Skip to main content
37 min read

Teacher job description

As a teacher, you’ll play a crucial role in shaping the lives of young people. You’ll inspire, motivate and encourage a new generation of learners and guide them to make a positive impact in the world around them. A school teacher helps their students to be passionate about learning and understands the impact and importance of lifelong education. Plus, salaries and benefits for experienced teachers can be excellent.

The teaching profession is exciting and challenging. Teachers act as role models, mentors, caregivers and advisers. They can have a profound effect on the lives of their students.

Primarily, teachers will impart knowledge to their students to help them learn new things about a specific group of subjects. They find new ways of supporting their students’ learning styles and are mindful that students, especially young people, will learn at a different pace and speed to their peers. Because of this, teachers need to be highly adaptable and flexible with their lesson plans.

A creative mind, a listening ear and strong communication skills are essential to succeed in the role of a teacher. Individuals who are resilient and tenacious are particularly in demand.

Teaching is a career path that is available to anyone that has an undergraduate degree and is able to commit to achieving Qualified Teaching Status (QTS). There are several possible routes to QTS, including on-the-job training in a school where you can earn as you learn.

Most importantly, teaching is a great career choice for those who want to make a difference in the lives of young people and who are passionate about lifelong learning.

What is the role of a teacher?

The role of a teacher is to inspire, motivate, encourage and educate learners. Learners can be of any age and from any background. However, for the purposes of this guide, teachers refer to those who educate young people of school age (roughly 4-18).

Teachers serve many roles within a school environment. Gone are the days when a teacher was merely seen as a classroom educator; someone who just teaches a core subject to a classroom full of children and then goes home for the day – job done. Teachers can work across a variety of subjects which they may bring to life with the assistance of modern and interactive technologies.

A teacher’s role is to “shape the life chances of young people by imparting knowledge – bringing the curriculum to life,” says Harry Cutty, headteacher of Cantell School and vice chair of Aspire Community Trust. “When you have the right culture and systems in place, it’s more than just a job. When you get passionate teachers, they can hugely inspire young people no matter what their background. Great teachers support young people not just in education, but in life and vocation choices.”

The teacher job role is expansive. From imparting knowledge to safeguarding children’s welfare, inspiring critical thought and moral values, teachers play a central position within the community. They are often passionate and dedicated individuals with a strong desire for lifelong learning.

“I have a continuous hunger for improving and extending the knowledge of young people,” says Francesco Milano, teacher of modern foreign languages at Trafalgar School in Portsmouth. “By improving someone’s knowledge, you are improving the world – not just the big world – the one that exists within the community in which you live.”

As long as you hold a degree, teaching is an accessible career path to anyone, at any stage of their career. Education offers the potential to shape the young lives of the next generation. It’s a profession in which you can move forward and gain promotion swiftly if you achieve rapidly. Your salary will rise in line with your increased responsibility, and once you gain experience, your career path can take you in many different directions.

Teaching is also one of the very few professions where you are equally celebrated if you choose to remain a classroom teacher and not to follow the leadership path.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a teacher?

The responsibilities of a teacher are far-reaching and can significantly vary depending on the school in which you teach, your specialist subject and the surrounding community. For example, a primary teacher in a private school with a classroom of six-year-olds will have an entirely different job and career to a history teacher in a state-funded academy school. However, there will always remain some similarities across all teaching roles.

Callum Thompson, from Crab Lane Primary in Manchester, explains how “making children good members of society,” is crucial to his role as primary school teacher. “In my community, there is a high level of social ambiguity, so it’s important for me to ensure the children can communicate well and form an opinion. I teach speaking, listening, manners and communication.

“One of the toughest parts of the job is encouraging children to use their imagination and challenging them to develop consistency, empathy and emotional intelligence.”

The duties of a teacher can include:

  • Teaching students based on national curriculum guidelines within your specialist subject areas.
  • Planning, preparing and delivering lessons.
  • Encouraging student participation in lessons and in other school-related activities.
  • Supporting the leadership team to implement the school’s development plan.
  • Assessing and reporting on the behaviour of students.
  • Providing educational and social guidance to students and/or signposting them to specialist areas of advice when needed.
  • Ensuring the highest standards of quality and applying the most up-to-date teaching methods.
  • Taking part in opportunities to boost your own learning and continuous professional development (CPD).
  • Attending and taking part in staff meetings to support the smooth running and administration of the school.
  • Collaborating with parents, carers, guardians, support workers, and other professionals to safeguard and ensure the educational welfare of statemented students who may have special educational needs (SEN).

