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Overview

Education in England and Wales is a divided into: primary, secondary, further and higher education. Compulsory education lasts for 11 years; statutory schooling ages are between 5 to 16 years. Children are legally required to start attending school at the start of the term after their fifth birthday either on 31 August, 31 December or 31 March, however children often start earlier than this. Pupils are required to stay in school until the last Friday in June of the school year in which they reach 16 years of age. Suffice to say, there are many routes your teaching graduate career can take.

During this time children must receive full-time education that is suited to their age, ability, aptitude and special educational needs (SEN). If a child does not attend school, the local education authority (LEA) must be satisfied that other appropriate provision is available. After leaving school at 16, pupils must then do one of the following until they’re 18: 

  • Stay in full-time education (e.g. at a college); 
  • Start an apprenticeship or traineeship;
  • Work or volunteer (for 20 hours or more a week) while in part-time education or training.

The number of primary school pupils across the UK increased over the last five years by 422,000 (8.6%). Whereas, the number of secondary school pupils fell by 94,200 (2.4%). The UK pupil: teacher ratio across all schools remains fairly constant at 16.4. The proportion of 16-24 year-olds across the UK not in education, employment or training (NEET) continues to fall, from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.2% in 2014. The number of full-time students studying for a first degree across the UK has increased over the last five years by 135,900 (11%). Over the same time period, the number of full-time students studying for a postgraduate degree has increased by 6,500 (2%). These statistics show the ever growing need for more teachers in the UK, therefore suggesting it to be a good career choice for graduates with almost guaranteed employment within this sector.

In April 2013 the Teaching Agency and the National College for School Leadership merged to become the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).There are now financial incentives to encourage graduates to teach shortage subjects such as: chemistry, maths, languages, physics, design technology and computing. These Incentives include training bursaries, which range from £4,000 to £25,000, dependent on your degree classification and the subject you want to teach. Training for early years teachers in nurseries and pre-school education has become much more structured. Completion of an early year's initial teacher training programme leads to Early Years Professional Status (EYPS), which is equivalent to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). This is awarded to primary and secondary teachers. Course fees are paid and bursaries are available, depending on your degree classification. It is also now possible to qualify to be an early year's teacher through work based training on a School Direct scheme. Teacher qualifications for the further education (FE) and skills sector changed from September 2013 too. There are now a range of awards, certificates and diplomas in education and training from Level 3.

Average Teaching Graduate Salary

Teaching Graduate Career Path

Education focuses on contact time with pupils and students, an understanding of their needs and how to motivate them, the ability to cope with children from various backgrounds and each with different academic abilities. Above all it is crucial for the teacher to harness all his or her skills to create an atmosphere that encourages children to learn and develop. So, whether you choose to teach primary, secondary, overseas or in the UK, teaching is a career which offers graduates the chance to make a real difference. A teaching graduate career will give you the chance to shape the paths of young people's lives. There are a number of different routes into teaching, but most start with Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and a 12-month induction period to gain qualified teacher status (QTS). Graduates of non-teaching degrees study a Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), which takes one year to complete. Alternatively, you can apply to Fast Track Teaching, a graduate programme designed to develop future leaders in education.

There is one thing you need to be completely clear about from the outset - teaching is definitely not a soft option. The training is intense and you'll have a lot of coursework to get through, so be realistic about whether teaching's really the career for you. Consider if you have the patience, stamina and passion to enthuse children, as well as the time-keeping and organisational skills to plan daily lessons and activities. If you're serious about becoming a teacher, find out what life is in the classroom is really like before you apply for a course. There are many varied opportunities for graduates across the UK and overseas. Graduates work can be in a variety of different settings, including:

  • Schools
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • Private education
  • Teaching abroad
  • The business and commercial sector.

The state sector represents the major employer of teachers. But a significant number of teaching opportunities exist elsewhere, both in the independent sector and in other specialist institutions, such as special schools (for the handicapped and mentally disabled), hospitals and the prison service. Teaching English (TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language) abroad is an option that attracts many graduates, and as English can be considered as the international language of commerce, diplomacy and the internet the opportunities in this area are wide.

