Education & Teaching
“I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Lily Tomlin (actress)
What is education and teaching?
Teachers are here to help you learn and study for qualifications, but they are also here to inspire you to discover new things and, eventually, to explore ideas and learn by yourself.
Teaching is one of the most important and respected jobs you can do. There are bursaries available to help graduates get trained.
There are also lots of roles out there to support teachers, from assistants to administrators and inspectors.
What education and teaching jobs can I do?
- Administrators: School and university administrators help to keep things running smoothly, from maintaining student records to making sure the school is kept clean and safe.
- Careers advisors: Help people work out what careers suit them and how to get there. They usually work independently from schools and can assess people’s skills as well as give advice.
- Headteachers: The most senior staff at school, although they don’t spend much time in the classroom. Headteachers represent their schools and are responsible for managing staff, timetables and budgets as well as making sure that there are policies in place for learning and behaviour.
- Teaching assistants: Support teachers in the classroom at primary or secondary school, often working with small groups of students who might need extra help with their work, or individual students with learning difficulties or disabilities. Find out how to become a teaching assistant.
- Teachers: Educate students of all ages. Secondary teachers specialise in one or two subjects. Teachers spend lots of time planning lessons and giving support to students as well as teaching in the classroom. Find out what it's like to be a teacher of maths and a primary school teacher.
- Tutors: Private tutors give private lessons to students, usually one-on-one, and can help coach people through exams.
- University lecturers: Further education and university lecturers are experts in a particular subject and teach at degree and post-graduate level. University lecturers will usually conduct research as well as teaching students.
Is a career in education and teaching for me?
Teaching is challenging and involves lots of high-level skills. However, training is thorough and takes place over a number of years. During this time, you will learn techniques to help you with classroom management, whole-class teaching and the other skills associated with teaching.
In your training, you'll learn how to work with groups large and small.
It’s a teacher’s job to keep their class informed, interested and entertained, but you also have to be able to keep control and discipline students when you need to. You'll be happy to be the centre of attention in the classroom.
You’ll need to be patient with students of different abilities and fair when it comes to marking the same questions over again.
Teachers are involved in planning and shaping their lessons around a set curriculum, so there can be opportunities to be creative and try out new approaches.
There is also a lot of work. You will have to plan lessons, mark students' work, and attend parents' evenings. You will also be encouraged to help out with extra-curricular activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award. In the state sector, pay starts at £30,000 (from 2023/24) and rises slowly. You can earn more by taking on a more senior position, like head of department, head of year, or headteacher.
If you're unsure whether a job in teaching is for you, why not try teaching abroad during a gap year? There are several UK schemes out there for students who want to incorporate teaching into a year abroad. Talk to your careers advisor to help you choose a reputable company.
How can I start a career in education and teaching?
Primary or secondary teacher
The most popular way to become a teacher is to study for a degree in your chosen subject and then take a one-year Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE).
Any of these routes gives you qualified teacher status (QTS). You will then spend one year as a newly qualified teacher (NQT). During this time, you'll receive extra support and supervision.
There is a teacher degree apprenticeship but this is not currently widely available.
There are no fixed exam requirements to become a teaching assistant. Different schools ask for different skills, but you will need good reading, writing and maths skills to support students, so you should aim for at least a 4 in maths and English at GCSE.
You might feel like you need a break from hanging out at school after you finish your exams, but that’s OK, lots of people go on to become teachers later on in their careers.
Having extra curricular skills, like music or sport, which you could bring to the school, could also give you the edge when applying for jobs.
You could also complete an advanced apprenticeship to become a teaching assistant.
Private tuition, TEFL and independent schools
You don’t need a PGCE to be a tutor, to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL), or to teach in independent schools and academies, but you will usually need a degree and lots of experience in the subject area you are teaching. Qualified teacher status (QTS) is recommended wherever you teach, as it gives you more flexibility, plus the tools, techniques and know-how that make you brilliant at your job.
To become a university lecturer, you will usually need to study for a postgraduate degree and then complete teacher training within your first five years of work. There is an academic degree apprenticeship but this is not widely available.
To work with young people (under 18) you will need to have a background check from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from teaching but you may need to provide more information to your prospective employer.
How to boost your chances
Have a go at tutoring. You could volunteer to work with younger students on your lunch break at school, or earn some extra pocket money giving lessons after school. You'll need to have (or be expected to get) good grades in whatever subjects you want to tutor in.
What education and teaching qualifications are available?
You will become a qualified teacher through your teacher training which means you can teach in state schools in the UK. Teacher training takes place as part of a PGCE course at university (once you've finished your undergraduate degree), or "on the job" via School Direct or Teach First. One you're a teacher you'll have qualified teacher status (QTS) which you can add to your CV.
University lecturers can go on to become professors, which is one of the top academic teaching ranks.
Did you know these education and teaching facts?
Chengdu Shishi High School, China (143 BC-141 BC), founded by Wén Weng, a Perfecture Chief during the Eastern Han Dynasty, is the oldest school in the world.
Australian actor Hugh Jackman - better known as Wolverine in X-Men - started out teaching PE at a boarding school in the East Midlands.