Are you looking for a challenging yet highly rewarding career? Do you love kids? Do you think you’ve got the necessary teaching skills and qualities to educate a new generation? Do you feel at home in front of a blackboard? Then look no further, because you’ve come to the right career guide.
Whether you want to become a teacher or you’re looking to develop your career, you’ll find all the information you need here.
1. Research the Profession
The first step you need to take before deciding on any career is to gain a thorough understanding of what exactly it entails. Below is an overview of what it is that teachers do, what skills they need to succeed in the job, what a typical day is like and how much they can expect to earn.
Teachers help their students learn and apply concepts in a wide array of subjects, such as maths, art, science and music. While duties differ slightly depending on the age group you decide to work with, the key responsibilities remain the same for both primary and secondary school teachers:
- Plan lessons and prepare teaching materials
- Create a safe learning environment
- Attend meetings and training courses
- Set and mark students’ work
- Keep records and perform general classroom administrative duties
- Discuss students’ progress with parents and guardians
- Work with other professionals, like social workers or education psychologists
While primary school teachers teach a broader range of subjects, secondary school teachers typically specialise in teaching a particular subject like English, geography or drama.
Primary school teachers work with children aged 5 to 11, whereas secondary school teachers work with young people aged 11 to 16, and up to age 19 in schools with sixth forms.
Essential Skills and Qualities
Teachers typically possess the following skills and qualities:
- Excellent communication skills
- A high level of physical and emotional stamina
- Resourcefulness – an ability to explain difficult concepts to students in terms they can understand
- An ability to inspire and motivate
- Good organisational and planning skills
- High levels of energy, enthusiasm and patience
- A sense of humour
- An ability to be creative
- Excellent listening skills
- Leadership, supervisory and teamworking abilities
- A respect and fondness of children
- IT skills
- A good knowledge of the subject(s) they teach
Working Hours and Conditions
Teachers typically work long hours, often exceeding 50 hours a week. They’re the first in school before the teaching day starts and stay after their students have gone home. Marking work and planning for lessons takes up a lot of their own time, which is usually done at home. Parents’ evenings, concerts, clubs and extracurricular activities all take up extra hours.
As a teacher in the UK, you’ll typically work 39 weeks a year, split over 3 terms. You’ll enjoy extensive holidays (the remaining 13 weeks of the year) but don’t get ahead of yourself just yet: there’s still work to be done during the holidays.
In the US, teachers typically work over a 10-month period and have a 2-month break during the summer. They also enjoy short midwinter holidays.
Teaching can be an incredibly stressful profession. In fact, according to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive, there were 1,940 cases of work-related stress (PDF) for every 100,000 workers within the education sector in the UK. The predominant cause of stress was a heavy workload, while a lack of respect from students (and their parents) was also to blame.
Teacher salaries largely depend on years of experience. In the UK, primary and secondary school teachers typically make £22,917 to £67,305. In the US, elementary school teachers earn, on average, $55,490 (£40,998) and middle school teachers make about $56,720 (£41,907).
Teachers working in private schools may earn more than those working in public schools.
2. Get the Qualifications
In order to train as a teacher in the UK, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:
- Have GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths – if you want to teach at primary level, you’ll also need a GCSE at a minimum of grade 4 (or C) in a science related subject
- Gain school-based work experience in the age range you want to teach
- Pass the professional skills test for literacy and numeracy
- Declare any previous convictions and undergo enhanced background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
To gain qualified teacher status (QTS), you’ll need a degree of a 2:2 or above. If you want to teach at secondary level, your degree should be in (or at least relevant to) to the subject you want to teach.
Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) in the UK must serve an induction or probationary period, which normally lasts a year. During this time, you’ll have a reduced timetable and a designated induction tutor who will help you improve in the areas that have been identified for development during your initial teacher training (ITT).
To work as a teacher in the US, you’ll need to:
- Have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum grade point average
- Complete a teacher preparation programme
- Gain school-based supervised experience
- Pass a background check
- Pass a general teaching certification test, as well as a test in the subject you want to teach
3. Land Your First Job
In this section, you’ll find information about where to look, apply and interview for teaching jobs.
Where to Look
There are many specialist teaching recruitment websites worth taking a look at to find suitable teaching vacancies, including:
You should also look for vacancies at local authority or council opening lists, as well as, browsing through major job boards like Monster and Reed or even our very own Job Board. If you want to teach at a private school or academy, it’s a good idea to check out their official websites for opportunities.
Applying for Teaching Jobs
To successfully land a teaching job, you’ll need to ensure your application hits all the right spots with employers.
This means crafting a job-winning, teacher-specific résumé that highlights all your key skills, achievements and demonstrates your passion for teaching and prominently features your credentials. You should also make it a point to identify keywords and phrases in the job description and incorporate them into your résumé, along with industry-specific terms and acronyms.
Don’t forget to complement your résumé with a well-written cover letter that tells employers why you’re the best candidate for the role you’re applying for, along with a professional and complete LinkedIn profile.
Interviewing for Teaching Jobs
Interviews are the most stressful part of any job application, as they’re often the make-or-break of getting to the next stage of the hiring process. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to prepare for the interview by practising your responses to common questions.
Examples of questions you may be asked in a teaching interview include:
- Why did you decide to become a teacher?
- Why do you want to work in this school?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- What are the key qualities and skills that students look for in teachers?
- How do you organise homework for your class?
Don’t forget to go into the interview with a few questions of your own to ask!
4. Develop Your Career
Once you’ve qualified as a teacher and found employment in a public or private school, you need to start thinking about the next step. Below you’ll find information about how you can progress in and develop your career.
Teachers are strongly encouraged to pursue continuing professional development (CPD) in line with their own responsibilities and the needs of the particular school they teach at. Training typically takes place on teacher training days either in-house or at a local training centre.
Topics typically covered include:
- Curriculum issues
- New initiatives
- Pastoral care
- Special needs
- Subject leadership
- Target setting and assessment
There are many routes to progressing in your career as a teacher. For example, you could specialise in working with special needs children, move into pastoral care, or a managerial role.
With experience, you could become a head of department, head of year or headteacher. You could also work for an exam board or local education authority, or even move into private tuition.
Teaching can be a stressful yet highly rewarding career, and by following the steps outlined above, you’ll be in a classroom doing what you love best in no time.
Have you completed the long and arduous journey to becoming a teacher? Do you have any wisdom you’d like to impart on aspiring teachers? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below!
Not sure becoming a teacher is right for you? Check out our A-Z list of professions for a little inspiration!
Salary information is based on data compiled and published by the National Careers Service and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 5 January 2018.