As a secondary school teacher you can teach a subject you love and engage pupils in learning and preparing for their future
As a secondary school teacher you'll teach pupils aged 11 to 16 (or up to 18 if the school has a sixth form). Specialising in a particular subject, you'll plan, teach and assess lessons in line with curriculum objectives.
You'll aim to ensure a healthy culture of learning and will support, observe and record pupils' progress.
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.
As a secondary school teacher, you'll need to:
- prepare and deliver lessons to 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 early career teachers (ECTs)
- organise and participate in extracurricular activities, such as outings, lunchtime clubs, social activities and sporting events
- undergo regular observations and participate in regular in-service training (INSET) as part of continuing professional development (CPD).
- New entrants to the profession in England start on the main salary scale, which rises incrementally from £28,000 to £38,810 (2022/23 academic year). Enhanced pay scales apply for teachers working in or near London.
- In Wales, new entrants start on a salary of £28,866, rising incrementally to £39,873 (2022/23).
- Salaries for new entrants in Northern Ireland start at £24,137, rising incrementally to £35,277 (from September 2020).
- In Scotland, the new entrants' starting salary is £28,113, plus any payments made through the Preference Waiver Payment (PWP) scheme, rising incrementally to £42,336 (from January 2022)
- After gaining experience and expertise, there are opportunities to move up into the role of leading practitioner in England and Wales. In Scotland there are opportunities to move into chartered, lead and then principal teacher roles.
- Salaries for head teachers/principals can rise to in excess of £100,000 depending on a range of factors such as the size and type of school, location, your experience and track record, and specialist skills and knowledge.
Academies, free schools and independent schools set their own pay and working conditions.
Teachers may move into Key Stage or year leader, mentoring, pastoral and management roles. Management roles in particular attract considerable salary increases.
Further details on teaching pay awards and pay negotiations are available from the teaching unions. Salary information for England is also available on the Department for Education (DfE) teaching website.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Teachers are in school for 39 weeks of the year. 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.
Teachers are entitled to a minimum of 10% of timetabled teaching time for planning, preparation and assessment (PPA). Teachers also often spend time at home planning and preparing lessons and assessing pupils' work.
Part-time work and career break opportunities are possible. Supply teaching is also an option. For more information on working hours, see the NASWUT, The Teachers' Union.
What to expect
- You won't necessarily have a base classroom, and may have to carry books and equipment from room to room between lessons.
- You may have to work extra hours for parents' evenings, Ofsted inspection preparation, breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and sport, drama and field trips.
- Jobs are available in most areas, especially in towns and cities, throughout the UK.
- There may be occasional trips with pupils, or staff development opportunities, which involve staying away from home and/or overseas travel.
To work as a secondary school teacher in a state-maintained school in England, you must have a degree and achieve qualified teacher status (QTS) by completing a period of initial teacher training (ITT). QTS is awarded by the Teaching Regulation Agency. Independent schools, academies and free schools are permitted to employ teachers without QTS but, in practice, this is uncommon.
In order to achieve QTS you can take an undergraduate secondary BA/BSc/BEd Hons with QTS. Training focuses on gaining specialist knowledge in your chosen subject and being able to pass this on effectively to secondary school pupils. You will spend a lot of time in the classroom learning from experienced teachers. For a list of subject-specific degrees with QTS, use the UCAS Course Search.
However, if you already have a degree, you can gain QTS in a number of other ways. One of the most popular ways is to study for a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) with QTS. Courses combine substantial teaching placements with academic study. Courses are available at many universities and colleges of higher education.
Another option is to complete a one-year training programme with a school or group of schools through school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) or School Direct (fee-funded). Training led by schools will offer QTS and most offer the academic qualification of a PGCE.
There are also some opportunities to complete salaried teacher training. Options to undertake on-the-job training while earning a salary include:
In most, but not all cases, a PGCE accredited by a higher education institution (HEI) will be awarded.
For university or college-led PGCEs, PGDEs, SCITTs and School Direct programmes in England you must apply through the Department for Education's Apply for teacher training service.
Teacher training providers set their own entry requirements. You'll need a degree or equivalent in, or closely related to, the subject you want to teach, as well as GCSE grade 4/C or above in English and mathematics. Your pre-university education, for example A-levels, may also be taken into account. For more information about obtaining QTS, explore your options at Train to be a teacher.
