How to become a teacher: which route into teaching is right for you?

How to become a teacher: which route into teaching is right for you?

So, you’ve decided to become a teacher. But what are the next steps? How do you turn your desire to become a teacher into following the right route into teaching that will get you up in front of a class of eager young minds?

We’re here to help navigate the maze and set you on the path to gaining QTS and becoming a teacher.

There are numerous postgraduate routes to help you become a teacher. From college and university-led postgraduate routes to school-led programmes, there are many different options designed to suit people with different skill-sets and personal circumstances.

Here are just a few scenarios that may help you decide which route into teaching might be best for you:

Scenario #1: You’re looking for a new challenge and want to become a teacher

You’re not alone; plenty of people change careers to become a teacher. Before you take the plunge, there are a couple of things to consider and tips to follow.

1: Get some experience in the classroom

It would be useful to undertake some voluntary teaching experience before making the career switch.

Getting some experience of teaching before you apply will not only give you a better understanding of life in the classroom - and confirm that you do indeed want to become a teacher - it will also strengthen your application. Advice on arranging voluntary teaching experience can be found here.

2: Consider how strong your subject knowledge is

If your degree subject is not specifically related to your chosen subject, or there has been a large amount of time between studying and your decision to become a teacher, it would be advisable to complete a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course.

There are plenty of SKE courses available to choose in the NCTL SKE directory, each with a range of subjects and length options. If you are completing an SKE course whilst working in your current role, you may wish to consider one that offers the most flexibility to fit around your commitments, such as Tes Institute’s online SKE programme.

Find out  more about Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE)

Scenario #2: You've graduated fresh from university and decided that you'd like to become a teacher:

An initial teacher training (ITT) programme would be the best route into teaching for you, but there are different ways to do it.

1: Join an ITT course organised by a university or college.

Your application is considered by the college or university rather than by a school. You will also do most of your studying through the college or university. 

However, you will still benefit from lots of in-school experience as part of the programme. As well as gaining QTS, there will normally be an option for a post-graduate certificate in education (PGCE) in most subjects.

There are fees for this route but many candidates will be eligible for funding, loans and/or bursaries.

2:Take a school-led route

There are also school-led routes available to help you become a teacher, called School Direct, including:

These programmes are designed for high-quality candidates who are selected for training by a school or group of schools, rather than a college or university. You will be based in-school most of the time and given day release for theoretical study.

If you have at least three years’ experience in a school this option can be salaried, but if you don’t there are School Direct bursaries available for qualifying applicants.

There is an option to achieve a PGCE as well as QTS on our Tes Institute School Direct programme.

As you already have a degree, both routes will focus on developing your teaching skills, but if your degree isn’t directly related to the subject area (e.g. you have an engineering degree but want to teach physics) you should consider undertaking a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) programme to build your knowledge and confidence before beginning your ITT programme. These programmes can be fully funded by the Government if you meet the eligibility criteria. Generally speaking, we advise all ITT participants to undertake at least some SKE before beginning their ITT regardless of their degree focus, as they are an ideal way to make sure your level of knowledge is at the optimum level when you begin your ITT.

Scenario #3: You enjoy the supporting role that you play in the classroom but would like to progress your teaching career and make the jump from Teaching Assistant to Teacher

Even though you’re already working in a school, gaining QTS can be both personally and financially rewarding. Although there are QTS Assessment Only options available, depending on the amount of experience that you’ve had teaching to a full-sized classroom you are likely to need some added guidance before QTS assessment and becoming a teacher.

A programme like Straight to Teaching from Tes Institute can provide you with structured preparation that will prepare you to meet the Teachers’ Standards before you are assessed for and awarded QTS. Unlike other traditional teacher training routes that focus on encouraging graduates and new entrants into teaching, Straight to Teaching instead works with staff who are currently in a school role by helping them develop their existing skills and knowledge.

The length of the programme will depend on your existing experience and can range from one to five terms. In order to be eligible for the programme you must already be employed in a school that is willing to provide you their full support, including an in-school mentor. Further eligibility criteria can be found here.

Find out more about Straight to Teaching

Further information

There are many routes and ways to become a teacher. Most people considering a teaching career will fall into one of the above categories; however UCAS also has a number of useful pages, as does the Department for Education, explaining different routes into teaching in more detail. You can read more about the qualifications that you need to become a teacher in this post by Tes, which also provides further details on the different routes available. Alternatively, you can contact the Tes Institute team and we’d be happy to help.