RICHMOND, VA (WWBT)- For any college graduate, the job search can be trying- but for prospective teachers, this year will be especially tough. Budget cuts have slowed hiring to a trickle in many school districts.
For graduates of VCU's School of Education, finding a job right out of school used to be all but a foregone conclusion.
"For the last 10 or 15 years, we've enjoyed steady growth," said Leila Christenbury, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning at VCU.
That's not the case these days, says Christenbury. She says budget cuts have drastically shrunk the universe of available jobs.
"It is a difficult job market, and we are counseling persistence and patience," she said.
But persistence and patience will only go so far.
In Henrico County, the competition for teaching jobs is fierce.
"In this market, we're going to be able to pick and choose the folks who we think will do the best job for our children," said Phil Jepson, Henrico County schools' director of human resources.
Jepson says the district will only hire between 100 and 130 teachers for next year- that's down from 550 just two years ago. Despite the drop, they're still fielding plenty of applications and conducting interviews.
"We never know when we're going to have unforeseen needs, so we try to provide hope that there will be opportunities," said Jepson.
Given this job climate, professors at VCU are coaching teaching candidates down to the fine details.
"We role play tough interview questions, where there is no "right" answer- there are plenty of wrong ones," said Christenbury. "We role play body language."
Christenbury says she's confident that her graduates have the necessary education and student teaching experience. But in this tight job market, it may be the small things that set a candidate apart.