How to change careers and become a teacher

Mark O’Leary provides some advice on how to become a teacher.

Universities offer both graduate and undergraduate training options. Photo credit: Jeff Morehead / AP/Press Association Images

Teaching is one of the most challenging, exciting and rewarding professions in the world, so it’s little wonder that many people are changing careers in that direction. 

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While it is sometimes possible to teach in independent schools, free schools and academies without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) we recommend completing a teacher training course with QTS as your career options will greatly improve. You can gain QTS through a variety of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) courses.

Entry to ITT courses can be competitive and the course you choose will depend on your qualifications, subject and experience. It is worth noting that competition for shortage subjects will be less; current shortage subjects include:

  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Computing
  • Languages
  • Biology
  • Geography

University-led or school-led training

Universities offer both graduate and undergraduate training options.

Undergraduate training will enable you to gain a degree and QTS; you will need to go down this route if you don’t already have a degree.

If you are a graduate already you can take a postgraduate training course.

Postgraduate courses, especially those specialising in primary education, are very competitive, so you need to show that you have a real passion for teaching and want to work with children.

Remember: often people who apply for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) don’t get onto the course the first time due to lack of experience. If this happens, get more experience before trying again next year.

If you already have a degree and want more hands-on experience, then school-led training could be an option for you. You will still be awarded QTS and if you have three or more years work experience in any field you could earn a salary while you train; a great option if you are considering a career change!

Get experience in a school

To become a teacher, it’s essential that you have some experience of working with children, preferably in a school environment.

One thing to remember when trying to get experience is that you have to get out there and find the experience yourself. Connect with local schools on social media, pick up the phone and call some schools and send some emails to teachers who might need an extra pair of hands.


Give yourself plenty of time to apply. Schools may require a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before you’re able to start working there. These may take weeks to complete.

Get experience working with children

If you’re struggling to get experience in a school, consider other options. Alternative institutions that still give you lots of experience working with children include:

  • Kids’ sports clubs
  • Children’s drama groups
  • Youth clubs
  • Scouts and Brownies groups

Get into supply teaching and sign up to an agency

Once you’ve become a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT), you’ll want to get a job in a school. Finding the right environment for your first teaching job can prove tricky.

One way of getting some extra experience is by becoming a supply teacher. You could sign up to a supply teaching agency and you’ll be able to work around any other commitments you may have.

Become a Teaching Assistant

If you want to work in the classroom but don’t necessarily want to train to become a fully qualified Teacher, why not consider becoming a teaching assistant (TA)?

As a Teaching Assistant, your role is to support the teacher with day-to-day classroom tasks by supervising activities, assisting children with their reading and writing, and general administrative duties.

Many teaching assistants can also work as special needs assistants as part of the school’s learning support departments.

Becoming a TA is equally as rewarding as being a being a teacher. You’ll need all the same skills – organisation, innovation, creativity, problem-solving and the ability to do several things at once.

Being a TA offers you a great deal of flexibility and can often fit around childcare priorities. It gives you the chance to see if you want to go on to become a teacher by offering an insight into what the life of a teacher is like, while giving you the experience of working in a teaching environment as well as the confidence to work with the children.

About the author

Mark O’Leary is head teacher Advisor for ITNMark Education and can be contacted through the Head Office in 0161 362 4460.


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