- Is teaching a good career? 7 reasons to teach
- What qualifications do I need to become a teacher
- Routes into teaching: how to become a teacher and get into teaching
- How can I get work experience to become a teacher
- How to get work experience in teaching
Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs there is. Nothing in an office can compare to the joy of helping a child master a subject or seeing their face when they get the grades they need to go to university.
For many people, teaching is a lot more than a job – it is a calling. Yes, the sector is hard; yes, the job poses challenges; yes, there is a lot of admin but it is still unquestionably worth it. Read our experts’ thoughts on how to get work experience in teaching…
Is teaching a good career? 7 reasons to teach
There are countless reasons why someone might want to go into teaching. Here are our top seven:
- Teachers make a difference
- If you love a subject, teaching it is a great way to earn money talking about what you love
- As a teacher, you will have a regular salary with the potential to progress into leadership positions
- The world will always need teachers – and there always seems to be a shortage – so you can count on that sweet sweet job security
- It is great if you have kids – not only does it mean that you have a better understanding of what they do in school, but it also means you get to spend all of the school holidays with them
- The amazingly unbelievable holidays
- Teachers can work basically anywhere in the world either watching at an international school, tutoring or teaching English as a foreign language
What qualifications do I need to become a teacher
Ok, so you know that teaching is something you’re interested in, but what qualifications do you need to get into teaching?
Many people will tell you you need a PGCE (read the next section for more info on the PGCE course). What you actually need to become a teacher in the UK is called qualified teacher status (QTS). Once you have QTS you can teach in most schools in the country!
If you want to teach in a secondary school then you will need QTS for secondary education. If you want to teach in a primary school then you can use any QTS.
If you want to work in a private school, then you don’t technically need QTS at all; however, most private schools favour teachers who have it – if you have QTS you usually know what you’re doing.
Routes into teaching: how to become a teacher and get into teaching
So how do you get QTS? You do a PGCE, right? Well, there are actually several ways that you can get QTS and a PGCE is just one of them!
Here are some of the ways that you can get QTS…
A PGCE or a PGDE
People often ask do I need a PGCE to teach? The answer is that you need QTS and a PGCE is one of the ways you can get it.
A PGCE (postgraduate certificate in education) is one of the most common ways for people to become teachers. In Scotland, people complete a PGDE (professional graduate diploma in education). Both courses give you full qualified teacher status and are surprisingly similar – they are just named differently to confuse us 🤪
The PGCE and PGDE are academic qualifications which you do at university and they usually take one year full-time. This means that as well as having placements in schools where you have to observe and teach, you will also have to write academic essays around pedagogy and different theories relating to knowledge and learning. 🎓
During your PGCE/PGDE you will have mentor meetings, observations and everything is scaffolded and structured in a way to support you with your learning.
Many teachers – suspiciously those who didn’t do the PGCE 🤔 – criticise it for being too focused on the academic side of pedagogy rather than the practical vocational skills. The thought behind the criticism is that you learn to be a good teacher in the classroom not in the library.
Also, in England, a PGCE will cost you a whopping £9,250 but there are bursaries available for some subjects.
Teach First is a way to get into teaching that has you straight in the classroom. Teach First is a charity which trains teachers in schools which are generally in deprived areas – so there is a strong moral mission behind the training.
Some people see Teach First as being thrown into the deep end with little support or guidance. It is often considered to be quite a brutal way to get into teaching; however, it is highly regarded by employers.
An important difference between Teach First and the PGCE is that you pay to do a PGCE whilst you get paid to do Teach First. Teach First is also a longer course taking two years.
Similarly to Teach First, Schools Direct is a programme which will gain you QTS while you earn a salary working in a school.
While Teach First is a charity, Schools Direct is a programme which will be managed by a training provider such as a school or a university. With Schools Direct, you will apply to a specific school and you will do all of your training there. With Teach First, you will be placed in potentially a variety of placement schools. 🏫
These are just three of the routes to teaching. If you want to learn more you can find some handy tips on the UCAS website.
How can I get work experience to become a teacher
Before you apply for Teach First, a PGCE, Schools Direct or any other teacher training course, you will be expected to have some experience in a school (usually two weeks of observing in a state school).
It is important to arrange this before you apply for your teacher training course because your two weeks' experience in a school might put you off applying completely (which is why they make you do it).
It can be tricky to arrange these two weeks of observation in a school. Schools are busy places and it is not always possible to host an observer for two weeks.
Aside from the obligatory two weeks observation in a state school, any and all experience teaching young learners will greatly benefit your application to get into teaching.
If you want to be a tutor, check out what that involves on our website.
If you have worked as a tutor in the past, it means that you have already interacted with young learners – this already puts you ahead of some people!
Tutoring is a fantastic way of dipping your toe in the water to see if teaching is right for you. As a tutor, your young learner will have problems that you will need to help them overcome. If you have the ability to understand the problem they are facing, you know how to explain a way to help them overcome that problem, and you feel proud when they’ve finally managed – then you already have a meaningful teaching experience.
The great thing about tutoring nowadays is that it can all be done online and you also get paid. That means that you can gain meaningful work experience from home or anywhere in the world which will help strengthen your application for teacher training.
If you would like to know more about tutoring, you can read our post all about how to become a private tutor. Our blog site also has lots of tips and tricks to help tutors make the most of their tutoring sessions.
How to get work experience in teaching
While tutoring gives you a great insight into the learning process, it doesn’t really allow you to experience the buzzing school environment which is worth experiencing as much as possible before applying to teach.
Beyond the two weeks of obligatory observation that most teacher training providers ask for, there are other ways to experience what school life is like. Two of the most common ways are through volunteering and being a Teaching Assistant.
Volunteering in schools
Volunteering in a school is a great way to give something back to the community and also to see what it is like inside the building. Many schools will accept volunteers if they feel that there will be a benefit to their children and their learning.
- Give an assembly – this can be about your jobs, your hobbies (if they’re interesting/unique), or about your family history if it is somehow relevant to the children’s curriculum of learning.
- Run a sports club – you can volunteer to run, or help out with, a sports club for the school (or any other club, for that matter). Schools place a lot of importance on extracurricular activities.
- Offer some tutoring sessions for disadvantaged children – you approach a school and offer to volunteer some time for a catch-up class for vulnerable children they should (one would hope) leap on the opportunity
Why being a TA might be the best way to get school experience
Teaching assistants (TAs) arguably have more of an insight into the classroom than the teacher! This is because they sit at the back of the class, they see how the children interact with each other and they also get to observe lots of different teachers in lots of different subjects. This diversity of observation means that your average TA has more exposure to different teaching styles than most teachers do.
A teaching assistant usually follows a student or a class around for all of their lessons. Some teaching assistants are subject specialists which means that they will spend more time in lessons of their specialism.
Teaching assistants often also work closely with individual students which gives them valuable experience to see the struggles that children face – with their learning and in school more generally. TAs will usually work with students or classes that have some special educational needs.
Being a teaching assistant will make your application for teacher training stand out more than anything else.
So there you have it! Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how to get work experience in teaching and some of the routes which you take to apply to be a teacher.
Our GoStudent UK blog is filled with interesting and helpful articles which you can read through to learn more about tutoring, teaching and some of the problems that children encounter with their learning.