- What do teachers do?
- Teacher career path
- Teacher salaries
- Qualifications & training
- Teacher skills
- Pros and cons of being a teacher
- Teacher work-life balance
- Teacher employers
- Related jobs
- More information
Are you someone who wants to share their knowledge and educate the masses? Do you take pride in other people's achievements, knowing you helped them along the way? If you are a great communicator who wants to educate the future, then a career in teaching may be for you.
Interested in a career as a teacher? Explore graduate opportunities in education and teaching and take your first step towards a career in this role.
What does a teacher do?
A teacher is responsible for the education and personal development of their students using lesson plans and curriculum objectives to aid and structure their learning. You will be responsible for the development of these plans as well as assessing and recording the process of your students, finding ways to encourage and develop new ways of learning. You are the inspirational driving force to young minds, helping them expand their knowledge in a variety of subjects.
There are different tiers of teaching, from primary learning all the way through to higher education or university. These roles have different requirements, however in general you can expect to do the following day-to-day:
- Taking the curriculum and creating a lesson plan and structure.
- Being responsible for the education and development of students on an individual level.
- Arranging learning resources such as books or papers.
- Presenting regular classes keeping in mind the different learning styles of different children.
- Motivate your students with an enthusiasm for your subject.
- Giving feedback on a student’s progress by way of guardian/teacher meetings.
- Organising educational trips.
- Adapting to changes in the learning curriculum and keeping up to date regularly.
- Working alongside educational psychologists when needed.
- Create homework assignments and testing to analyse progress.
Want to learn more about teaching? Take this Bright Network Academy Teaching Sector 101 module, led by Ark Teacher Training.
Teacher career path
You have a couple of options for your entry-level role. The most common and easy route into teaching after gaining your qualifications is by taking an introductory year in teaching. In this role you will be given a mentor and some of the teaching load, organising classes and running them intermittently.
Alternatively, you may find a role as a teaching assistant, getting in job training to progress. As a teaching assistant, you will not lead any classes. Instead, you will support the teacher, helping them with their lesson plans. You will supervise activities and work with students one on one. When needed, a teaching assistant may also work exclusively with a single child with educational difficulties, making sure they understand. This may involve adapting the overall lesson plan. You will also aid in setting up for class, tidying up and setting up displays.
Once you have become a fully qualified teacher, you will progress to taking on sole responsibility for a class. Teachers in their first two years of teaching are called ‘Early Career Teachers’ and receive more support than usual to help secure your place as a teacher. Rapid progression as a teacher is very possible and may see you in a high running position in the first five years of teaching should you take advantage of every opportunity. Most higher-level positions come from a level of leadership, so training is crucial. Explore your independence as a teacher; the nature of the role creates a great environment to develop your leadership skills and stand out in a small department.
Learn how to develop your leadership skills with the Bright Network Academy course.
Progression opportunities have a ceiling within teaching, however, you have a lot of room with transferable skills. If you decide you want to have more influence over teaching as a whole, you may consider becoming a head of department or headteacher. Within this role, you may or may not keep teaching one on one, but you will always be in charge of the teachers within your department or how the school runs as a whole.
As a head of department, you will be responsible for the performance of the teachers in your department. It will be your responsibility to sit in on classes to check teacher performance, conduct one on one reviews and provide the equipment needed.
The role of a headmaster is similar but broader. You will be responsible for the running of the entire school as a whole. You will be the manager of finances, performance and maintenance. You will be the overall voice for the school and arrange events as well as oversee your students' development and meet with parents when needed.
If you instead want to take a sideways step in your career, you may consider transitioning to a different age bracket, for example, primary to secondary. This will involve educating yourself to a higher standard and adjusting to new challenges.
Teaching salaries vary between state and private schools but you can expect the following to apply:
- Entry-level teachers in the state system can expect to start from £25,000 per annum and slowly progress up the pay scale to about £37,000 depending on the area you teach in.
- Private school teachers can earn anywhere from £36,000 per annum to £50,000
- Heads of departments or headteachers can earn upwards of £115,000 but tend to start at about £47,000.
Learn more about teaching salaries with this rough guide to teachers’ salaries.
Qualifications and training
Different levels of teaching come with different qualifications. To start your career as a primary school teacher in England and Wales you must have a degree and complete the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course to become a qualified teacher (QTS). From there you will need to take part in postgraduate teacher training courses, your induction year. Your induction year will be to demonstrate you meet the standards required by Teachers’ Standards. You will work alongside a mentor and be given a portion of the teaching load. Once your induction year is complete, you will be able to work as a fully qualified teacher.
The pathway to becoming a secondary school teacher is much the same and you can gain your QTS in a couple of different ways. Firstly you can gain a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which is commonly offered at most institutions. Alternatively, you can opt for on-the-job training through apprenticeships which will also result in your PGCE. Entry requirements for on the job teaching courses are set by the individual bodies so will vary across different courses.
Need more information on getting your PGCE? Here’s how to become a qualified teacher.
Work experience is expected and will strengthen your application. The common route is working as a teaching assistant, helping the teacher with the organisation of the class, support of the students and administrative tasks. If you know what age bracket you want to teach with, it is helpful to find work experience with these students. Approach your local school or educational institution to ask if you can watch lessons and talk to teachers about their experiences within this role. You can also find opportunities through different methods such as summer schools or even after school groups such as brownies/beavers and scouts.
- Patience and adaptability. Topics that seem simple and obvious to you may be difficult for someone setting fresh eyes on it. It is important to adapt to different learning styles and expect to need to repeat the information in different ways until your student understands the material.
- Communication. You will be working across a broad range of ages, from young students to their parents/guardians. It is important you have a confident communication style that is clear and adaptable to the audience you have.
- Organisation. Organisation will be a key skill to have in your role as a teacher. You will be responsible for the management of all your student's individual progress, lesson plans and the marking of tests/work. Without a good level of organisation, you will soon get lost under all that paperwork.
- Time management. The curriculum is often vast, with a lot to learn in each term. Time management will be crucial in ensuring you can navigate the whole curriculum as well as test that knowledge. Falling behind will disadvantage your students.
- Creativity. Your role as a teacher will involve finding creative ways to engage your students and make them want to come to classes. Your enthusiasm should be infectious, with interesting and fun ways of learning new topics that will resonate with your class.
- Conflict resolution. Behavioural management will be a large part of your role. Students will not always behave ideally, it will be your job to manage and discipline where needed in a fair and acceptable manner.
Pros and cons of being a teacher
- Job satisfaction. Your role as a teacher is very important to the future of society! You are shaping future doctors, labourers and even more teachers. Your influence will shape a person, developing core memories that will help them through their life.
- Holidays. Your work schedule as a teacher will often find weekends and holidays as paid holidays, which means you average about 30 days more holiday than the majority of other careers.
- Variation. Every day is different and set by you allowing for complete autonomy in your working day.
- Job security. Currently, teachers are urgently needed so you can expect to have a secure job when you qualify.
- Limited progression. Unless you plan to sidestep into a more managerial role, then progression as a teacher is very limited and often people in this career remain in the same position for years.
- Work stress. The role can often be stressful if you have children not willing to learn or push boundaries. It is important you have a strong mindset to persevere.
Teacher work-life balance
The working hours of a teacher tend to be around 40 hours a week but will vary from school to school. Private schools tend to have longer school hours. Although you are encouraged to use 10% of your scheduled time to do your lesson plans or assess work, teachers often find they have to take this work home.
Key graduate teacher employers
Key graduate employers for teaching are as follows:
Related jobs to teacher
Want to know more about being a teacher? Get Melissa’s insight into securing a graduate training programme with Teach First.