So you want to become a teacher?

It’s an exciting journey and one that has the potential to hook you in for a very long time!

Teaching is one of many jobs in education, and arguably one of the most rewarding and challenging professions in the field. To become one, you have the more traditional route through exams and qualifications, but there are also a number of other routes into teaching you might want to consider.

Let’s explore what those routes are, and assess all of the options you have at your disposal in your quest to become a teacher.

Jobs in Education

Empty classroom with desks and a blackboard.
Equip yourself with the fundamental tools to succeed as a teacher.

Before embarking on the journey to become a teacher, there are a few details you’ll need to straighten out.

Jobs in education aren’t limited to one role, even within the profession of the teacher there can be a lot of variation.

When you picture yourself as a teacher, are you standing at the front of a classroom leading experiments? Breaking down hard to digest information to facilitate understanding? Or are you figuring out ways to make a subject and curriculum entertaining for the students?

However you see yourself in a teaching capacity, it’s worth drawing up a clear picture so that you know exactly what the ideal position looks like. Of course, that might not always be an option in reality, but it’s always useful to know exactly what it is that draws you to teaching. You never know, this image might prove useful inspiration in response to a teacher interview question about your motivations for becoming a teacher.

Once you have a better idea of what it is you want to teach, and to who, you are in a much stronger position for working out which direction to head in. You might even find that your preferred medium of teaching isn’t in fact in the classroom, but online for example.

Managing A Class

Managing a class isn’t the easiest part of teaching, far from it. How you control the classroom and impose your teaching style will largely affect how the students perform academically and behave in general.

In order to determine how to best manage a class, you will first need to figure out which level you want to teach at.

Selecting A Level To Teach

Level is usually determined by age group in most schools, with the exception of those students who have to repeat years or are moved up due to exceptional ability.

In the UK, the age groups are divided into what’s known as Key Stages. You might already be familiar with this terminology if you grew up going to school in Britain.

Just to clarify though, each Key Stage represents a different age group which can span anywhere between 2 and 5 years apart. These in turn correspond to the year group at school, for example Key Stage 1 is for those between the ages of 5-7 who would be in years 1 or 2. These Key Stages are spread across both primary and secondary schools.

Key Stage Two papers
Key Stages are an important part of the education system in the UK.

Key Stage 1: 5-7 (Years 1-2)

Key Stage 2: 7-11 (Years 3-6)

Key Stage 3: 11-14 (Years 7-9)

Key Stage 4: 14-16 (Years 10-11)

If you are interested in teaching the youngest children though, there’s another age group classified as the early years foundation stage or EYFS, which covers students from the ages of 0-5.

To ascertain which age group would be the best fit for you as a teacher, it might be worth giving classes as a tutor online or in person to different levels. If you decide to take this approach, it’s easy to sign up to Superprof as a tutor, and once you do you’ll be able to easily find students of all different ages.

Go Through Teacher Training

Next up comes the hard part: the teacher training and qualification acquisition necessary to make it in the profession.

In order to become a certified teacher, you will need to get some formal training under your belt. This will usually take the form of QTS, a teaching-related degree, and maybe also a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

Routes To Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

The main certification you’ll need to become a fully fledged teacher is the QTS, which is a requirement to teach in England and Wales. This will be the final hurdle in your pursuit of becoming a teacher.

Before you can think about the QTS though, there are some courses and qualifications you have to overcome to qualify. While there are straightforward training courses that grant the QTS, the more in-depth you study teaching the higher your chances of landing a role at a school.

There are several routes that lead to the QTS, but the main way to go about getting it is via a PGCE.

PGCE

A PGCE is a postgraduate certificate awarded upon successful completion of the higher education course.

You’ll find that many aspiring teachers decide to pursue a PGCE since it can prepare you for everything that comes with being a qualified teacher.

While a PGCE isn’t a necessary prerequisite for the QTS, it will boost your chances of scoring a teaching position and should boost confidence in your teaching skills.

In a PGCE you will learn theory while also taking part in school placements, so you can fully understand what being a teacher entails. You can expect it to take somewhere in the region of 8-10 months to complete.

School Direct Training

This route to the QTS bypasses the need for further study, and throws you into the deep end as it immerses you in a teaching role.

Once you have completed an undergraduate degree and satisfy some other basic criteria, you can apply to a School Direct Training program and work at a school as an unqualified teacher.

Whilst in the position you will undertake initial teacher training (ITT) and eventually take a QTS assessment to see if you have what it takes to be a fully certified teacher.

Routes Into Teaching

Before you take training to become QTS, you might consider bolstering your CV as a teacher in a number of different ways. The following options emphasise different routes into teaching in case you don’t want to go down the traditional path.

  • Tutor

If you’re looking to develop your skills as a teacher before you step foot into the classroom, then tutoring is an option worth exploring.

Whether you post ads in your local newspaper or set up a profile with a tutoring platform like Superprof, you can make money while you gain relevant experience and skills to become a teacher.

This way you can get to grips with everything associated with teaching, from lesson planning to managing a class or student.

  • Teach abroad

Teaching abroad is an adventurous way of fast-tracking your career as a teacher and building confidence in your skills.

There’s a good programme available through the British Council that allows you to teach in a wide variety of countries in a teaching assistant role.

Not only is this a really good way to get familiar with the trade, but it can also end up being one of the most enjoyable 8 months or so of your life.

Brush Up On Your Teaching Skills

The skills that will be most relevant to a career as a teacher will largely revolve around communication and the ability to educate others.

If you’re able to distill complicated topics in a way that’s easy for others to understand, then you may just have what it takes to be a great teacher. To practise this skill, you can get your hands on a whiteboard and some other basic resources and try to teach your friends and family (if they’re willing) and take on their feedback.

You will also need to know your stuff. If you plan on being a primary school teacher, it’s necessary to have a well-rounded knowledge of every subject from mathematics to history.

If you want to teach at secondary level or at a grammar school, then you’ll need to know one or two subjects in-depth. You want to become almost an expert on the subject, to the extent that you can answer any questions your students might throw at you.

Interview For Teaching jobs

Clipboard with ‘My Resume’ written on it next to a laptop.
Make sure your CV is complete before you apply to teaching jobs.

When you pass the QTS and have your Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status, you’ll want to set your sights for suitable teaching jobs. Interviewing is the most common way to do so, and it’s worth being prepared for all the questions that the interviewer might throw at you.

To interview, you will first need to apply for teaching positions and see what’s available.

Apply to Schools

This is by far the most direct approach and is a great way to see if you could potentially work at schools in your preferred area.

Like with any job, you would apply by sending in your CV and relevant experience for the position.

You should also keep your ear to the ground if you end up doing teacher training at a school and like it there. Maybe they have a vacancy that you could apply for once you become qualified.

Teacher Recruitment Agencies

Signing up with a recruitment agency is another way to find out if there are any available teaching jobs you could apply for.

The advantage of working with an agency is that you won’t have to do all the searching, so you can focus your time on developing your skills and gaining relevant experience.

Other Methods

Like with most jobs, you can also try looking in newspapers and online job boards for information about available teaching positions.

You can even check if there are any opportunities to teach abroad. In some cases, you can even finish your NQT year in a different country.

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Samuel

Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.