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Teaching & Education careers

Teaching: Further Education & Vocational Education

What is further education?

Further education (FE) colleges offer a valuable alternative to people who want to extend their education beyond the age of 16.

These institutions might offer A-level and degree courses, but their real speciality is in offering all different kinds of other courses, such as HNCs, HNDs, BTECs, NVQs, SVQs (these are specific Scottish qualifications), diplomas, foundation degrees, Access to Higher Education courses, professional qualifications, apprenticeships and other vocational courses.

Consequently, teaching in FE can be varied and very different from teaching in schools or higher education institutions - and, if such a change of pace appeals to you, a graduate job in this field could be right up your alley.

What will I be teaching in further education?

If you’re teaching in FE, you might be teaching one or two subjects from a huge range of different areas. For instance, you might be teaching English language classes, lecturing on media production, working in recording studios with sound technician students, or teaching practical skills, such as hairdressing or carpentry. The opportunities for learning and teaching are pretty endless, really.

FE colleges offer a flexible learning environment for students, so these kinds of institutions are unique in terms of the massively varied age group of the students who attend. The nature of certain courses means that you might be teaching people of all ages within the same class.

These colleges often provide opportunities for learners who might not have had the chance to engage in formal education before. For instance, many students might be adults that chose not to study post-GCSE earlier in their lives, and have now made the decision to return to education and do an Access to Higher Education course.

Another differentiating characteristic of FE colleges is that large numbers of students may face challenges and difficulties with their learning, or may be dealing with social problems outside of the classroom.

Therefore, teaching in FE is not just about imparting knowledge to students: it can often be about empowering the learners and providing them with an outlet through which they can overcome their problems.

What will a career in further education involve?

If you pursue a career in FE teaching, you might be giving lectures, leading practical sessions, teaching on a one-to-one tutorial basis, doing practical demonstrations, or supervising people within workshops, laboratories and performing arts studios.

In addition to actively teaching students, you will also be responsible for lesson planning and preparation, setting work, marking exams and monitoring the progress of students. FE lecturers may even teach outside of the college environment and engage in community education activities.

You might not necessarily have to be an already qualified teacher to lecture in an FE college. You will, however, need a degree in your specialist subject, or extensive professional experience.

You will also have to be willing to study and work towards an official teaching qualification, such as a PGCE or BEd. Some FE lecturers become qualified by doing a Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS). Check out the Lifelong Learning UK website for more details!

This sector is particularly valuable because it allows those who, for whatever reason, could not complete further education at a younger age, to gain the opportunity to apply to university or get further qualifications. It also offers people alternatives to the beaten track of university study, instead imparting practical skills and qualifications for them to pursue.

If you can see yourself teaching, but don’t fancy dealing with children and disinterested teenagers, this might be the right career path for you.