Further education (FE) teachers are responsible for teaching one or more subjects in any of the following settings:

  • a general or specialist college of FE;
  • sixth form colleges;
  • adult and community education centres;
  • universities;
  • prisons and youth offender organisations;
  • voluntary and charity organisations;
  • work-based learning.

They teach at all levels, from entry level to foundation degrees and professional qualifications. Courses may lead to general, vocational, or academic qualifications which prepare students for work or higher education (HE), or may support personal interest, e.g. hobby or leisure subjects.

Although FE teachers work mainly with post-16 and/or adult learners, they are increasingly expected to work with those aged 14 to 19 who are studying vocational subjects.

Responsibilities

Tasks include:

  • planning and preparing lessons;
  • teaching across a range of qualification types and levels, in day or evening classes or open access workshops;
  • researching and developing new topics, courses and teaching materials, including online resources;
  • teaching large and small groups of learners from a range of backgrounds, abilities and ages;
  • monitoring, assessing and marking students' work;
  • maintaining accurate records and monitoring students' progress;
  • setting and overseeing examinations and liaising with awarding bodies to ensure quality standards are met;
  • carrying out a pastoral role as a personal tutor to students;
  • conducting tutorials on a one-to-one basis with learners;
  • planning additional support for students, as necessary;
  • contributing to course team meetings to monitor, review and evaluate relevant courses;
  • representing the college at parents' evenings, taster days, open days and careers or education conventions;
  • maintaining knowledge of, and implementing, college policies;
  • interviewing potential students and conducting diagnostic assessments as necessary;
  • liaising with other educational professionals and organisations;
  • organising work experience and carrying out learner assessments in the workplace, as appropriate;
  • undertaking a range of administrative tasks.

Salary

  • As an unqualified further education (FE) teacher you could expect to earn £19,008 to £22,575. A qualified FE teacher can earn between £23,952 and £36,162.
  • Typical salaries at advanced teaching and training levels are in the region of £36,000 to £40,000. Within leadership and management roles, salaries can significantly exceed this.

The above rates are recommended for England by the University and College Union (UCU). Information for rates in Wales and Northern Ireland can be found on the UCU website. Salary information for Scotland is available from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS).

Colleges are also able to negotiate their own salary scales with the national trade unions, such as the UCU and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Many FE teachers work part time or on a sessional basis. Part-time hourly rates vary from £15, to more than £30 per hour, plus holiday pay/entitlement.

Salaries vary according to teaching and industrial experience, qualifications, subject demand, institution and geographical location. It is possible to supplement income by various means, e.g. private tuition, evening classes, national examination marking, teaching on residential courses, external consultancy work or writing textbooks.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Typical working hours for full-time college teachers are 37 hours a week, sometimes including one or more evening sessions. Extra hours are required for planning and preparation of lessons, marking students' work and attending meetings and open evenings, especially during term time.

What to expect

  • 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.
  • Jobs are widely available. Opportunities exist in FE and training institutions in most major towns and cities throughout the country.
  • Work is mainly institution-based, but the specific environment (e.g. classroom, laboratory or workshop) depends on the subject taught. Some of the work may include field trips or study visits. Where appropriate, some teaching may take place on employer premises.
  • Extensive travel during the working day is uncommon, but may occasionally be required between sites and institutions, or for field trips. Visits to employers' premises may be required to see students who are on work experience or taking courses that involve day-release or work-based learning.
  • Overnight absence from home is uncommon, as is overseas work or travel.

Qualifications

You can become a further education (FE) teacher without a teaching qualification, but you will have better prospects of getting a job and further promotion if you have a relevant qualification. Individual institutions will 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 does not have a placement and that 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, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL), mathematics or special educational needs (SEN).

You can go straight into the Level 5 qualification without having completed the other lower levels. If you have 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 will usually need to be employed in a teaching role or be able to organise your own teaching practice placement.

Entry requirements vary depending on the course provider, although a minimum Level 2 qualification in English, mathematics and ICT, such as GCSEs or equivalent, is usually required. For the specialist pathway, you will need knowledge and skills at Level 3 in the subject you wish to teach.

PGCEs (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in post-compulsory education are available and 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. You will 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 does not require a degree. Instead you will need a Level 3 qualification in the area you wish to teach or extensive experience.

There is not a central site that lists all courses, however, a small, but increasing, number of courses use the UCAS Teacher Training application system.

Bursaries are available if you wish to train to teach mathematics, English or special educational needs (SEN). The amount you may receive varies depending on the subject and your degree classification. More information is available from FE Advice.

Skills

You need to show evidence of the following:

  • in-depth knowledge of your subject;
  • written and verbal communication skills;
  • interpersonal skills and the ability to relate to students of all ages and abilities;
  • organisation and planning skills;
  • enthusiasm, motivation and commitment;
  • patience and a sense of humour.

Employers

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 (not in 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, although these are determined by geographic availability.

FE teachers may also work in the Prison Service (whose education service is usually contracted out to FE colleges), in the armed forces education branch and 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.

Overseas work, e.g. teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), is a possibility. Voluntary and charitable institutions may also offer openings.

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 in other capacities outside education.

Look for job vacancies at:

Some colleges use recruitment agencies, such as Protocol, to fill part-time, full-time and occasional posts.

Not all jobs are advertised so you will need to be proactive in your jobseeking. Use placements, visits and voluntary work as opportunities to network and be prepared to contact colleges directly.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

As well as training for the required qualifications, in-service training is usually provided to update existing skills and knowledge and to develop new skills.

If you complete a Level 5 qualification in education and training, you will be able to apply to the Society for Education and Training (SET) for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status. You will also need to have SET membership and Level 2 or higher literacy and numeracy qualifications.

QTLS status is equal to QTS (qualified teacher status), which primary and secondary school teachers hold. Having QTLS demonstrates 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 will need to show a commitment to 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 courses and events are available from The Education and Training Foundation (ETF). These include programmes to increase the standards of teaching and learning in English and maths and an apprenticeship support programme for help with delivering the apprenticeship system.

It also runs the Excellence in Leadership, Management and Governance (ELMAG) online portal, which includes courses on strategy and vision, organisational management and curriculum design.

Career prospects

It is possible to progress to senior lecturer, curriculum manager, head of department or divisional manager. However, restricted college budgets have resulted in fewer management posts.

Career development is also possible by taking 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.

You could move into college management in areas such as:

  • admissions;
  • finance;
  • guidance;
  • human resources;
  • quality standards.

Management posts often require relevant professional qualifications and experience and attract suitably qualified applicants from outside the education sector. Therefore, it may be necessary to pursue appropriate professional qualifications while working as a teacher, such as an MBA or an NVQ in Advice and Guidance.

It is also possible to move into other branches of education, such as higher education or training. If you are a member of SET and have Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status, you can work as a qualified teacher in a school.

You could work as a personal tutor, working with students in their own homes.