Weighing Maternity Leave Replacement Positions vs. Tenure Track Employment Opportunities

7/18/2022 by Susan Burman

I have often been asked my opinion as to whether it is worth it for a teacher to accept a maternity leave replacement position rather than hold out for the coveted tenure track position.  The answer is, that it depends.  There are many factors that go into answering that question and the benefit varies by the individual:

  • The number of positions available in the current local labor market;
    • A few years ago, when a full-time elementary school teacher posting would yield a thousand applications, job seekers were thrilled to find and accept a leave replacement position.  Today, with fewer people pursuing education as their vocation, job seekers tend to hold out for the tenure track positions.  
  • Timing of the offer;
    • In August just prior to the school year starting, with fewer positions available, it is an easier decision to accept a leave replacement position, whereas, in April or May of the spring prior to the start of the school year, it may be too early as there may be other districts with openings forthcoming;
  • The district;
    • In a smaller district with fewer openings, it may be a way to get your foot in the door; 
  • Location;
    • For those who do not want to commute, it may be attractive to accept a leave replacement position closer to home versus a tenure track position with a longer commute;
  • Possibility of obtaining a future tenure track position within the district;
    • A leave replacement position is a daily, on-the-job interview.  If successful, it can often lead to becoming a viable candidate for a future tenure track position within the district;
  • Great way to reenter the workforce when returning from family obligations;
    • Many individuals choose to take an extended leave of absence away from work.  It can be daunting to re-enter the workforce.  Accepting a leave replacement position when re-entering the workforce can offer a comfortable way to return to the workforce, catch up on any new developments, relearn the curriculum, etc.

Even in an environment where fewer people are going into education, I would argue that accepting a leave replacement position is valuable and might still be a good career move for some!

Pros of a maternity leave replacement position:

  • Allows a certified staff member the ability to gain valuable, on-the-job experience;
  • For novice teachers, all weeks worked (in excess of 10) can count toward completing the NJ provisional teacher program requirements;
  • One of the avenues educators can use to gain entry into a district;
  • Provides greater visibility for future tenure track positions; 
  • For individuals moving in from out-of-State, it provides an opportunity to get to know the local job market, State codes & statutes, district rules, and regulations, etc., without making a long-term commitment to a district;
  • Enables individuals to get a feel for the district’s culture and expectations.

Cons of a maternity leave replacement position:

  • Time worked does not count towards tenure as a true vacancy does not exist;
  • Individuals are not permitted to enroll in the Teachers Pension and Annuity Fund (TPAF), but the purchase of service credit may be available at a later date;
  • Districts may not provide guide placement commensurate with experience;
  • Does not always provide job stability as the position may be short-term;
  • Benefit eligibility will depend on the duration of the assignment;
  • Smaller districts with fewer regular openings, may not provide the possibility for future employment.

The bottom line is, that it is always worth it to consider all offers. Tenure is not everything,  Many successful veteran teachers began their careers as leave of absence replacements. That was the only way they could get their foot in the door!