Many institutions offer subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses in several subjects if you're unsure that you have enough knowledge of the subject you want to teach.
There are currently SKE courses offered in nine secondary subjects:
- design and technology
- religious education.
The Assessment Only (AO) route leading to QTS is possible for candidates who have a degree alongside a substantial amount of teaching experience in the UK, but who do not have QTS. You will need your employer's support for this route and will have to apply directly to an approved provider.
In Wales, you'll need to achieve QTS by completing a programme of initial teacher education (ITE). You must also register with the Education Workforce Council (EWC). If you've already got a degree you can study for a PGCE in your chosen subject. Applications are made via UCAS.
Alternatively, you can apply for a two-year, school-based salaried PGCE, which combines full-time work in a non-teaching role linked to learning (such as a teaching assistant) with part-time study. There is also a two-year, part-time PGCE available. This self-funded route is aimed at those who want to fit teacher training around their current job. For information on both these options, see The Open University.
In Scotland, you'll need a degree and a Teaching Qualification (TQ) gained through undertaking a programme of ITE to qualify as a teacher. You must also register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). All teacher training programmes are university-led and you can take either a four-year undergraduate programme or a one-year Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Applications are made via UCAS for all courses.
To teach in Northern Ireland, you must have a degree and a recognised teacher training qualification, gained by taking either a four-year undergraduate BEd or a one-year PGCE, and must register with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). Applications for the PGCE are made direct to the course provider, usually in November or December.
For information on teacher training in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales see:
If you trained in Scotland or Northern Ireland and want to teach in England, you'll need to apply for QTS. Information for teachers who've qualified outside the UK is available at GOV.UK - qualify to teach in England.
Find out more about funding for teacher training.
As well as knowledge of the subject you're going to teach, you'll also need to have:
- respect for children and an interest in helping them develop both academically and as people
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills for working with children, other teachers and parents
- listening skills and the ability to reflect on your teaching practice
- strong teamworking skills and the ability to collaborate with other staff and education professionals on a range of initiatives
- strong planning, organisation and time-management skills
- the ability to inspire and motivate pupils
- imagination, resourcefulness, creativity and a sense of humour
- good judgement and an analytical mind
- the ability to use your initiative and think on your feet
- a commitment to equal opportunities and the ability to use a variety of strategies and practices to promote the diverse cultural and equality issues in the classroom
- a commitment to the safeguarding and welfare of all students
- patience and dedication
- leadership and supervisory skills
- energy, stamina and resilience
- self-discipline and self-motivation
- a commitment to lifelong learning and professional development.
You will also need a satisfactory health record and criminal record check.
Having classroom experience will help you make a strong application to initial teacher training/education. 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.
You can use the Get school experience service (England only) to request school experience in a secondary school. Many secondary schools are happy to accept volunteer work experience placements. Find out more about volunteering in schools.
You could also arrange to visit schools to observe and talk to teachers. Ask if you can help a teacher with non-teaching duties on a regular basis. Try to do this over an extended period, rather than just before you apply for a PGCE/PGDE.
Attend open days and taster courses organised through schools and universities. You can also contact your university careers service or school of education to find out about any local opportunities to gain experience in schools.
A post as a teaching assistant, learning mentor or laboratory technician, for example, could also give you valuable experience.
You can also get experience of working with children outside of the classroom through, for example:
- sports coaching
- play schemes and summer camps
- Scouts and Explorers, and Guides and Rangers
- youth clubs
- tutoring or mentoring.
This experience will show you have a genuine interest in working with children.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Many secondary school teachers work in state schools, which receive funding either from the local authority (LA) or directly from government. These include:
- community schools (also known as LA maintained schools) - follow the national curriculum and aren't influenced by any business or religious groups
- foundation schools and voluntary schools - funded by the LA but have more control over how they do things and may be supported by religious groups
- free schools - funded by government on a not-for-profit basis but aren't run by the LA and don't have to follow the national curriculum
- academies and multi-academy trusts - receive funding directly from the government, are independent from the LA and are run by an academy trust with more freedom and the option to follow a different curriculum. Multi-academy trusts are groups of academies that have come together to form a charitable company (although individual schools still remain as separate units)
- grammar schools - run by either the LA, a foundation body or an academy trust and pupils must sit an entrance test.
