You may have heard that careers in teaching and education are pretty easy; you teach a few kids some basic stuff, you scribble on people’s essays in bright red pen, write some cryptic school reports and then take ridiculously long holidays for most of the year. Alternatively, you may have heard that teaching the youth of tomorrow is an absolute nightmare; you have to deal with a rabble of children that are aggressive, unruly and totally resistant to your attempts to teach them the finer points of the periodic table.
Well, to be honest, that’s not entirely true.
So before you make the decision to get into teaching and education, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.
The truth about teaching & education
Careers in teaching and education are arguably the most important in the world. It’s all about helping people to learn, develop and acquire knowledge, information and skills.
From a very young age, everyone goes to school or is educated in some way. Most people stay in education until the age of at least 16, and many carry on to the next step and do A-levels, HNDs, BTECs or other types of further education. Many people go to university to do an undergraduate degree and perhaps even pursue postgraduate study afterwards.
Some people even skip out some of these steps and go back and study as a mature student later on in life. Many people need to do professional qualifications in order to progress with their career. Some people even seek out education as part of their holidays, e.g. doing a language or cookery course. Basically, teaching and education is pretty darn important.
If you want to work in teaching and education, you don’t necessarily have to teach children or young people. Adults also want, and often need, to be educated. Admittedly, adult students don’t legally have to attend their classes like a child does, so the amount of students to be taught is fewer. However, teaching adults can be an even more rewarding job, as your students are more likely to have a genuine desire to learn.
Truthfully, an educator’s job is very challenging. You really need to be able to engage and connect with the people you are teaching. Confidence, charisma, enthusiasm, communication skills and patience are all essential. You will also need to have detailed knowledge of the specific subject you are planning to teach. After all, it’s difficult to teach someone about something you don’t understand yourself.
Many of the careers in teaching and education involve actively teaching people. However, it may interest you to know that an abundance of careers are available in this sector, which don’t actually involve working in a classroom or lecture theatre.
Teaching & education career options
A popular choice for prospective educators is working in pre-school (a.k.a. early years) education. A child’s early educational experiences are extremely important in their development, as it can shape their personality, attitudes and behaviour in later life. This area of education can be an incredibly enjoyable career choice, as the learning techniques tend to incorporate ‘play’. Education is not compulsory until the age of five, so a large number of the playgroups, nurseries and kindergartens are actually private institutions.
Primary education is another popular area to work in. This is where children begin their journey in compulsory education, and where the teaching methods become slightly more formal. Lesson plans, tests and a wider variety of subjects are introduced, and a child’s academic learning begins to accelerate. When you are teaching in this area, you will most likely be teaching quite a broad range of different subjects.
In secondary education, most teachers tend to specialise in one or two subject areas (these normally correlate directly to their degree subject). As a child grows older and their knowledge increases, their education becomes more specific, detailed and insightful.
Children in secondary education also start to get more freedom of choice when selecting the subjects they want to study, especially once they do their GCSEs, AS-levels and A-levels. Consequently, there is an increasing need for specialist teachers in different areas. Modern curriculums have even expanded to incorporate more vocational courses in addition to more traditional subjects.
Teachers can also specialise in a different way. Rather than choosing a subject, they can choose to dedicate their time to the learning of students with special educational needs. Moreover, teachers don’t even necessarily need to work in the same school every day. You can choose to become a supply teacher and teach at various schools, filling in for permanent staff when they are absent.
As discussed earlier, teaching does not have to take place in schools. Further education courses tend to be taught in further education colleges. Often, these institutions offer a different range of vocational and academic courses. These colleges are also particularly helpful institutions for people who are less fortunate financially or socially.
Higher education refers to university education, where the lecturers and tutors tend to be experts in a very specific subject. Consequently, to work in this area of education you will first need to do postgraduate study.
Teaching and education can also be delivered effectively in the form of evening classes or private tuition. Moreover, education schemes within community and social institutions can be especially valuable for people who have not necessarily got the same opportunities to study as others, e.g. in prisons or in hospitals.
Teachers and students do not make up the world of teaching and education on their own. In order to keep the education system operating effectively, they need valuable support from:
- Teaching assistants
- Administrative staff
- Careers and student welfare advisors
- Librarians and I.T. staff.
All teaching methods and resources are dependent on specific processes and curriculums, so without the people who work for the educational authorities that provide policy, regulation, inspection and examination services, the whole world of teaching and education would fall apart.
Other areas of education you might not have considered are: professional training, team building, and even teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), either in the UK or abroad.
If this article has taught you anything at all it should be that careers in the teaching and education sector are immensely varied, stimulating and challenging; no two days (nor two students!) will ever be the same.