by Nathalie Dortonne, Alligator Contributing Writer

People are usually surprised when Marcus Knox tells them what he wants to do when he graduates. The 20-year-old UF elementary education sophomore is studying to be a middle school teacher.

After graduation, Knox will join a handful of men pursuing a career in teaching young students.

According to a United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 household data report, women make up about 81 percent of elementary and middle school teachers nationwide.

In Alachua County, men make up 15 percent of the elementary and middle school teaching population, said Jackie Johnson, spokeswoman for Alachua County Public Schools.

Karen McCann, president of the Alachua County Education Association, attributed the lack of male teachers in elementary and middle schools to low salaries.

“We are seeing less and less people go into teaching because there is less of a financial incentive,” she said.

Dorene Ross, a professor in UF’s College of Education, said there is more societal pressure for men to be the breadwinners.

“It’s very hard to support one’s self, let alone a family, on the salary that a teacher earns,” she said.

Johnson said because more women are graduating with degrees in education, they make up most of the applicant pool.

At UF, the disparity between the number of males and females studying to become teachers can be seen in enrollment numbers.

According to UF’s 2009-2012 final headcount enrollment for the College of Education, 252 men were enrolled.

The number of women enrolled in the college was 1,479.