeholders, public speaking skills are crucial.

How to list on your resume:

  • “Public speaking”
  • “Interpersonal communication”
  • “Diverse audience communication”

2. Communicating Complex Information

As a teacher, your job is to make boring stuff interesting.

Whether it’s math, chemistry, philosophy, economics, or literature, you convey complex ideas and systems of information to a wide variety of different people. This is without a doubt one of the best skills gained from teaching.

This skill is distinguished from public speaking because communicating complex ideas occurs in a variety of different formats.

You regularly provide feedback on graded assignments. You craft compelling content that holds an audience’s attention.

You have problem-solving skills. You may have a strategy for explaining a concept, but can offer alternative explanations for different students with different learning styles. You think on your feet and revise your communication methods as needed.

Conveying complex information requires delicate interpersonal communication skills. As a teacher, you do this every day, sometimes without realizing it.

How to list on your resume:

  • “Presentation of complex ideas and information systems”
  • “Data synthesis and communication”
  • “Designed X courses and presented Y in-class lectures. Communicated complex ideas to diverse audiences with varying degrees of familiarity with the subject matter.”

3. Project Management

Every time you teach a course, you also manage a project. You may not typically think of teaching this way, but it’s true. And once you start thinking of teaching this way, you’ll discover all kinds of transferable skills in teaching that you can add to your resume.

Every college course is a long-term project that involves similar concerns and takes similar skills as a business project.

You don’t just “teach” students, after all. You manage them. You instruct them, guide them, and mentor them.

Designing a course is a project unto itself. You formulate the course concept, map out the schedule, and determine how to optimize the educational experience for your students.

Then there’s teaching the course. A teacher practices good time management, actively responds to student feedback, makes adjustments to course content and structure, and meets students’ changing needs in an effective manner.

See how this works? We’re taking all the attributes of a good teacher, and all the skills gained from teaching, and translating them into project management lingo.

How to list on your resume:

  • “Developed and managed learning objectives for X-many students. Guided them in forming original interpretive arguments based on primary and secondary sources and evidence.”
  • “Mentored students with their senior research projects.”
  • “Managed a class of X students and Y teaching assistants during a Z-week session comprising over W hours of instruction.”

4. Independent and Collaborative Work Experience

This is one of those skills that seems so generic and nonspecific that you might not think of it as a “skill” at all.

But it is. Hiring managers want nimble employees who can seamlessly switch from solo to group work and back again.

As a teacher, you work independently to design lesson plans and evaluate student progress. You also work collaboratively with colleagues in large groups to refine course content and develop new teaching modules.

In other words, you both set and manage your own goals while also completing tasks for the team.

By the way, if you’ve ever done remote teaching—before or after the COVID-19 pandemic—add “remote work experience” to your repertoire.

Independent, remote, and collaborative work experience are the holy trinity of work modes that employers look for. Clearly show how you’ve done each.

How to list on your resume:

  • “Independent and collaborative work experience”
  • “Worked independently and on cross-functional teams collaborating on program development.”
  • “Remotely managed multiple courses comprising over X students.”

5. Instructional Design

Instructional design refers to the practice of producing and delivering teaching experiences to meet certain educational goals.

It means designing and teaching a course in a consistent, systematic, and quantifiable way. The ADDIE model is a common ID framework.

As we’ve mentioned before, instructional design is a fantastic career transition option for academics and PhDs to look into. However, ID skills are useful for tons of jobs that include a teaching, training, or management aspect.

For example, a corporate trainer job ad might include the following responsibility:

“Facilitate operational instruction and provide guidance to stakeholders and partners impacted by business process solutions.”

Huh?

Basically, all this gobbledygook means that the corporate trainer can effectively teach their bosses about a method or tool and explain why it matters.

So take a few hours to brush up on ID principles: accessibility, remote teaching methods, Bloom’s taxonomy, and so forth.

How to list on your resume:

  • “Instructional design”
  • “Adult education”
  • “Learning management systems: Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas.”
  • “Assessed effectiveness of and revised course materials based on solicited feedback from students.”

Conclusion

As you can see, marketing transferable skills in teaching is really a process of translation.

You may not think of “independent work” or “communicating complex information” as skills. That’s because you do them all the time. You live and breathe these skills; you don’t notice them.

The trick is to rephrase and present them in ways that employers will understand and appreciate. Recognize your assets and deploy them in the right ways.

For more, check out our list of 10 transferable skills from your PhD.

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