More than half of all people joining the profession are now aged 25 or over, latest figures from the Teacher Training Agency reveal.
The proportion of mature entrants taking jobs in primaries in 2002-3 rose to 43 per cent from 38 per cent in 1998-9. In secondaries, numbers jumped from 55 per cent to 57 per cent.
More men were wooed into teaching by the prospect of training on-the-job with numbers up for both primary and secondary trainees, according to figures in Teacher Training Profiles 2004.
Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick, Bristol and Birmingham universities dominate rankings of inspection ratings and the number of trainees who find jobs.
London university's Institute of Education, considered a training leader, came 62nd in the table out of 73 colleges and universities with few trainees shown as having jobs. The institute said the figures did not represent the true picture.
Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson of Liverpool university analysed the data. Professor Smithers said: "There is a recognition by entrants that they need some level of maturity to commit themselves to teaching."
Brendan O'Brien became a teacher at 28, after jobs including baker, gardener and rent collector. He has been teaching at Pontefract Road primary in Barnsley for six years and believes his maturity helped him survive it going into special measures in his first year. It is now out of special measures.
Mr O'Brien, 34, said: "If you make the decision you want to be a teacher you make the decision about taking on a career. When you do it a little bit older you do it for the right reasons."