Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers in the world. Beyond simply getting the bills paid, it also allows you to help children and young people to grow, develop, and discover who they truly are. Even better, teaching lets you bring your skills to bear–whether you teach English, maths, science or another subject, there’s some way you can give of yourself to the world.
There is a national shortage of teachers in the UK, especially in subjects like maths, computer science, science, and modern languages. Generous training bursaries are available for some of those subjects and there are also schemes to encourage older people to return to work as teachers.
But once you decide to become a teacher, you have to figure out another question: how, exactly, are you supposed to start your teaching career?
This article will break down everything you need to know about jumpstarting your life as a teacher, from career planning and job applications to mainstream and alternative certification programmes.
Determine your age group
First things first, you should start your path to teaching by narrowing down the age group and subject matter in which you want to specialise. After all, working with teenage literature students is a world apart from working with a class of 5-year-olds.
If you have already completed an undergraduate degree then your speciality for secondary teaching will already have been narrowed down. The bigger question is whether you would prefer to work and secondary or primary level. You may have a clear instinct about this. But it can certainly help to sharpen your focus and increase your chances of acceptance on a relevant teacher training programme if you have some up-to-date experience of working with children or young people in an educational setting. This can often be gained through voluntary work with clubs or by helping out in a school. For any activities that include children, you will need to have a security check known as a DBS.
Finish your prerequisites
Once you know the education level you’d like to teach, your next step is to check off the basic requirements for becoming a teacher. These prerequisites vary depending on the location of your intended job.
No matter your location in the United Kingdom, you must hold an undergraduate degree to become a teacher. Beyond that, you must also have some form of teaching certification.
In Wales, Northern Ireland, and England, this certification is called qualified teacher status (QTS); those pursuing bachelor’s degrees can gain QTS through their undergraduate study, while those who already have degrees may complete an alternative certification programme for teachers. In Scotland, the process looks slightly different: you must acquire an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualification, which can be granted either through undergraduate coursework or a postgraduate course.
In the case of Wales, Northern Ireland, and England, QTS training is available not just through universities but through independent organisations, which can have different requirements for programme entry. In Scotland, on the other hand, ITE programmes are exclusively offered through universities.
That said, private institutions are not bound to the same requirements as state schools–non-state schools in England, for example, do not necessarily require QTS to be employed as a teacher. Still, certifications are invaluable in the application process.
Additionally, keep in mind that the requirements also vary slightly for those with existing teaching experience or qualifications from other nations. If this applies to you, consult the local education department in your area to learn more about whether you already qualify to be a teacher.
Get your first job
Once you’ve finished the education and training period for becoming a teacher, you’re ready to move into the workforce! You will have had plenty of classroom experience during your training period and it is not unusual for trainees to be offered a post with the school that has provided their placement.
Many people pursue supply teaching during or before the time they apply for teaching jobs. Doing so entails filling in for regular teachers when they are out sick or unavailable–and though it isn’t the same as consistent, everyday teaching, it does give the chance for you to develop expertise in the classroom and try out different school environments.
Alternatively, you can look for a role in the job listings online or in the teaching press or sign up with a supply agency.
As you compose your application, keep in mind the reasons that drove you to become a teacher in the first place, whether your passion for learning, your drive to help others, or your thirst for knowledge. By foregrounding those elements, you will be able to project the best version of yourself in your applications, which is bound to make you stand out as an applicant.
Amidst our rapidly expanding world, in which there seems to be more information than ever, teaching has an urgency like never before. If you’re ready to answer the call to become a teacher, begin with the steps above. Whether you follow a traditional route or go through alternative certification programs, you might find yourself back in the classroom in no time.