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How to Become a Secondary School Teacher

Secondary school teachers are and always will be an essential part of daily life. It is hard to imagine a situation where we will not need people to educate the next generation. As such, it is a career that does and always will continue to employ large numbers of people for the foreseeable future.

What do Secondary School Teachers do?

Well in many ways what a secondary school teacher does is very simple. They educate children from the age of eleven up to the age of eighteen. Of course, the work is not that simple; especially given the fact that in recent years they spend a large proportion of their time doing paperwork. And continual government interference means that teachers spend much longer than their usual 39 hours per week working. Teachers are spending a lot of time at home doing additional work that is essential do their job. Although teachers can choose to work in state schools, private schools, free schools or Academies, pay scales are roughly the same and the work is very similar, but there is no standard rate for non-state schools. Typical daily activities for a secondary school teacher may include:

  • Preparing lesson plans
  • Managing a class and maintain control without using force
  • Giving homework and marking work
  • Look after the pastoral care of your students
  • Maintain records of student progress to meet government targets
  • Keep parents up to date with their children’s progress and any problems they may be having
  • Organising school clubs or sporting teams
  • Organising school outings and trips


Although secondary school teachers are not amazingly well paid, they do get a reasonably good wage and pension. But it should be noted that the government is currently attempting to remove many of the perks which attracted people to the job in the first place. The pay is being cut and the generous pension may possibly be taken away. Also the concept of secondary teaching being a job for life is no longer accepted, as the government has made it easier to dismiss teachers. So the job security, wage and pension are all under threat.

Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) England, NI and Wales

£21,804 - £31,868

(£27,270 - £36,751 inner London)

NQT’s in Scotland

£21,438 - £34,200

Distant Island Allowance of £2,100

Remote Schools Allowance of £2,100 or £2,124

Experienced Teachers

£34,523 - £37,124

(£41,912 - £45,450 inner London)

Senior Teachers

£37,836 - £57,520

(£44,986 - £64,677 inner London)

Head Teachers

£42,803 - £106,148

(£49,961 - £113,303 inner London)


What Qualifications Are Needed?

There are various routes to becoming a secondary school teacher, and the requirements for non-state schools are actually lower than state-schools. However, this article will focus on the standard route set out by the government. The minimum the requirement is that you are a graduate with a qualification in education. This can either be a Bachelor’s Degree in Education (BEd), or a different undergraduate degree followed by an intensive one year Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE). Competition for places on a PGCE is tough and you usually have to apply a year in advance. Be prepared to shine in an interview to beat the competition. This is how the process to becoming a fully qualified secondary school teacher breaks down:

  • Bachelors Degree in Education (BEd) 3 years
  • Alternatively, graduates in a relevant subject such as history or science can take a one year intensive PGCE course to become a teacher.
  • Both courses contain vocational classroom training.
  • If you pass course you become a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT)
  • NQT’s are monitored for a three tern probationary period at work
  • After probationary period they attain Qualified Teaching Status (QTS)

It is important to point out that the training is intensive especially the PGCE. Many people drop out, or almost have nervous breakdowns while studying due to the massive workload. Constantly writing lesson plans, teaching and also learning theory is very draining. You need to be fully committed and be passionate about teaching.

Career Development

Despite the changes that are coming for secondary school teachers, the career still offers excellent career development opportunities. Throughout your teaching career you are expected to practise continued professional development (CPD), to keep your knowledge up to date. It also has great opportunities for promotion. By taking courses in leadership and management at the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), you can greatly improve your chances of promotion to senior roles such as department head, deputy head, or even eventually head master.

Becoming a teacher is not an easy task by any means. It means many long nights writing lesson plans and then dealing with rowdy children. However, the personal satisfaction and various benefits that you can gain may make up for that. But this is not a role to be taken on lightly. Unless you truly have a love of children and a passion for teaching, it will be a misery and it is likely that you will quit the job. Even many people who do have the drive and passion end up quitting due to the stress of the job.       

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