Enjoy shop? Have you thought about becoming an industrial technology teacher?


Do you enjoy working with people and enjoy building and repairing things? Becoming an Industrial Technology or “shop teacher” may be the career for you!

By Dan Wilkins, North Central Advisor, Reach Higher Montana

I was a high school Industrial Technology teacher for 29 years and have taught in the communities of Glendive, Havre and Great Falls.  In this blog, I want to share with you the benefits, and challenges of being an Industrial Technology teacher so you can decide if this career is a good fit for you. I will also discuss the approximate income you can expect during your career and where you can go to college to become an Industrial Technology teacher. 

Job Description: As an Industrial Technology teacher you will be given a well-equipped school shop to conduct your classes in right after you hear the words, “You’re hired!” If your teaching position is at a smaller rural high school, you will generally have fewer students and teach a wide variety of trades classes such as carpentry, welding, small engines, auto mechanics, drafting, and residential house wiring. If you are hired at a larger Montana high school, you will primarily teach in one specific industrial field. You may be the welding teacher or mechanics teacher or the carpentry teacher, etc. 

The Benefits:

Helping Others
There are several benefits to becoming an industrial technology teacher.  In your shop, you will improve your own trade skills. You will teach those skills to your students and you will enjoy the look on their faces when they work on and finish their projects or start their rebuilt engines for the first time. Your students will smile with the enjoyment that comes from their accomplishment.  You will know that you had a big part in their success. 

Throughout their lives, your students will benefit financially from your classes by doing many of their auto and home repairs, maintenance and improvements themselves. Some of your students will choose to be employed in a trade area you taught them.  You will have pride in knowing you helped those students gain the skills that provides their living. That’s pretty darn cool! There is a lot of satisfaction in helping others.

Your personal benefits: 
You will have access to your shop to improve your own trades skills. Many times, you can work on your own projects as demonstration projects for your students to follow as they build the same project. 

Directing your curriculum:
To an extent you can direct the curriculum in your courses to areas that match your students’ interests and your interests. When I was teaching, my students and I became very interested in solar electricity. Before long, my students and I studied and then installed two pole mount solar electric arrays outside our classroom which powered 30 outlets inside the classroom. Two years later, my classes and I initiated the installation of 72 solar panels on our school’s roof. The last time I checked, the 72 panels had produced approximately $15,000 worth of electricity for the school. I used the knowledge I gained to install a small solar system on our ranch. I also became interested in the war on noxious weeds in Montana and started the Pull Your Share Project which now has approximately 400 students and teachers who plan to participate.

Lots of vacation time!
The majority of jobs offer approximately 2 weeks of vacation each year (other than weekends.) As a teacher, you will have approximately 3 months off in the summers, Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring breaks, plus many federal holidays. 

Having a significant amount of time off allows you plenty of time to vacation or do whatever you enjoy. Many shop teachers use their trades skills to start a summer or side business to provide additional income and enjoyment. I have operated several agriculture businesses. I had a custom haying business, cattle business and currently maintain a small ranch and lease out the pasture. The trades skills I learned from being a shop teacher coupled with summers off allowed me to operate these businesses. You will also save thousands of dollars over your life time using your trades skills to complete the majority of your own home and auto repairs, maintenance and improvements. 

New teachers start at an average of $35,210 and after 12 years and earning a master’s degree will earn approximately $49,000. A new teacher at a larger Montana high school starts at approximately $36,000 and after 25 years of service and earning a master’s degree will earn approximately $75,000. Keep in mind this income is earned over a 9-month period.

The main challenge:
Up to this point, I have told you about all the great benefits of being an Industrial Technology teacher. Every job also has challenges. I believe that many teachers would state that dealing with misbehaving students is the main challenge of being a teacher. You will find that the majority of your students will be very enjoyable to work with; however, there will be some who misbehave. Think back to your high school classes and ask yourself if this is a challenge you are willing to accept in order to receive the benefits of this career.   

Where you would go to college:
If you decide you want to become an Industrial Technology teacher and want to go to college in Montana, we have two programs for you to check out. One is located at Montana State University Northern in Havre. The other is located at Montana State University in Bozeman. The Industrial Technology Education Degree Program at MSU-Northern in Havre is more traditional with hands-on courses is drafting, carpentry, mechanics, welding, machining and house wiring. The Technology Education Program at MSU-Bozeman concentrates more on the study of materials, power and energy sources, computer aided manufacturing and construction technologies.

 I hope this information helps you in choosing your career. If you want more information about this career field or any career field, please go to our website at ReachHigherMontana.org and click on contact us in the upper right hand corner. You will see the contact information for our 5 career advisors. We would really enjoy helping you choose and obtain your career, so give us a call or email us! Our services are free.

Reach Higher Montana is passionate about helping Montana high school students achieve personal success in education, career, and life. Our advisors can help guide you along your individual path. To find the closest advisor to you, click here. Stay informed, sign up for our newsletter and like our Facebook and Instagram page so you don’t miss out.

Montana high school student working on a project in a Career and Technical Education class