There are few jobs more important than teaching. Sharing your knowledge and talents with the next generation, in a way that allows them to learn and enjoy themselves, is a priceless skill that’s in demand all over the world.
It’s a big job. It’s not just passing on what you’ve learnt to students. You’ll be a highly skilled communicator and carer, able to teach in many styles and techniques depending on the class you’re looking after. It calls for you to be at the top of your game at all times, offering your students the best teaching, whether it’s a Monday morning or Friday afternoon. With thousands of teachers training every year, it’s also a competitive job market, but one that will likely see you employed for life.
You’ll need a degree to become a qualified teacher, but you’ll only need to meet some very general entry requirements when it comes to A level/Scottish Higher subjects and grades. Many teaching and education degrees call simply for five GCSEs/Nationals including English, maths, and science – along with A levels/Scottish Highers. If you’re aiming to teach at secondary level, you might need the A level/Scottish Higher relating to the subject you’ll be specialising in.
Having a background in the humanities or social science will lend itself best to the ‘art’ of teaching, whether that be literature, history, or psychology. You’ll learn the analytical and critical thinking from these subjects, as well as the all-important knacks for writing and presenting well.
Soft skills are extremely important, of course. You’ll want to display empathy, communication, comfort in working under pressure, accuracy, care and kindness, flexibility, and everything you’d expect from a good teacher.
Learn more about how to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in your teacher training personal statement.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BCC to BBB, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for BBC.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from CCCCC to AAABB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring BBBCC. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AAB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) equips you to teach children aged five – 16. Most teachers will specialise in primary or secondary, but there’s no reason why you can’t change your mind. If you can make a good case to your school, you’ll be able to switch either way.
The obvious answer to this question is that you need to study teaching or education to attain QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), which is a UK requirement to teach in schools. You can also study a PGCE to achieve this, but they are often taken after a degree in another subject. The most direct route into teaching is with a teaching degree.
You’ll also pick up a lot of skills that will be useful throughout your personal life, and in other professions. During your degree, you’ll develop people skills that will help you build relationships with your students, their parents, and your colleagues. This goes for both spoken and written communication, which is invaluable for any job. As a teacher, you’ll also learn how to deal with sensitive issues, how to share your knowledge in a way that suits different learning styles, and how to think on-the-spot.
Of course, you’ll also get an immense amount of pleasure from being a teacher. You’re being directly entrusted with the learning and development of children, meaning that you have the opportunity to make a huge impact for good. Think back to the teachers who had a positive effect on your childhood, and think how it would feel if you could achieve that daily.
Finally, teachers are always going to be in demand, both in the UK and around the world. You’ll be mastering one of those rare professions which has both high job satisfaction and high job security. A starting salary of £21k, or higher in London, is also a great entry point.
Some modules you may study are:
- Education, values, and society
- Developmental psychology
- Equality and diversity
- Diversity in the classroom
- Meeting children's needs
- Philosophy of education
- Changing behaviours
- Situated communication
It will certainly help you get on to a competitive course, but you don’t need to have helped out in a local school to apply. Universities look for applicants who will make good teachers, and this includes those who have never done it before.
The most common career choices for teaching graduates are:
You may also follow a different path, using the transferable skills learned during a teaching degree to become a:
During a teaching degree, you’ll blend theory and practice on a regular basis.
Your first year will be mostly theory, and you’ll study a lot of the same modules as your fellow students. These will introduce you to the profession of teaching, as well as the values and culture of education. Your second year is when you’ll choose to start specialising in certain modules (like primary school, or special needs teaching), and you’ll start to go on placement.
Placement is a hugely important part of your teaching degree. You’ll spend time with a local school, shadowing qualified teachers, and leading classrooms to develop your experience and individual style. Building good relationships with your local schools can also help when you’re applying for teaching jobs once qualified.
Your degree will most likely be a BEd – Bachelor of Education. This is the most direct route into teaching, and will give you a very broad knowledge of education beyond teaching – introducing you to funding, risk assessment, health and safety, and other vital classroom skills. If you’re already doing a degree and want to become a teacher, then a PGCE will allow you to do this after a year of further study.
Studying a teaching degree will probably involve:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- hearing from guest teachers
- placements in local schools
- projects, presentations, and group work
During your degree, you’ll spend around 14 hours per week in the classroom. This is average for a degree, but don’t forget all the placement time, which will often be daily school hours.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course on a shorter timescale.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
There are seven apprenticeships in the education and childcare sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
Discover more about apprenticeships in teaching and lecturing
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.