Who Becomes a Teacher – and Why? Causes of Choice of Field of Study, Entrance Qualifications of Teacher Students, and Evaluation of the TeacherStudy Programme

Research question/goal: 

Teachers are a central determinant of successful schooling – this has been shown impressively by resent research on the effectiveness of educational systems. Against this background, the project focused on the characteristics of those choosing to become a teacher; and what this means for the composition of the teacher workforce and hence the learning environment of students in Germany.On the basis of large nationwide datasets, cognitive, motivational and socio-demographic entrance characteristics of teacher students have been analysed in comparison to those of other higher education students. Furthermore, the research project investigated whether these aspects have changed over the past 20-30 years, a period characterized by a massive educational expansion and changing labour market opportunities.One central finding is that it is important to differentiate between persons studying to become a Gymnasium teacher and those studying to become a teacher at the primary or lower secondary level. While future Gymnasium teachers do not differ from students in non-teaching fields in terms of prior performance and subject-related (intrinsic) study motivations, student teachers studying to become a teacher at the primary or lower secondary level show lower levels of prior performance, subject-related study motivations, and scientific study motivations. Over the past 30 years, employment prospects in the teaching profession have fluctuated greatly, while earnings have remained relatively stable and high. We find that these changing labour market conditions seem to have shaped the (self-)selection process into teaching. For example, in times of high unemployment risks during the 1980s, the likelihood of persons with high (extrinsic) job security motivations to enter teaching is very low, but increases substantially after the mid-1990s, when career prospects are auspicious. While motivational profiles have changed, there is no evidence that the academic aptitude of future teachers has declined over cohorts.

Fact sheet

2010 to 2013
Data Sources: 
HIS upper secondary school leaver surveys, Konstanz student surveys, German Microcensus, official statistics
Geographic Space: 



Neugebauer, Martin (2015): Kommt es auf die Lehrkraft an? Empirische Studien zur Selektion in das Lehramt und zu Lehrereffekten bei der Entstehung ungleicher Bildungschancen. Aachen: Shaker. [Soziologische Studien] more