Would a career in teaching and education suit me?
We’ve also compiled a guide to the questions you should ask yourself as you set about deciding whether you want to be a teacher or would be better off looking for a different role in education or another area such as care.
What kind of person makes a successful teacher?
These are some of the strengths and characteristics you’ll need to get into teaching and find it fulfilling career.
Academic achievements. You’ll need a degree to become a qualified teacher. If you want to teach at secondary level, you need to be passionate and enthusiastic about your subject. If you want to teach primary school children, you’ll need to be capable of covering a broad range of subjects. In England, you need to pass skills tests in numeracy and literacy before you take up a teacher training place.
Great communication skills. You need to be capable of giving compelling lessons, but it’s not just about your students; you’ll also need to build relationships with their parents and your colleagues, including both teaching and support staff. You’ll need excellent written communication skills too, as you’ll need to prepare reports and letters on issues that relate to your pupils’ progress.
Great organisation skills. There’s a lot of administrative work involved in teaching, from planning lessons to tracking pupils’ development. You’ll need to be capable of staying on top of a demanding workload.
Genuine desire to bring out the best in other people. You need to be motivated to help children learn and fulfil their potential.
Resilience, energy, stamina and a willingness to shoulder responsibility. Teaching is both intellectually and emotionally demanding. You need to be capable of managing challenging behaviour, keeping up with marking and paperwork, handling stress and taking a caring, responsible approach to your pupils’ problems. On the plus side, you’ll have access to plenty of support. Also, if you are motivated to succeed, teaching can be a profoundly satisfying profession, as you can have a huge positive impact on the lives of individual children and the community around the school.
Flexibility and a willingness to adapt and get to grips with new developments. The teaching profession is subject to regular change, such as revisions to the national curriculum or the introduction of new qualifications or types of school. You’ll need to be able to adjust to change and commit to ongoing professional development.
Self-awareness. You need to be able to look back at a lesson and review what worked well and what didn’t, so you can consistently improve and keep on learning how to teach well.
What kind of person might not be happy in a teaching career?
If you can’t stand children and want a job that allows you to keep interaction with other people to a minimum, this is probably not the career for you. You’ll also find it challenging if you’re acutely shy, short on patience or keen to work in a highly competitive commercial environment where the priority is making a profit.
You might also think twice about teaching if you want a job that fits within strictly defined working hours. Teachers tend to spend time in the evenings, at weekends and during the holidays doing administrative work and preparing for the hours they spend in the classroom.
Questions to ask yourself to help you decide your career path
- Check out the GSCEs and other qualifications you’ll need to get onto a teacher training course. Do you think you can meet the requirements?
- Consider whether you want to go to university. As teaching is by and large a graduate profession and you can get into it from a broad range of degree backgrounds, you don’t need to decide if it’s what you want as a school leaver. However, you could opt for a degree in education or take a degree that includes teacher training. If you want to be a science or maths teacher and are ready to commit to the profession for three years after graduating, you may be eligible for a grant of £15,000 from the government towards the costs of undergraduate study. Our advice on what to study at university if you want to be a teacher will help you choose the right subject for you.
- Is a career working with children right for you? The best way to explore this is to gain some relevant experience, either on a voluntary basis or as paid work. For example, have you coached younger children at an after-school club or worked as a babysitter? If you want to be a teacher you need to look out for this kind of opportunity to find out whether you enjoy looking after children, whether at university, during a gap year, at work or in your spare time. Bear in mind that you’ll need a minimum of two weeks’ work experience in a school to apply for teacher training.
- Do you want to be a teacher, or are there other jobs that would suit you? You could consider looking for another type of role in education, such as becoming a teaching assistant or providing administrative support in a school. Our advice on jobs and employers in teaching and education sets out some of the options. You could also consider working in related fields such as care or public service.