Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers there is and regularly ranks in the top three of careers for job satisfaction. As the baby boom continues, the number of primary teacher jobs has risen without the necessary number of applicants. This means that opportunities for talented entrants into the profession have never been better. The government is offering huge bursaries (that’s a tax-free salary of £30,000 a year for certain individuals) to get into teaching and with less competition, now’s your moment.
The question is: how do you go from where you are now to being a teacher? The truth is that are actually numerous ways of getting the key accreditation you need: Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Here are the three most popular routes into teaching to help you decide how you want to achieve your goal.
- A Bachelor of Education degree (BEd)
Completing this undergraduate degree gives you the QTS accreditation you need to move straight into teaching. This course has minimal time in a school environment so most of your learning is theoretical. This suits individuals who want to know all the facts before launching into a practical environment. Your first year out of training is called the NQT year (Newly Qualified Teacher) and you will still get eased in at your job so you won’t be thrown in the deep end… but the transformation from university to school environment may be a bit sudden.
The upside of the course is that you will emerge with a deeper understanding of the theories of education than any on-the-job course. This can give you understanding of the learning necessary to become a consistently outstanding teacher.
The first big downside here is cost. The course is four years long and will be charged at university rates: £36,000. This does buy you a university-grade education but if you’ve already spent (or more accurately, borrowed) a load of cash for an undergraduate degree, you may not want to do another one.
In general, this option is best for school leavers who know they want to go into teaching or aspiring teachers who feel they need that all-encompassing theoretical understanding.
- A Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
If you don’t have four years and £36,000 handy, you can always go for the most traditional and popular option: a PGCE. This postgraduate course requires you to have already obtained an undergraduate degree – in a general subject for primary, or a related one for secondary. The course is a mixture of university lectures and school placements which hoped to offer a balanced introduction to teaching.
PGCEs take a year of full-time study or two years part time and cost around £9,000. Beware though, this isn’t just another year of an undergraduate degree and is much more like a ‘real job’ than even a non-vocational Master’s degree. The hours and expectations are tough; mountains of paperwork are the norm. The drop-out rates are quite high and you rarely get your money back if you leave half way through. Still seen by many schools as the preferred option, this is a fantastic choice if you are really committed but don’t do it while you figure out what your real passion is…
- On-the-job Initial Teacher Training (School Direct, SCITT, Teach First)
At the other end of the spectrum to the BEd are the on-the-job options. These all require an undergraduate degree and take between one and two years depending on the course.
The massive draw for these options is the fact that you can earn a salary while you train.
The other advantage is more experience earlier on. Trainees are exposed to ‘real’ school situations and develop the skills needed to become a teacher in an organic, natural way.
That said, the risk of burning out is far greater. Teach First trainees regularly attest to being miserable throughout their schemes. Rather than being up to the training provider to ensure your progress, you are at the mercy of the school. This can often mean you get placed in a situation out of your comfort zone as the schools tries to capitalise on an extra staff member.
This sort of course tends to suit the confident and self-assured prospective teachers – those who can’t wait to get into the classroom and start teaching.
Choosing a route
Whatever type of teacher you think you might be, there are certain things you can do to put yourself in the best possible position to make the right call. Researching each option carefully is a no-brainer, as well as considering your financial situation and timescale.
One of the best things you can do is to become a Teaching Assistant for a year. This can help you discover what sort of course would work for you, whilst simultaneously providing income and improving your CV.
You may also decide to ask teacher friends or family their opinions, but beware: most teachers, though they love their jobs, tend not to recommend the profession so take their warnings with a pinch of salt!