10 steps to becoming fully qualified
In the aftermath of your degree, you may have decided that your calling is to spread the knowledge you have gained further, by teaching children or teens.
Life as a schoolteacher can be very rewarding, since your job directly benefits and empowers young people to succeed; however, the process of actually becoming a teacher can be somewhat complex, with a multitude of courses, training and school experience programs on offer.
This article will explain the process simply, outline the qualifications you need, and advise on practical aspects of the training process. It should help you to decide whether becoming a teacher is right for you.
#1: What kind of teacher do you want to be?
It is worth considering this question early in the process, since training to teach is no small task and the qualifications required can be different depending on the route you take (see below for details on these).
Teaching in primary schools will offer a considerably different experience to secondary schools, for instance – you’ll have to be comfortable working with young children and will probably not have the opportunity to go into great detail in an academic subject you studied at university. You might want to think carefully about what drew you towards teaching before you decide on any route.
If you’re considering changing your career to become a teacher, Teach First runs tasters to help you decide if teaching is right for you.
#2: Understand the various teaching qualifications
To become any kind of qualified teacher, you will need at least an undergraduate degree in the subject you plan to teach, as well as grade C/4 or above in English and Maths GCSEs. In addition, though independent schools have their own standards, state schools will require you to obtain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) before they will employ you to teach. Primary schools have a separate qualification.
In addition, if you feel your degree knowledge is slightly rusty, you may want to take a subject knowledge enhancement course before you begin teaching, as it will help you to gain confidence as you take on the job.
QTS status will qualify you to teach in England, but is not always recognised elsewhere. If you’re considering becoming a teacher in Scotland or abroad, gaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is advisable. Many course providers offer this qualification alongside the QTS, so check with the institution you’re interested in to find out if this is the case.
Here are some Universities that offer the PGCE:
- Goldsmiths – see the full list of PGCE programmes at Goldsmiths
- The University of Oxford – find out more about the full time, one year PGCE programme at Oxford university
- The University of Cambridge – Find out more about the Cambridge PGCE
- UCL – Find out more about the range of PGCEs at UCL
- University of Hertfordshire – Find out more about teacher training at Hertfordshire University.
- Prospects.ac.uk has a detailed article about the benefits of the PGCE if you’re interested in the opportunities it may bring.
- Here is a full A-Z list of Institutions in the UK offering the PGCE
#3 Choose a subject
For many people, their chosen subject may be a given – if you have an undergraduate degree in maths, for instance, you are most likely to become a maths teacher.
However, if your studies were broader, for example covering multiple foreign languages, Human Sciences, or any other joint degree, you may have a choice on your hands. Furthermore, some subjects like Religious Studies are less specific about the kind of degree you need to apply, so programmes may accept you even if you have a less relevant degree.
If you are faced with a choice of subjects to teach, it may be worth thinking about which aspects of your degree made you most enthusiastic. Other factors, for example the size of bursary available or institutions offering training for the subject, may also be worth considering. However, note that if you become a primary school teacher, you will most likely be teaching all subjects.
#4 Get some inside knowledge
The Department for Education recommends that anyone considering training to teach should ask current teachers about their experience in the job. Of course, teaching might not be for everyone, so this is an important step.
In addition to the task of explaining academic topics to students, you may want to talk to experienced teachers about working daily with young people, which can be a chore for some but a golden opportunity for others.
There are fairly regular teaching fairs across the country which aim to answer any questions people might have about teaching. Have a look at the advice on the Get into teaching website, which offers online events and can put you in contact with current teachers to help you make an informed decision.
A Day in the life of a teacher in the UK
Furthermore, you might want to think about the curriculum. If for example you want to become a physics teacher, but your favourite topics are highly advanced, you might not find teaching less complex topics fulfilling. Alternatively, knowing more about the curriculum may encourage you to seek a more specific teaching role, such as a college or sixth form teacher.
#5 Transferable skills
To become a teacher, you will need to prove that you have both the knowledge in your subject to teach it effectively, and the ability to interact effectively with pupils and their parents. You’ll probably also need to show your resilience (teaching can get tough on occasion), enthusiasm and confidence.
It’s worth thinking about your soft skills and how they could be applied in teaching, as evidence of these is likely to go down well with course providers. A good sense of humour, too, can be useful for teaching as it will help to make your lessons more memorable.
