common career paths and jobs in education

If you want to pursue a career in teaching, there are many ways to get into the profession, and multiple career routes to take once you're an established teacher. Regardless of whether you're fresh out of education yourself, or have got a few years of experience under your belt, there are plenty of reasons to choose a job in teaching; school pupil numbers in England are increasing, so more high-quality graduates and professionals are needed to teach them. Plus, as a teacher, you're guaranteed those lengthy school holidays!

There are also more opportunities for quicker career progression and pay rises than ever before. Teachers’ pay is now linked to performance rather than length of service, and schools have more autonomy in deciding how much to pay teachers. It’s also a career that’s full of opportunities for you to discover and hone a range of new transferable skills. As a teacher, you’ll learn to be a brilliant presenter, mentor, manager and consultant. 

Career paths for education jobs

By and large, teaching is a graduate profession. You may be a graduate looking for your first job, or someone with several years of work experience, looking to take your career in a new direction. However, entry will almost always involve you going through an initial teacher training (ITT) course or Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) programme.

In the competitive world of employment, you need to demonstrate not only qualifications, training and enthusiasm, but also experience. This might seem a difficult task if you’re fresh from your course – or still a student – and all you have is your teaching placement. If you’re an NQT up against an experienced teacher, all other things being equal, wider experience is likely to win the day. So getting school experience is essential for a successful application. As an interim measure or a permanent career move, supply teaching jobs can offer you excellent opportunities to build up your skills and experience, and give you a taste of different settings, as well as a chance to earn while you learn!

Whilst teaching is the same, in principle, across the education system, how you do it depends on the environment in which you are teaching. Primary and secondary school teachers work in state schools (either under local authority control or independent academies); private, independent or public (self-funded) schools; or ‘alternative’ schools such as Steiner Waldorf and Montessori schools. Teachers working with special needs students may work across the entire age range – from primary schools to university. The career paths you may take within these schools is largely the same.

Once qualified as a teacher, you can follow continuous professional development opportunities to help you on your career path to promotion, either following a subject-led route – becoming head of department – or a more pastoral or strategic management role as head of year, deputy head and head teacher or principal.

Outside the schools system, career progression is a bit different. Further and Higher education lecturers can progress through their subject specialisms to become a senior lecturer, curriculum manager, head of department or divisional manager. Others move from lecturing into traditional college management positions, such as admissions, personnel, guidance or finance. Some people also teach in prisons.

Once you’ve qualified, you can enjoy job security and a generous pension, as well as the chance to inspire young people and use your skills to give something back. Inspiring the next generation, and making a difference to young people, the job satisfaction of teaching is difficult to beat. 

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