Becoming a secondary school teacher offers you the chance to teach a subject you love and engage pupils in learning and preparing for their future

Secondary school teachers support, observe and record the progress of pupils aged 11 to 18. Teaching the national curriculum, you'll plan lessons in line with national objectives, with the aim of ensuring a healthy culture of learning.

Teachers must keep up to date with developments in their subject area, new resources, methods and national objectives. The role involves liaising and networking with other professionals, parents and carers, both informally and formally.

Responsibilities

As a secondary school teacher, you'll need to:

  • prepare and deliver lessons to a range of classes of different ages and abilities
  • mark work, give appropriate feedback and maintain records of pupils' progress and development
  • research new topic areas, maintaining up-to-date subject knowledge, and devise and write new curriculum materials
  • select and use a range of different learning resources and equipment, including podcasts and interactive whiteboards
  • prepare pupils for qualifications and external examinations
  • manage pupil behaviour in the classroom and on school premises, and apply appropriate and effective measures in cases of misbehaviour
  • undertake pastoral duties, such as taking on the role of form tutor, and supporting pupils on an individual basis through academic or personal difficulties
  • communicate with parents and carers over pupils' progress and participate in departmental meetings, parents' evenings and whole-school training events
  • liaise with other professionals, such as learning mentors, careers advisers, educational psychologists and education welfare officers
  • supervise and support the work of teaching assistants, trainee teachers and newly qualified teachers (NQTs)
  • participate in and organise extracurricular activities, such as outings, social activities and sporting events
  • undergo regular observations and participate in regular in-service training (INSET) as part of continuing professional development (CPD).

Salary

  • NQTs in England and Wales start on the main pay range, which rises incrementally from £23,720 to £35,008 (excluding London and its fringes). For inner London, the range is £29,664 to £40,372.
  • Salaries on the main scale in Northern Ireland range from £22,243 to £32,509.
  • In Scotland, salaries on the main grade scale range from £22,866 to £36,480. In addition, in some parts of Scotland it may be possible to obtain a Distant Islands Allowance or Remote Schools Allowance. NQTs will receive an additional payment of £8,000 under the Preference Waiver Scheme if they agree to work anywhere in Scotland for their induction year.

Academies and free schools set their own pay and working conditions.

Teachers may move into Key Stage or year leader, mentoring and management roles. Management roles in particular attract considerable salary increases.

Teachers may be able to supplement their income through private tuition, national exam marking, teaching evening classes or writing textbooks.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

39 weeks of the year are allocated for teaching, but teachers often use time within their 13 weeks' holiday for marking, planning and preparing.

Hours vary between schools, but are usually from 8.30am until 3.30pm or 4pm. Most teachers are in school before the school day starts and remain after school is finished. Marking and preparation is usually done at home.

Teachers often teach five periods a day, with lunchtimes sometimes being taken up by extracurricular or pastoral duties.

Part-time work and career break opportunities are possible. Supply teaching is an attractive and flexible option for some.

What to expect

  • It's likely you'll have to give up extra hours of your time for parents' evenings, Ofsted inspection preparation, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and sport, drama and field trips.
  • Geographical mobility can improve your employment prospects, but jobs are available in most areas, especially in towns and cities, throughout the UK.
  • You won't necessarily have a base classroom, and may have to carry books and equipment from room to room between lessons.
  • Trips with pupils or staff development opportunities may occasionally involve staying away from home and/or overseas travel.

Qualifications

Teacher training providers set their own entry requirements. The minimum requirements are at least a GCSE grade C/grade 4 (grade B in Wales) in English and mathematics, as well as a degree. If you don't have these qualifications, approach institutions before submitting an application, as some offer special tests for GCSEs or will be able to confirm if your qualification is equivalent to a degree.

You'll also need to satisfactorily pass checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service for England and Wales (or the equivalent check in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

Undergraduate degree courses: If you're yet to take a degree, you could complete a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a BA/BSc with qualified teacher status (QTS) for England and Wales, or teaching qualification (TQ) in Scotland.

Independent schools, free schools and academies may employ teachers without QTS although, in practice, this is uncommon.

Postgraduate teacher training: If you already have a degree, you'll need to complete a postgraduate teacher training course, which leads to QTS in England and Wales or TQ in Scotland.

You can find postgraduate teacher training courses led by schools or universities across England and Wales. The course you choose will depend on your subject, degree class and location. Whichever course you choose, your training will largely be the same. In Scotland, the main graduate entry route into teaching is the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) led by universities.

You can find non-salaried and salaried postgraduate teacher training courses led by a school or university in England by using the Department for Education's Find a teaching training course search tool. For Wales, you can search for courses on UCAS Teacher Training and for Scotland, search via UCAS.

You can apply for courses for England and Wales in the autumn through UCAS Teacher Training and in Scotland through UCAS. Northern Irish universities recruit directly. For full details, see applying for teacher training.

Other courses: Teach First offers the opportunity to teach for two years in challenging schools and complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), after which you can either stay in teaching or move on to roles in the public sector or business. Applications are made directly through the Teach First website.