Graduate Coach’s blog has a number of articles that could help you to identify and list the transferrable skills you’ve built up:
Graduate Coach – Identifying and Communicating Transferrable Skills
#6 School experience
Actual school experience is essential, even for newly qualified teachers, so it is important to plan how you might fit this in. All kinds of teacher training include a minimum of 24 weeks placement in a school. Institutions that offer teacher training may also expect you to have school experience by the time you apply, which could make you a more attractive candidate for teaching courses.
For this, it can be helpful to do some networking to get in touch with local schools that might allow you to become a teaching assistant for a time. If you still live nearby and it hasn’t been many years since you finished, your own secondary school might be worth contacting for opportunities.
#7 Pick your training route and institution
According to the Get into teaching website, there are two ways you can train for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). One is to go through the theory of education at a university or college, before completing your training through a school placement for experience. Alternatively, you can begin your training as a teaching assistant at a school and effectively learn through experience.
This is another topic you may wish to discuss with qualified teachers, who can advise you on what worked best for them during their training. The choice may also come down to personality; if you are comfortable with theoretical approaches and prefer to have some grounding before taking on a task, you may wish to take the student pathway. Alternatively, if you like to ‘jump in’ and want hands-on experience quickly, beginning your training in a school may be worthwhile.
If you like the sound of getting into the classroom quickly, Teach First’s programme offers the opportunity to become a fully qualified teacher through classroom experience
#8 Think about funding
If you find that you have a choice about the subject you train to teach, your choice might be influenced by the bursaries on offer.
Some subjects (like RE and English) do not carry a bursary offer with the training, because there is currently no lack of teachers for these subjects. Others (like sciences) offer large bursaries to cover both tuition and living costs while you train. If you find yourself thinking often about money and costs, it may be much easier for you to pick a subject that carries a bursary offer.
However, if there is no bursary for your subject, there are other options like tuition fee and maintenance loans, scholarships and extra financial support outlined on the Get into teaching website.
#9 Completing your application
Applying to train as a teacher is done via UCAS, as with undergraduate and postgraduate studies. After choosing up to three universities or colleges where you would like to train, you will need to complete an online form detailing your education and work history, school experience, a personal statement and references. At least one of your referees must be academic, such as a university tutor.
Many courses are likely to be highly competitive. You’ll need to make sure that your application, especially your personal statement, stands out. It’s worth getting some advice from current teachers to find out what worked in their applications, as well as joining teaching fairs and other events.
If your application passes the first selection stage, you’ll be invited to interview. Graduate Coach has several blog articles about interviews, such as using the STAR technique, which could help you get through this stage. It is in essence like a job interview, although with a focus on your potential to become a teacher.
#10 Starting in the role
If you secure a place on the course, you will be well on your way to becoming a qualified teacher. However, besides the course content itself, you also need a minimum of 120 days teaching experience, included alongside the course, to qualify to teach in schools. Your teaching ability will also be continuously assessed to make sure you can fulfil the role.
After completing the course, you will have to complete an induction year to become fully qualified. This will demonstrate that you have absorbed the skills necessary to teach. During this year, you will get a mentor to help with settling in, as well as a tailored induction program.
Resources for becoming a teacher in the UK
Here are some websites that you might find useful if you are thinking of becoming a qualified teacher in the UK.
NowTeach focuses primarily on subjects where there are a shortage of teachers such as: science, maths, IT and MFL.
They offer the following services:
- Teacher training advice – Not sure which subject to teach? Want to know how bursaries work? NowTeach can help you.
- A professional network.
- A bespoke support package to enable individuals to create long-term impact in schools.
- Support with working flexibly
Find out how to become a teacher with NowTeach
Future Teaching Scholarship
The Future Teaching scholars programme is designed for exceptional Maths or Physics students who want to teach.
Premier Pathways is a two-year teacher training programme for graduates who are looking for a salaried and steady route into education.
T2T (Transition to Teach)
Thinking of pursuing a career change to become a qualified teacher? Transition to Teach believe that individuals with previous career experience, across all sectors and industries, have masses of talent that can be redirected into teaching. Find out more about your eligibility.
Summary: How to become a qualified teacher
Hopefully, this post will have given you an informative overview of the steps you need to take to become a qualified teacher, as well as helping you to decide if this kind of role is for you.
Take a look at the government’s Get into Teaching site to get some more advice about each stage in the training process, and to book events to get into contact with qualified teachers.
Featured image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio – Pexels