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Why I Left a Career in Marketing for Education

Hi. I’m Laurie, and I’m a recovering advertising agent. Just kidding. I LOVED working in marketing. I truly did. When I left my job as an account executive at an Atlanta advertising agency after my first son was born, to be a stay-at-home-mom, I missed my job like crazy.

Why would an otherwise-intelligent 36-year-old leave the position of Marketing Director to become a teacher?

For the pay.

No, really. While the summers off were infinitely appealing, and were one of the reasons I went back to school to become an ESL teacher, I primarily switched career fields because the pay was better as a contractor and I’d be working at my kids’ school.

Here’s how it happened.

The Stay At Home Mom Years

After I left my job in advertising to become a stay-at-home-mom, I spent seven-and-a-half years away from my career to be an at-home parent to my two sons. I am so grateful that my husband and I could make that work.

However, when my youngest was three years old, I got really itchy, and decided I needed to go back to work. Editor: Sounds like my Wife’s transition to Entrepreneur in some ways. Work is not always about the money.

Back to Employment in Marketing

So I found a job at a non-profit opera company, of all places, and was fairly quickly promoted to Marketing Director. The hours were great; I worked 25-30 hours per week and from home when needed, except during the summers (please pardon my part-time work story on a site entitled Full Time Finance. I hope you’ll keep reading). The summers were the company’s busiest time, and I easily worked 40-60 hours per week in June and July, just when my kids were out of school and I wanted to spend the most time with them.

I was also salaried, so my pay didn’t change even when my hours did. And while I was salaried, I received no benefits, so it primarily benefited the company I worked for and not me.

A Chance Opportunity

After one particularly brutal summer, my husband begged me to find a different job. Approximately two weeks later, I received an email in my inbox. It was from my boys’ principal.

It read, “Do you know anyone who teaches English as a Second Language? We are looking for a teacher. The pay is $45/hour, and the school will provide employment and reimbursement for certification.”

I called my husband over to the computer. We did some math, and then I sent the principal a response, “What about me? I’ve taught English before and was an English major in college. Could I do it?”

Both the principal and I were thrilled when she found out that I did indeed qualify for the alternative certification route that New Hampshire provided certain difficult-to-fill subject areas, like ESL.

Plus, because the job paid almost double what I’d made at the opera company, I could take the job, which had less hours, and still make about as much as I made previously. And I’d get school breaks and summers off.

Thus began my auspicious career in education.

When you’re a contractor in a school district, there is little, if any, oversight. While I did have a mentor and took graduate classes in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I didn’t have anyone overseeing my classes or guiding me as I tried to figure out what the heck I was doing.

Into the Deep end of The Pool

Baptism by fire is an understatement for my first year teaching. I taught on instinct, internet searches, desperate queries to my professors, and lots of sitting in on the classes of ESL teachers from nearby schools. If I noticed that my student wasn’t responding to something I was doing, I changed strategies. I regret all the writing I made them do that first year, and wish we’d spent more time on vocabulary. But I am proud of myself for the way I advocated for them, for the time I took sitting down with their mainstream classroom teachers each week and figuring out what was going well and what wasn’t.

I’ve been a teacher for four years now, and am fully certified and have finished my Master’s in Education. My family just moved to North Carolina and I took the year off to get my boys settled, but I’ve begun to apply for full time jobs for next year. I’ve decided that with all the time I put into my teaching roles, I should be paid a full-time salary for essentially full-time work.

Thoughts on Changing Careers, Marketing to Education

If I had to do it over again, I’m not sure I would have switched careers. It was brutal and humbling to be so bad at something, to start as a rote beginner after having somewhat “mastered” the field of marketing. But I’m a better person for it, more flexible, compassionate, and knowledgeable, and I still delight in the school calendar, where I get summers “off” to spend with my family, as well as winter and spring breaks.

My husband and I have used my part-time salary to fund our journey to financial independence. Since we lived on his salary for almost eight years, when I started working again, we saved almost everything I made (okay, and took a few fun vacations). My plan while working full time is to max out my 403b and invest the rest in our taxable accounts. We’ll still live on my husband’s income and treat the vast majority of my income as extra FIRE power (get it? Okay, bad pun).

The Future Plan

Our plan is to retire in ten years, when our youngest graduates from high school. While we won’t really be retiring super early, since my husband will be 55 and I’ll be 50, we feel like it will be early enough to give us plenty of time to do the things we want, while funding our retirement so we can live comfortably through 30 or more years’ retirement.

I’m grateful to have had the flexibility to have been a SAHM, part-time marketing director, part-time teacher, and now full-time teacher. The principles of saving and investing haven’t changed throughout my varying career, though–spend less than you make and invest the difference. Sure enough, with careful spending and slow and steady investing, we’re building wealth and buying ourselves freedom.

Bio: Laurie is the founder of The Three Year Experiment, a blog about building wealth in order to become location independent.
Laurie writes about travel, family, saving, and investing. She is currently an ESL Teacher, after a decade of working in advertising, marketing, sales, and stay-at-home-momhood.
Laurie loves to travel, and looks forward to more family travel now that her family is location independent. She also adores writing, running, and gardening (and maybe occasionally lounging in bed all day reading).


  1. Joe
    Joe May 8, 2019

    I was in an ESL program and it’s tough. A lot of kids barely know any English. I admire the ESL teachers. They’re awesome.
    It’s pretty neat how you switched career like that. Glad to see it worked out.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Laurie@ThreeYear
    Laurie@ThreeYear May 8, 2019

    Thanks so much! Being an ESL teacher is rewarding but definitely hard in many ways. I had refugees come in over the years and that’s the hardest, because in addition to learning the language they’re getting over trauma and separation from loved ones in their home countries. I appreciate you reading my story!

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance May 9, 2019

      Teaching youth in general is something that takes a special type of person. I can imagine ESL is that much more difficult. Glad you found something that fits your passion, we need more people with that passion.

  3. Emily Guess
    Emily Guess May 8, 2019

    Sweatheart, I think that it was in your blood! Alice is loving teaching architecture at the Savannah School of Art and Design.

  4. Xrayvsn
    Xrayvsn May 9, 2019

    It is tough to try something new and making the switch to teach ESL definitely would be challenging.

    Like you I am timing my retirement to coincide with my daughter leaving for college. Figure if I retire earlier than that I’m still tied down because of school schedule.

  5. Sounds like quite a journey! I think it’s great that you’ve been able to keep living on your husband’s salary and save (almost) everything you make at your job. A few fun vacations seem like a good idea too.

    I know you said you might not do it again if you had the choice, but it sounds like it worked out well nonetheless. So maybe you’d be more tempted to go this route again than you think.

  6. Max Out of Pocket
    Max Out of Pocket May 23, 2019

    Very cool – sounds like we actually moved in opposite directions! We were about an hour south of Raleigh, NC and actually landed in New Hampshire a few years back! My wife is a math teacher and we also enjoy the summer schedule. Take care! Max.

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