You can also work in independent schools (also known as private schools), which charge fees, rather than being funded by government, and don't have to follow the national curriculum. Independent schools must be registered with the government.
Find out more about the different types of school.
Some secondary teachers take on supply work through an agency or arrange supply work directly with schools. Although less stable than a permanent contract, the flexibility of supply work may suit some people.
Once trained and experienced, some teachers look for positions overseas. Many countries expect a teacher to have qualifications gained in that country, but sometimes there are reciprocal agreements in place.
Some teachers go on exchange programmes to other parts of the world, such as the USA. Others undertake voluntary work in developing countries through organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).
Opportunities are also available through international schools and in schools for the families of the armed forces.
Look for job vacancies at:
- The Guardian - Education Jobs
- myjobscotland - LA teaching jobs in Scotland.
- Teaching Vacancies - job-listing service from the DfE (England only).
- Tes Jobs
- local authority websites.
Specialist teaching recruitment agencies also handle vacancies. These include:
Many LAs send recruitment leaflets to universities and most have useful recruitment websites. Vacancies may occur at any time, but the peak time for jobs is between February and June.
Once you've gained QTS, you must complete a two-year induction period (or part-time equivalent) as an early career teacher (ECT). During this time you must demonstrate that you meet the Teachers' Standards (England). You'll have a structured programme of support, a dedicated mentor and an induction tutor, as well as a reduced teaching load. This time should be used for professional development, observation and assessment activities.
You can carry out your induction period in state schools (except those in special measures). You can also undertake induction in independent schools, free schools and academies, although they don't have to offer it. It's also possible to carry out your induction period through supply teaching (contracts must last for a minimum of one term).
In Wales, the induction period for newly qualified teachers (NQT) is one year and you must meet the Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership (Wales).
For more information on the induction period in England and Wales, see the National Education Union - Your guide to induction.
To meet the standard for full registration (SFR) with the GTCS in Scotland, you must undertake a period of probationary teaching after completing your PGDE. Most probationers join the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS), a guaranteed one-year probationary teaching post with a Scottish local authority school. There is also a flexible route available. The majority of teachers then apply to advertised vacancies or work in supply posts. You've got up to three years to obtain the SFR, although most probationers meet it within the year.
For information on the induction period in Northern Ireland, see the Education Authority.
In-service training is available and teachers are encouraged to pursue continuing professional development (CPD) relevant to their own responsibilities and the development needs of the school. Training takes place in-house on teacher training days or at regional training centres run by local authorities.
Topics often covered include:
- curriculum issues
- target setting and assessment
- special needs
- subject leadership
- pastoral care
- new initiatives
Some teachers study on a part-time basis for higher qualifications such as a Masters in education (MEd) or a Masters in business administration (MBA), depending on their career aims.
Professional qualifications for school managers are also available.
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 a subject or professional mentor for trainee teachers on placement.
Classroom expertise is recognised by the status of Leading Practitioner (LP) in England and Wales. You'll still work in the classroom but will have extra responsibilities. LPs share their knowledge and expertise with colleagues to model and lead the improvement of teaching skills.
There is a suite of national professional qualifications (NPQs) available in England, designed to support the professional development of teachers and school leaders at all levels. Find out more about NPQs.
Organisations such as the Ambition Institute and Education Scotland run training programmes for aspiring leaders. Leadership can include roles ranging from responsibility for a year group or key stage to deputy or head teacher positions.
As a head teacher, you'll have a great deal of influence and responsibility for areas such as pupils and staff, financial management, the school's systems and processes, standards and ensuring continuous improvement.
Some teachers move out of schools and into further or higher education or other related jobs, such as:
- advisory or consultancy roles
- education officer - often employed at museums, art galleries and zoos
- examination board administration
- initial teacher training/education
- local education authority work
- Ofsted inspection.
There are some opportunities for self-employment. These include:
- private tutoring, including franchise opportunities
- writing educational materials
- running out-of-school clubs in your subject
- running a small private school.
Many of the skills gained as a teacher are also valued by employers outside education. Some teachers retrain for other careers, such as social work, guidance work or management roles within the public or private sector, where they continue to use the skills acquired in teaching.