School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Carol Gillespie


Alternative Certification, second-career educators, teacher retention, self-efficacy, phenomenological, lived experiences


Education | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of alternatively certified second-career educators in urban elementary schools in South Carolina. Currently, alternatively certified second-career educators are defined as professionals who have a degree in a field other than education but teach with an alternative license. The central question for this study was: How do alternatively certified educators describe their experiences and perceptions of the teaching profession in the first five years? The phenomenological qualitative approach unveiled the underlying reasons why alternatively certified teachers stay in education past the first five years. The theories guiding this study were Bandura's social cognitive theory (SCT) and Lent, Brown, and Hackett's social cognitive career theory (SCCT), as they related to self-consciousness that directed and motivated the behaviors of those connected to their career choices. The eleven participants in the study were teachers who taught in urban elementary schools beyond three to five years and are still in education in some capacity. Data analysis included reviewing and examining data from individual interviews, a focus group, and archival records. Coding was used to identify common themes and patterns. Results showed relationships with administration, staff, students, and parents weighed in as meaningful; challenges became fuel, and self-efficacy and benefits of alternative certification played a significant role in longevity.