sealPurdue News

September 1998

Wanted: Family and consumer science teachers

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- What used to be called "home economics" is becoming a dynamic career field for secondary school teachers.

The curriculum, now known as family and consumer sciences, is taught at both the middle- and high-school level, and there are jobs aplenty for new college graduates nationwide.

"The field was stagnant for a long time because all the teaching positions were filled, so education majors were steered away from it," explains Wanda Fox, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Purdue University. "But the teachers who started their careers in the '60s are now reaching retirement age, and we don't have enough graduates to replace them. Also, programs are expanding in many schools and that's further fueling the shortages."

The most recent national figures available from the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences show that there will be an average of 3.5 teaching positions available for every family and consumer sciences education graduate through the year 2001. At Purdue, the placement rate is averaging 95 percent, with many new teachers having the luxury to choose among several positions in their preferred geographical area.

"Some Midwestern states are facing a critical shortage -- Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois in particular," Fox says. "But there are also lots of jobs becoming available in California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere."

Starting salaries vary from state to state, but generally range from $24,000 to $27,000 for essentially nine months of work per year.

The curriculum has come a long way from teaching young girls to cook a Sunday breakfast and operate a sewing machine. Today's courses have names like Orientation to Life and Careers, Child Development and Parenting, and Chemistry of Foods and Nutrition. Boys are enrolled as well as girls.

"We are still addressing an image problem, Fox admits. "Unfortunately, the cooking and sewing image for teachers has far outlasted what is really going on in the classroom, and this misguided view has stuck with career-minded students as they start college.

"But school administrators and parents are recognizing that the skills being taught in family and consumer sciences courses are going to have a direct impact on the quality of life for all students. That makes it a very rewarding field for teachers."

CONTACT: Fox, (765) 494-7290; e-mail,

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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