Currently, demand for teachers in the UK is high, particularly in mathematics, sciences and modern languages. This means there are good opportunities for rapid career development.

The breadth of skills gained through experience of teaching can be valued by employers in many industries. In particular, there are many opportunities to develop leadership and management skills, not least being in charge of thirty people on an hourly basis in a classroom.

There are 440,000+ teachers in 25,000 schools in England. It is a stable occupation, has generous pension schemes and employers can be flexible in terms of hours worked from year to year.

Teaching can be quite stressful and exhausting. At the same time, it is exciting, fast-paced and unique. You should expect to work 50 hours in your first few years as the job also involves lesson preparation, marking and assessment, running extra-curricular activities and administrative duties.

The majority of state schools must follow the National Curriculum; a set of learning objectives determined by the Department for Education. The Department also determines the approved structure of lessons and some elements of teaching style.

Broadly, state schools are divided into: primary (4-11), secondary (11-18), and adult education (16+). “Middle schools” exist in some counties, and in the private sector there are similarly “prep schools” for ages 9-13.

Primary school teachers should expect to teach all subjects in the curriculum, whereas secondary school teachers normally teach a subject comprising at 50% of the degree they studied at university.

Market trends

In the long-term, because demand for teachers rises proportionally with population growth, demand is likely to be higher in London and the South-East.

The market is slightly tougher for those wishing to work at the lower end of the primary school age range. Trainees in subjects such as English, Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry may find the job search easier.

As a statistical trend, teachers are getting younger. Over a third of trained teachers leave the profession after a year, and those who remain are taking retirement earlier. As such there is a constant demand for newly qualified teachers with around 30,000 a year trained.

The entry requirement for trainees is also high with an increased number having gained a 1st or a 2:1; the government has decided that only those with good degrees will receive training grants in the future.

Due to this shift in the age of teachers, there is an increasing lack of headteachers: in 2008 over 1000 schools in England and Wales had only an Acting Head. If you are willing to take on greater responsibility, it is increasingly easy to climb the career ladder.

Qualifying as a teacher in the UK

To become a teacher you must have a degree in the subject of your choice, and at least a C grade in Mathematics and English Language GCSEs (or equivalent qualifications), and no criminal record.  Primary education applicants will also need a C grade in a Science GCSE (or an equivalent qualification).

All UK state schools and most independent schools require their teachers to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). There are four main ways for graduates to gain this; a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) and Teach First.

Most teacher training providers requires you to have recently completed a short observation of a school before applying.

Upon achieving QTS, teachers must also pass their induction period – normally their first year of teaching - which is assessed by approx. six lesson observations across the year. Thereafter, there are many opportunities to develop new skills and take on additional responsibility e.g. a Masters in Teaching and Learning, or an application to become an Advanced Skills Teacher.

The starting salary for a teacher is £21,588 (£27,000 in inner London). Private schools salaries are higher and teachers may be offered subsidised housing too, depending on the wealth of the school.


The most common way to become qualified is to gain a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). These can be done in either primary or secondary education, and involve tuition at a university and teaching experience in two contrasting schools

How to apply

You apply for PGCE and PGDE courses through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR), their website allows you to search for courses. There will be a fee and you have to order your course choices by preference, so it is sensible to have previously made informal contact with your preferred institution to demonstrate interest.   Applications open in early September annually, and the deadline for primary teachers falls at the start of December.

  • See Applying for a PGCE on the Prospects website, which includes a free, downloadable booklet 'Applying for a PGCE'.
  • To research quality of schools go to OFSTED 

Finances while training

There is a lot of financial help available to all UK or EU citizens. There is no financial support is available to students outside of the European Economic Area.

  •  A student loan to cover fees - is automatically available to all UK and EU students. The terms and conditions of student loans vary each academic year. This is something you should research.
  •  A living cost loan repayable under the same conditions is also available, but again, these conditions vary every year. 
  •  An assembly learning grant which does not have to be repaid is available.
  • Bursaries are available from the government, which again do not have to be repaid. Individual universities may also give bursaries – check www.excellencegateway.org.uk  for more information or ring the Advice Service helpline about FE teaching on 0300 303 1877.

For more information see the student finance webpages for EnglandWalesScotland and Northern Ireland.


School Centred Intial Teacher Training  (SCITT) is a year-long course run by consortia of schools rather than by universities. It is only available in England and Wales. 

How to apply

Finances while training

Fees, loans, grants and bursaries are exactly the same as for the PGCE.

Teach First

Teach First is a charity, primarily funded by big business, that trains high-achieving graduates over two years to work in challenging schools. Its sponsors also offer trainees management and leadership training. Teach First only has participating schools in London, the Midlands and the Northwest.

How to apply

All applications are online via Teach First: Recruitment and selection.

Finances while training

You do not have to pay any fees, and will receive a salary in both years.  This information can be found by contacting Teach First.

Useful Information

Routes in

Some form of work experience is advisable, both to check that you like the job, to develop your skills, and also to demonstrate that you are serious and informed about teaching when you make your application for training.

Most teacher training providers insist that you have completed a two-week observation in a school before starting with your application. Other options include volunteering as a classroom assistant or as a mentor, e.g, through LSE’s Student Tutoring Scheme, or working for a charity to tutor children.

Also consider experience with sports, play schemes, summer camps or youth clubs. You could also contact a school privately to arrange your own observation. Many teachers enter the profession having first taught English abroad; a good way to see if teaching is for you.


Volunteering is also great way to support the local community, and is of course very attractive to employers on your CV even if you don't become a teacher. Remember however that working with an individual child requires consistency and commitment.

Where to volunteer

  • Student Tutoring Scheme - an LSE scheme. Act as a classroom assistant for a morning or afternoon a week in a local school
  • Into University  - a charity that tries to get more students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged social groups into university. Act as a tutor for a talented child at risk of underachieving
  • The Rugby Portobello Trust  - a charity working with disadvantaged children. Volunteer as a tutor, or work with young people in many other ways. 

For other opportunities, contact the LSE Volunteer Centre.

Observing lessons

An 'observation period' really means acting as a Teaching Assistant, helping individual students or small groups within the classroom. However, if you are applying for Initial Teacher Training, universities will expect you to look out for and think about certain things as well. For example:

  • Lessons for different year groups and abilities.
  • The structure of lessons.
  • The way that teachers adapt their lesson plan in the classroom. (No class ever goes quite as expected).  
  • Reaction to bad behaviour.
  • Pre-emptive management of bad behaviour. (Ask teachers how they do this).
  • The curriculum for your subject.

Ask too if you can shadow a particular pupil throughout the day, as this will give you a different perspective on school.

How to organise an observation period

  • Contact a school. Schools will be used to requests from people applying for teacher training. However, ask a few months in advance: unless (or even if) it is your own school they are likely to require you to undergo a Criminal Record Bureau check.
  • The TDA is launching a new, single School Experience Programme (SEP) from September 2011. This new programme will be available not just to students, but also to other people who are considering entering, or in some cases, re-entering teaching. The SEP will be delivered by the TDA in partnership with schools.