Alternatively, many enter the academic ranks as a contract researcher and are employed on a fixed-term contract to support a particular piece of research. There are also opportunities to work as a research assistant whilst studying for a PhD. Others begin their careers as lecturers where they will be expected make a significant contribution to the teaching of a department, as well as building their research profile.

Promotion for academics is based on a range of criteria but generally success in research activity provides the greatest and quickest rewards. There are, however, new efforts being made to reward excellence in other areas of responsibility, especially in teaching, but also in management and leadership.

Non-academic staff account for over 50% of staff working in higher education. The variety of non-academic roles include positions in libraries, human resources, finance, estates management, residential and commercial services, scientific and technical support, leisure, counselling, security, purchasing, marketing and public relations.

The new growth areas of higher education are student services, marketing and information science. This has made the sector attractive to a new breed of professional, many of whom have developed their skills in other sectors or who previously would not have thought about higher education as a careers option.

The fast-changing, constantly evolving environment of UK higher education offers great potential for career development. A high proportion of those in administrative, professional and technical support roles are graduates, working in jobs they never knew existed during their time at university. Behind the very visible teaching staff are technicians and administrators working in areas as diverse as research support, personnel, finance, quality assurance, publications, alumni relations and industrial liaison. Universities have expanded significantly over the years and the drive to widen participation means they are likely to keep on growing and changing.

The starting salaries for newly qualified teachers are a minimum of £22,244 (£27,819 in London). Apart from discretionary bonuses to enable schools to retain particularly key individuals, salaries are then subject to a set scale. Some teaching posts will carry extra responsibilities and therefore higher salaries. Experienced teachers who become a head of department or take on other managerial posts are entitled to receive an additional allowance. Some graduates use their experience in education to branch into other careers such as publishing, commercial training, management and so on.

The teaching industry is very demanding and challenging but it can also be a job that offers unrivalled job satisfaction and a great sense of personal achievement. Graduates will get an opportunity to help others, contribute to society and perhaps have some influence in the career choices of the next generation of university students.

Qualifications and Skills Needed

What proportion of candidates as a percent we place into Teaching graduate careers and the typical qualities graduate employers look for.

GRB Placements for Teaching by Degree

Typical Candidate Attributes

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) is the body responsible for funding teacher education, granting accreditation to initial teacher training providers, and providing information and advice for those interested in pursuing a career in teaching. 

Any degree is accepted but those who have not completed a Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree will need to complete a one year PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate of Education) course or hold a QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) certificate, which is awarded after successful completion of an ITT (Initial Teacher Training) course. It is not mandatory to a have studied one of the core national curriculum subjects to degree level (english, mathematics, science etc), but it may help.

Graduates need a variety of skills to be successful in this sector. However the following skills are extremely neccessary: 

  • Enthusiasm and a strong interest in what is taught, whatever kind of teaching or training is involved, is vital.
  • Communicating well verbally to groups and enjoying presenting your information is most important.
  • Establishing good rapport both with groups and individuals is also an essential ability.
  • You will need to be able to develop your skills in classroom management and group work. 


Good organisation and planning supports all this work, often involving close liaison with your colleagues. You will need commitment, determination and stamina, along with a strong desire to learn new skills and techniques on the job as you progress. You will obviously need to like working with children or a variety of people, be able to handle working long hours, have a calm disposition and a high level of tolerance. Teachers must possess good time management skills as the activities can include planning, preparing and researching topics as well as writing reports and setting exams.

In the modern teaching profession the government is keen to set certain standards of work and best practice policy and encourages all to work towards achieving them therefore graduates entering this sector must be committed to high standards of work

The rewards can be great – seeing the development of your students or pupils, communicating your own interest in a subject to others and working in a supportive environment with colleagues as part of a team.

For today’s graduates, there is a wide variety of flexible entry routes into careers in teaching and training. These include full- or part-time study, distance learning, intensive courses and work based options. Financial support can be available in some circumstances such as full-time teacher training courses.

Sources for Further Information

Association of Teachers and Lecturers www.atl.org.uk
The National College for Teaching and Leadership www.nationalcollege.org.uk 
NASUWT www.teachersunion.org.uk
National Union of Teachers www.teachers.org.uk
Department for Education and Skills www.dfes.gov.uk