Updated in February 2021
Over the past two decades, the field of social-emotional learning (SEL) has rapidly evolved and expanded. According to a 2021 report by Tyton Partners, 95 percent of districts report that SEL is being adopted across all grades.
In addition, CASEL writes that more and more school districts are reorganizing central offices to create a systemic approach to SEL from pre-school through high school.
Not only is SEL a top strategic priority, but it's also an emerging profession. Districts are recognizing the importance of building human systems that protect time for SEL and make it a priority. Some are creating full-time central office positions for SEL; others are building entire divisions or offices of social-emotional learning.
During the 2020-21 academic year, many districts have also been hiring for new SEL positions in response to student needs during the pandemic and remote learning.
If you're thinking about making your first (or next) SEL hire, there are several decisions to make across compensation, reporting structure, and timing. But first, you need to gain clarity on the job(s) you are hiring for, the responsibilities of the role, and the skillsets you are looking for in candidates. That's why we put together this overview of social-emotional learning jobs to hire for in 2021.
Your district will have different hiring needs depending on where you are in your SEL journey, but this article can offer insight into the SEL job titles, roles, and responsibilities that are most common in districts right now.
The social-emotional learning jobs to consider hiring for this year:
1. Director of Social-Emotional Learning
This person is typically the head of a district's social-emotional learning initiatives. The director of SEL (sometimes also known as the "executive director of SEL," "assistant superintendent of SEL," "director of SEL and equity," or "director of social-emotional and mental health services") provides leadership and direction toward ensuring that all students develop the social and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and life. They lead the development, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive approach to SEL while ensuring that all programs align with district priorities.
Increasingly, directors of SEL are expected to partner with academic directors and other leadership team members to build an integrated approach to SEL and academics—so that SEL isn't a one-off initiative, but deeply embedded in the classroom and after-school programs.
The responsibilities of a director of SEL will vary based on the size of a district and where they are in the SEL journey. In general, however, this person is responsible for:
- Overseeing all SEL practices and interventions to support students.
- Provide leadership, planning, coordination and management to support the development of infrastructure that creates the conditions for educational equity .
- Supervising ongoing adult SEL and professional learning experiences for school and district staff.
- Assessing SEL curriculum and programs, and measuring effectiveness with SEL assessment tools like Panorama.
- Evaluating the impact (through an equity lens) of existing systems and structures have on student achievement and social-emotional needs.
- Maintaining an operational budget and determining allocation of resources.
- Forging partnerships with community stakeholders.
2. SEL Specialist or SEL Coordinator
Reporting to the director of social-emotional learning, the SEL specialist or coordinator generally supports the effective implementation of a district’s SEL vision. This person helps to create, adapt, and execute SEL initiatives within schools, and provides technical assistance and best practices to district and school staff around promoting students’ social-emotional development and well-being.
Strong interpersonal skills are essential to this role. It's common for SEL specialists to work collaboratively with stakeholders—including administrators, principals, counselors, teachers, parents, and community partners—to coordinate and allocate resources that meet the needs of students and build a positive school climate.
Data collection and analysis is also an important skillset to look out for. An SEL specialist should be proficient with using data to make decisions about which initiatives to pursue, which SEL skills to focus on with students, and whether or not a particular curriculum, program, or intervention is working.
3. SEL Interventionist
An SEL interventionist can connect the dots between SEL and MTSS. This person helps to develop and implement SEL supports at the universal, Tier 1 level. They also provide—or assist teachers in providing—Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions for students who require more intensive SEL supports.
At some districts, SEL interventionists also play a role in monitoring data on student progress, contributing to staff professional development on SEL, and liaising with schools, families, and community organizations.
In Johnston County Public Schools (NC), hiring two SEL interventionists was an important step to scale and increase the impact of the district's SEL work. You can download the exact job posting used by JCPS in this SEL job descriptions packet.
4. SEL Coach
SEL coaches play a central role in helping schools implement an approach to SEL aligned to the district's SEL strategic plan. These coaches often provide direct professional development to school leaders, teachers, and staff on how to administer a specific social-emotional learning curriculum or how to apply SEL best practices with students. They work to ensure that SEL is integrated into classroom instruction and educators' daily practices.
The responsibilities often include, but are not limited to:
- Designing and leading professional learning opportunities for educators.
- Working with school leadership teams to build SEL into school schedules and daily activities.
- Delivering individualized coaching teachers.
- Modeling and coaching the delivery of SEL lessons in the classroom using various models, such as 1:1 coaching, peer coaching, and co-teaching.
5. SEL Teacher
The SEL teacher is a student-facing, classroom management role. These teachers primarily support students with identified social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs, as well as students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or students from diverse backgrounds.
The core function of an SEL teacher is to explicitly teach academic and social-emotional learning lessons to students using evidence-based strategies such as restorative practices or social-emotional learning circles. Mostly working in small group settings, SEL teachers help students learn, practice, and demonstrate social-emotional skills. As needed, SEL teachers also meet with special education and general education teachers, administrators, parents, social workers, or social services representatives to discuss students’ individual needs and to develop intervention plans.
6. SEL Data Strategist
The SEL data strategist is a relatively new role. Districts that focus on a data-driven approach to whole child education are beginning to open up this type of position in the 2020-21 school year. Typically, districts hiring for this role are seeking to break down the silos that typically exist when it comes to student-level data.
The SEL data strategist is an internal-facing, analytics-driven role. These individuals plan and lead a district’s data collection, analysis, and reporting systems related to ongoing social-emotional learning programs and services, with the goal of driving continuous improvement around SEL. SEL data strategists typically report to the director of SEL and work in close collaboration with a district’s research and evaluation teams.
7. SEL Instructional Specialist
Recent research in the field of social-emotional learning has led districts to invest heavily in adult SEL. Promoting positive social and emotional development for our students starts with building adult capacity.
SEL instructional specialists mirror the work of an academic instructional coach, but operate in the context of adult SEL. These individuals are key players in executing the district’s vision for SEL. They guide the implementation of Tier 1 SEL strategies—focusing on effective SEL instruction, adult SEL, and cultivating safe and supportive learning environments. In many districts, the work of an SEL instructional specialist includes sharing best practices and research-backed resources for trauma-informed and equity-centered SEL.
With the shift to hybrid and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, many SEL instructional specialists have been coaching educators and staff on:
- How to deliver SEL lessons and curricula virtually
- How to create a sense of belonging and build student engagement online
- Ways to improve the school and classroom climate in distance learning environments
Additional positions to build out your SEL team:
School Counselors and Student Support Professionals
Student support professionals (such as school counselors, psychologists, and social workers) play a central role in fostering students' social and emotional development. Classroom teachers are typically not the only individuals responsible for the actual implementation of SEL. Student support professionals can assist with developing SEL-related understanding in adults, implementing tiered interventions with students, and providing trauma-sensitive training for staff (among the many other core tasks of student support professionals).
Youth Social-Emotional Development Consultant
For districts that partner with out-of-school-time (OST) programming, hiring a youth social-emotional learning development coordinator can help deepen the impact of this programming. These individuals ensure that OST and after-school programming aligns with the district's key tenets of social-emotional learning to promote positive youth development.