Thinking of changing careers into teaching? Teaching can be a very rewarding career whatever your previous experience. Employers value life experience outside of the education system, so don’t think that your age will count against you when applying for jobs.

There are a few things you need to know:

  • You must have a C or above in GCSE English and Maths, or an equivalent qualification. To teach in Early Years and Primary schools, you also need Science GCSE.  It may be possible to gain these alongside teacher training, if you do not already have them, or you might consider taking them at a local college before you start.
  • You will either need to have a degree or be willing to study for one to become a teacher.
  • Before training or working in a school or college in England or Wales, you will need to have a satisfactory enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check. In Scotland you will need a Disclosure, and in Northern Ireland a Criminal Record check. This ensures that adults in schools and colleges do not have any convictions which would bar them from working with children.
  • Staff working in Nursery and Primary schools also usually need to complete a self disclosure form, on which you must disclose if anyone in your household has a conviction of a violent crime or a crime against children. In some instances you may be barred from working with children if you live with someone convicted of such an offence.


If you are seriously considering changing to a career in teaching, the most valuable thing you can do is get some work experience in a school. This will help you to decide which age range you want to teach and give you an insight into life in a school. It might be very different from your experience of school as a pupil! 

Primary school teachers have to deliver the whole curriculum, so you need to be a good “all rounder”. Working in a secondary school, you will have the opportunity to work with students up to A level and impart a real love of your subject. Consider too how you would feel working with different ages of pupil. If you do not really enjoy the company of the children you teach, you will not find teaching very enjoyable.

If you do not have a degree, you need to consider if you will study for a degree with QTs (Qualified Teacher Status) or choose to study a degree and then undertake post graduate teacher training.

If you already have a degree, you will need to find a suitable training place to gain QTs (Qualified Teacher Status). 

For candidates wishing to teach at Secondary level, you can teach a subject related to your degree, or of course your degree subject itself. Depending on your needs, you can take a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course to top up your knowledge. These are widely available and can be accessed in some colleges and universities as well as online.

Some career changers worry about their finances while training. Naturally if you have financial commitments, losing a year’s salary is a big barrier to taking the course. Teacher training courses are subject to tuition fees. They are also eligible for student finance to cover fees and maintenance. If your circumstances would make this difficult, there are some ways into teaching which provide an income during training.

Schools Direct (salaried) is designed for people with three or more year’s work experience and trainees are paid as unqualified teachers while they train.

For candidates with a 2:1 or above, Teach First is a two year course which offers an unqualified teacher salary in the first year and a newly qualified teacher salary in the second. It is primarily designed to develop people for leadership.

Depending on the age range and subject you study, non repayable bursaries are also available. Check on the Get into Teaching  website for the latest information.

It may also be possible to fit evening or weekend work around teacher training, but bear in mind that the training itself is very demanding.

Why consider a career in teaching?

Teaching has many benefits for career changers; some are energised by working with young people.  Others are drawn to the job by the opportunity to make a real difference to the life chances of children. Having experience from other types of work will have given you skills which will be really useful in the classroom. Managerial experience gained elsewhere can help you to progress into leadership more quickly.

Don’t run away with the idea that teaching is an easy option, it isn’t. You are “on-show” to the pupils for up to five hours a day. The workload can be hectic at certain times of the year, and there is a real pressure to improve results. Career changers often bring with them skills that can help them to tackle this.