Detailed information about routes into teacher training can be found on the following websites:

If you're an overseas student wishing to come and teach in the UK you can find up-to-date information on the Get into Teaching website.

It's possible to gain Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status as an equivalent to QTS. This professional status can be achieved by successfully completing professional formation, a process that enables you to demonstrate the effective use of skills and knowledge in your professional practice. You can find details about QTLS on the Society for Education and Training website.

Although training is open to all graduates, a degree related to a national curriculum subject increases your chances of obtaining a place. Your pre-university education may also be taken into account. Many institutions offer subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses in several subjects if your degree isn't related to the subject you want to teach.

Current priority subjects include:

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • computing
  • design and technology
  • English
  • geography
  • languages
  • mathematics
  • physics
  • primary with maths
  • religious education.

In England, trainee teachers must pass national skills tests in numeracy and literacy before starting their teacher training. You'll need to take these tests as part of the teacher training application process and must pass the tests before starting your course.

The majority of courses are fee funded, which could attract a tax-free bursary and, if you're eligible, the same funding as your undergraduate degree from Student Finance. Alternatively, there is a possibility to earn a salary while you train in England and Wales.

Full details of postgraduate teacher training bursaries and funding in England is available on the Get into Teaching website. For Scotland refer to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) and for Wales, see Discover Teaching. You can also find student finance information on the government Teacher training funding pages. In Northern Ireland, PGCE students may be eligible for awards from their education authority.

Skills

You'll need to have:

  • respect for children and an interest in helping them develop both academically and as people
  • excellent communication skills for working with children, other teachers and parents
  • good listening skills
  • the capacity to learn quickly
  • strong organisational skills
  • the ability to inspire and enthuse children
  • energy, resourcefulness, responsibility and patience
  • a caring nature and an understanding of the needs and feelings of children
  • the ability to work independently, as well as part of a team
  • a sense of humour and the ability to keep things in perspective
  • creativity
  • a good knowledge of the subject you're going to teach.

To find out more about the attributes you'll need, see essential skills for secondary school teachers.

Work experience

Having classroom experience, for example through the School Experience Programme (SEP), will help you make a strong application to initial teacher training. Many secondary schools are also happy to accept volunteer work experience placements. Find out more about volunteering in schools.

If you have other experience with children outside of the classroom, for example through sports, play schemes, summer camps, youth clubs, tutoring or mentoring, this may strengthen your application, as it will show you have a genuine interest in working with children.

You'll need to be familiar with the national curriculum for your subject and be able to show enthusiasm, motivation, commitment and strong communication skills.

Employers

Most secondary school teachers work in maintained or local authority (LA) schools. QTS is usually required to teach in independent schools and it's now possible to complete the induction period in an independent school.

Some secondary teachers take on supply work through an agency or arrange supply work directly with schools. Supply work offers flexibility, which suits some people, although it's less stable than a permanent contract.

Once you're trained and have gained some experience you could look for positions overseas. Many countries expect a teacher to have qualifications gained in that country, but it's sometimes possible to negotiate terms. Opportunities are available through international schools and in schools for the families of the armed forces.

Some teachers go on exchange programmes to other parts of the world, and some do voluntary work in developing countries through organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist teaching recruitment agencies include:

Many LAs send recruitment leaflets to universities and most have useful recruitment websites. Vacancies may occur at any time, but most are advertised in May, when teachers not returning in September hand in their notice.

Professional development

Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) serve a three-term induction (full-time equivalent of one school year) or probationary period of assessment, usually completed in a single school year, upon successful completion of qualified teacher status (QTS) being confirmed.

This is a period of rapid, supported development and additional assistance, consolidating what you've learned during teacher training. There are two main aspects:

  • an individual programme of professional development and monitoring
  • an assessment against the national induction standards.

During the induction period, you'll be monitored and supported, have a reduced timetable, and work on areas identified for development during your teacher training.

In-service training is available to all teachers, both in-house and at LA training centres. Training topics include:

  • curriculum issues
  • pastoral care
  • new initiatives
  • special needs
  • subject leadership
  • technology - including child protection and online exploitation training.

Some teachers pursue higher qualifications, such as an MEd or MBA, on a part-time basis, depending on their career aims. Professional qualifications for school managers are also available.

Career prospects

Career progression may be through a specialist curriculum or pastoral role, or by moving into management. You may become a head of department, head of year or coordinator of a cross-curricular area, such as special needs or careers education, as well as subject or professional mentors for trainee teachers on placement.

You could take on additional responsibility as a leading practitioner, in which you would share excellent classroom practice, knowledge and expertise with colleagues in their own schools and other schools in the locality. You would receive additional pay and increased non-contact time for this.

Accelerated leadership development programmes, including the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) for teachers who are aiming to become head teachers or principals, are provided by a range of providers. See the List of national professional qualifications (NPQs) providers.

Moving out of schools and into other related jobs is also an option, such as further education lecturing, school inspection with Ofsted, advisory or consultancy roles, initial teacher training and administration in LEAs or examination boards. You could also consider a move into education work in museums, art galleries and zoos.

There are some opportunities for self-employment, which include private tutoring, writing educational materials or running a small private school.