If you've got excellent communication, interpersonal and organisation skills and are interested in teaching post-16 or adult learners, further education teaching could be the career for you
As a further education (FE) teacher, you'll teach a range of subjects in one of three main areas:
- vocational training (including apprenticeships) - preparing students for work and making sure they have up-to-date skills
- academic teaching - teaching a range of academic qualifications mainly at GCSE and A-level
- basic skills - teaching basic skills in areas such as numeracy, literacy and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).
You may also teach recreational courses that support personal interests, such as local history or watercolours.
Although you'll work mainly with post-16 and/or adult learners, you're increasingly expected to work with students aged 14 to 19 who are studying vocational subjects. You're more likely to be called a trainer in this case.
Work can take place in any of the following settings:
- a general or specialist FE college
- sixth form colleges
- adult and community education centres
- prisons and youth offender organisations
- voluntary and charity organisations
- work-based learning.
Depending on the setting in which you work, you'll need to:
- plan and prepare lessons
- teach across a range of qualification types and levels, in day or evening classes or open access workshops
- research and develop new topics, courses and teaching materials, including online resources
- teach large and small groups of learners from a range of backgrounds, abilities and ages
- monitor, assess and mark students' work
- maintain accurate records and monitor students' progress
- set and oversee examinations and liaise with awarding bodies to ensure quality standards are met
- carry out a pastoral role as a personal tutor to students
- conduct tutorials on a one-to-one basis with learners
- plan additional support for students
- contribute to course team meetings to monitor, review and evaluate relevant courses
- represent the college at parents' evenings, taster days, open days and careers or education conventions
- keep up to date with, and implement, college policies
- interview prospective students
- liaise with other educational professionals and organisations
- organise work experience and carry out learner assessments in the workplace
- undertake a range of administrative tasks.
- As an unqualified FE teacher you could expect to earn £19,258 to £22,825.
- A qualified FE teacher can earn between £24,202 and £36,524.
- Typical salaries at advanced teaching and training levels are in the region of £36,524 to £41,102. Salaries for leadership and management roles can significantly exceed this, rising to in excess of £90,000 for the most senior positions.
The above rates are recommended for England by the Association of Colleges (see the University and College Union (UCU) website for details). Information for rates in Wales and Northern Ireland are also available on the UCU website. Salary information for Scotland is available from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS). Colleges can set their own salaries, however, and UCU rates are only advisory.
Many FE teachers work part time or on a sessional basis often via an agency. Part-time hourly rates vary from £15 to more than £30 per hour, plus holiday pay/entitlement.
Salaries in settings outside of FE colleges may vary. In general, salaries vary according to your teaching and industrial experience, qualifications, subject demand, work setting and geographical location.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Typical working hours for full-time college teachers are 35 hours a week, sometimes including one or more evening sessions.
You'll need to work extra hours to plan and prepare lessons, mark students' work and attend meetings and open evenings, especially during term time.
What to expect
- Your work will be largely classroom, laboratory or workshop based, depending on the subject you're teaching. Some subjects will include field trips or study visits.
- Where appropriate, some teaching and assessment will take place on employer premises with students who are on work experience or taking courses that involve day-release or work-based learning.
- Jobs are widely available. Opportunities exist in FE and training institutions in most major towns and cities throughout the UK.
- Many FE teachers work part time or on a sessional basis and will supplement their income through private tuition, evening classes, national examination marking, teaching on residential courses, external consultancy work or writing textbooks.
- A growth in partnership working between organisations has resulted in FE teachers moving between institutions, e.g. schools, higher education and community-based learning centres.
You can become a further education (FE) teacher without a teaching qualification, although you'll probably be expected to study for one. You'll increase your chances of getting a job and receiving further promotion if you've got a relevant qualification. Individual institutions set their own requirements and some may have their own in-house training programmes.
Qualifications are available at various levels:
- Level 3 Award in Education and Training: an introductory, knowledge-based course, which doesn't have a placement and you can complete before being in a teaching role.
- Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training: develops practical teaching skills and requires you to have at least 30 hours of teaching practice.
- Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training: this is the recognised, full teaching qualification for the sector and you must have at least 100 hours of teaching practice. You can choose to take a specialist pathway at this level in literacy, ESOL, mathematics or special educational needs (SEN).
You can go straight into the Level 5 qualification without having completed the other levels. If you've completed a Level 3 or 4 qualification, you may be able to achieve recognition for prior learning.
Qualifications are generally offered by FE colleges, universities and other training providers on a full or part-time basis. However, for part-time level 4 and 5 qualifications, you'll usually need to organise your own teaching practice placement.
To get a place on a course, you'll need to be qualified or experienced in the subject you want to teach. If you want to teach an academic course, for example, you'll typically need a degree. For vocational subjects, you'll need an appropriate vocational qualification (usually minimum Level 3) and professional experience.
PGCEs (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in post-compulsory education are the most usual route into the profession for new graduates. Courses are available either full time (one year including teaching practice) or part time. They incorporate the requirements of the Level 5 qualification but also offer additional units at a higher level and are assessed at a higher level, usually level 6 but sometimes level 7. You'll need a degree in the subject you wish to teach.
You can also take a Cert Ed (Certificate in Education) which meets the Level 5 requirements but doesn't require a degree. Instead, you'll need a Level 3 qualification in the area you wish to teach or extensive experience.
There's not a central site that lists all courses. However, a number of courses use the UCAS Teacher Training application system.
Bursaries are available if you wish to train to teach mathematics or English. The amount you may receive varies depending on the subject and your degree classification. More information is available from FE Advice.
You'll need to have:
- in-depth knowledge of your subject or professional area (if teaching a vocational course)
- written and verbal communication skills
- interpersonal skills and the ability to relate to students of all ages and abilities
- organisation and planning skills
- a flexible approach to work
- enthusiasm, motivation and commitment
- patience and a sense of humour.
There are FE colleges based around the UK and many of them run satellite centres in the community, operating from community centres, libraries, schools and high street premises. Local authorities also run adult education services, often in conjunction with FE colleges.
Sixth form colleges exist in some areas (excluding Scotland). Some colleges are privately run, often specialising in a particular vocational area.
Adult residential colleges offer opportunities for teaching in special interest subjects such as archaeology, painting and philosophy.
FE teachers may also work in the prison service, the armed forces education branch or in company training departments. There are some opportunities in organisations offering vocational and basic skills training to young people and adults, for example those on government work-based training schemes.
It's also possible to work overseas as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher. Voluntary and charitable institutions will have opportunities.
Many FE teachers have portfolio careers and are employed by a number of organisations, sometimes on short-term contracts, while also working in their specialist area outside of education.
Look for job vacancies at:
College websites and specialist recruitment agencies such as Protocol also advertise vacancies.
If you've completed a Level 5 or above qualification in education and training, you can apply to the Society for Education and Training (SET) for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status. You'll need to have SET membership and complete a process of professional formation to show you can use the skills and knowledge you gained during your training effectively in your work.
QTLS status is equal to qualified teacher status (QTS), which primary and secondary school teachers hold. Having QTLS shows your knowledge and skills are at a certain professional level and can help with career development. To find out more see the Society for Education and Training: Gaining QTLS.
If you become a member of SET, you'll need to carry out continuing professional development (CPD). SET provides an online resource for recording CPD activities and also has various CPD resources including webinars, online learning programmes, toolkits and workshops.
A range of CPD courses is also available from The Education and Training Foundation, the national support body for the further education and training sector.
With the right combination of experience and qualifications it's possible to progress to senior lecturer, curriculum manager, head of department or divisional manager roles. Competition for these roles can be fierce due to the relatively small number of posts available.
You could also move into college management in areas such as:
- human resources
- quality standards.
Management posts often require relevant professional qualifications and experience, and also attract qualified applicants from outside the education sector.
Alternatively, you could take on additional non-teaching responsibilities, such as working in a pastoral role or as an admissions tutor. Some further education teachers retrain to become support tutors, for example providing one-to-one support for students with dyslexia.
It's also possible to move into other branches of education, such as higher education or training. If you're a member of SET and have QTLS status, you can work as a qualified teacher in a school.
There are also opportunities to work as a personal tutor, working with students in their own homes.