Are you Considering a career in teaching? This guide is designed just for you. It gives you information about, personal qualities, qualifications, and next steps.

  • The personal  qualities and skills you will need to become a teacher
  • The qualifications you  will need
  • How to find out more about teaching as a career

What personal qualities do teachers need?

You definitely need to be a TEAM PLAYER. Teachers work daily with Teaching Assistants and other professionals so you really need to be able to work well with others.  You will need to be comfortable with giving instructions to other adults as well as the pupils. Also, situations often change quickly in school, so whether it is changing your lesson because the photocopier is broken or having to take a lesson for a colleague at a moment’s notice, flexibility is a key skill.

You need to be a great COMMUNICATOR. In a typical working day you will be speaking to other staff, students, school management and parents, not to mention other professionals. You need to be able to communicate effectively and build a good rapport with all of these different groups. Of course, communicating well with your pupils and students is of paramount importance when teaching.

You need to be an ENTHUISIASTIC LEARNER. Ideas and practice in education change and develop all the time, sometimes at a dizzying pace. You need to keep yourself up to date with the latest thinking both in your subject and in the wider field of education. Your training is never over.

You definitely need to be RESILIENT and TENACIOUS. Teaching can be a very stressful job. While training and all the way through your career you will be observed and given feedback. There will be times when you will be criticised and setbacks in your day to day working life. You need to be able to take all this in your stride.

It is important to be REFLECTIVE as a teacher. Thinking about how your lessons went, (whether successful or unsuccessful) and learning from that experience is an ongoing process throughout a teacher’s career.

One key quality it that you must have a GENUINE LIKING FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE. Without this you will definitely not enjoy the work.  When you are thinking about which age groups you may like to work with, this is a key consideration. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that one age group is “easier” to teach than another, they’re not! Each stage has its own characteristics and challenges, so it is important to consider where you might feel most comfortable.

Despite what people may say about leaving at 3pm and having long holidays, do not consider teaching unless you are WILLING TO WORK LONG HOURS.  Surveys regularly find that teachers work far in excess of their contracted hours, with many working over 55 hours a week in term time.  Most teachers work in the evenings and at weekends to prepare lessons and assess work, as well as complete admin tasks.

It is also crucial that you are ABLE TO ORGANISE YOUR OWN WORKLOAD. One of the key skills a teacher needs is great time management. As well as keeping your classroom in good order, you need to keep on top of all the tasks you need to do, many of which have deadlines.

What qualifications do teachers need?


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.


If you don’t already have a degree, you are going to need one! There are 2 undergraduate routes;

  • Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree – more focused on teaching and learning – a good choice if you are sure you want to be a teacher, especially in primary.
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees with QTS – more focused on subject knowledge, more often offered for secondary teaching.

Trainees on these courses spend up to 50% of their time in schools, with less time in the first year, building up to more time in the final year of the course.

These can take up to four years, depending on the course and your previous undergraduate credits. Apply through UCAS, or direct to the University in Northern Ireland. 

If you already have a degree, there are several Postgraduate routes into teaching.

University Route

The traditional PGCE route of a year-long course based at a University with at least 24 weeks in school is still the most popular. Nearly 56% of trainee teachers chose this route in 2014/2015. If you are training in Scotland or Northern Ireland, this is the only route available. This gives trainees a great deal of support, as it involves several placements and also access to University facilities and experts.

School Based Routes

School Direct (tuition fee) or (non-salaried)

This is a school based course for which fees are payable. You will gain experience in at least two schools during your training.

School Direct (salaried)

This is also based in school, but you are paid as an unqualified teacher while you train and don’t pay any fees. You may have to pay extra to gain a PGCE. You will usually need three years’ work experience, but it does not need to be in education.

In both School Direct Schemes, it is highly likely that successful trainees will be offered a job at the school where they train. The scheme takes one year to complete.

School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)

As the name suggests, these courses are also run in schools, this time often in close partnership with a University.

Apply via UCAS for all of these training schemes.

In Wales, the Welsh Graduate Teacher Programme also places trainee teachers in school to complete their training.

If you chose a school-led programme, check whether it includes a PGCE and/or Master’s level credits. While you only need to have QTS to be a qualified teacher, the PGCE is an internationally recognised qualification and Master’s credits will be helpful if you decide to pursue a Master’s degree.

One disadvantage of choosing a school-based route is that you will not gain experience across a range of schools, although you can expect to spend time in at least two schools.

School based training can be very convenient if you are not able to move to attend your training, as it is available across the country, not just at Universities

Professional Skills Tests

In order to be awarded QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) you also need to pass the Professional skills tests in Numeracy and Literacy. These can be taken before you start training or during your course. These tests are computerised and can be taken at over 50 locations across the country. There is more information on the dedicated DFE website

DBS check

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.

Your training institution or school will apply for and pay for this, although if you go into supply teaching you may have to obtain another one and pay for it yourself.

Self Disclosure

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.

I’m still not sure, how can I find out more?

GET SOME WORK EXPERIENCE, try different age ranges. Most schools are very willing to offer work experience to prospective teachers. Not only will this give you an insight into classroom life, which may be very different from your own experience of school, it can provide a valuable reference when applying for training.