Scott Simmons, managing director for education at London Teaching Pool Ltd, a specialist recruitment agency for teaching staff across London and beyond, believes that a teacher should be responsible for catering to every student’s needs.

“As a teacher, you should have the mindset that ‘every child matters’,” he says. “We fill many temporary assignments with requirements for teachers to be strong in the classroom and competent with their subject matter.”

But Simmons also believes that the responsibilities of a teacher are deeper than that: “Helping children through their life journey, acting as a confidant and making a difference to their lives, is paramount.”

Why should I become a teacher?

So, why be a teacher? For those with a love of learning and imparting knowledge to others, the role of a teacher may be a perfectly natural career choice. Teachers can enjoy many benefits, including good salaries on a pay scale that climbs with experience, longer than average holidays, and a tremendous sense of job satisfaction. See Teacher salary section.

Not only are you imparting knowledge to others but you’re also learning about behaviours, different ways of thinking and challenging pupils. “You need to inspire others to want to learn – it’s not a profession you go into because it’s something to do,” says Kay Sanderson, programme manager for the UK government initiative Transition to Teach.

Some people leave university with a defined career path into the teaching world, whereas others discover teaching much later in life. If you’re wondering if you should become a teacher, then it’s worth knowing that anyone can join the profession, at any stage in life.

Having experience as a teacher can also lead to a huge number of opportunities.

“We call it the ‘teaching jungle gym’,” says Hannah Wilson, executive headteacher at Aureus School & Aureus Primary School. “There are now so many different pathways!”

If you have teaching experience, you can explore career options in places such as charities, social services, local authorities and councils, private or special education, or even abroad as a teacher of English as a foreign language. See the Where do teachers work? section.

“Teaching is not a career to enter in to just for the money,” suggests Sarah Vaughan, founder of homeschooling resource network, The Do Try This at Home School. “People are often born to teach. Children will remember their best teachers and it will stay with them throughout their entire adult life. I became a teacher because my grandparents were teachers and it’s in my blood. My grandparents had their own private school and they were a huge influence on me. I didn’t ever want to be anything else.”

Francesco Milano, teacher of modern foreign languages at Trafalgar School in Portsmouth, believes he has always been a great coach and communicator, so it was a natural career choice.

“I am truly passionate about developing young people,” says Milano. “I believe that you’re not just good because you’re a teacher; you’re a teacher because you’re good.”

What is the best part of being a teacher?

Being a teacher is a highly rewarding role. Many teachers will attest that teaching is one of the few professions where you can genuinely make a difference in the lives of others.

When asked what the best part of being a teacher is, Callum Thompson, primary school teacher at Crab Lane in Manchester, says: “Getting kids to be passionate about learning, especially in the tougher subjects like maths or science. And seeing kids make progress and be proud of themselves is a highly rewarding experience. Kids are amazing; they make me laugh every single day.”

The best part of being a teacher for Fran Crampton, year three teacher at St John the Baptist School in Spalding is doing something completely different every day. “There is never a day when I don’t want to go to work. We are very lucky as my colleagues are my best friends and we’re a big family. Someone is always laughing or smiling, and there’s always someone there for support.

“I have friends who have worked at schools and then left, and regretted it. The relationship that teachers have with each other is typically very close.”

“For me, it’s when someone has learned something that I have taught them,” says Francesco Milano, teacher of modern foreign languages at Trafalgar School in Portsmouth. “When, at the end of the day, a young person comes to me to say they’ve learned something today. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Houlia L’Aimable, a retired headteacher, now a teaching volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s School in Hertfordshire – a Pupil Referral Unit for children outside of the mainstream education system – has a different opinion to offer. “I loved being in the classroom and loved doing magic tricks in science lessons. To see the children love the lessons you are teaching is a real joy.

“Gaining the confidence and trust of children with additional needs, and working with their families to bring the children back into education, are experiences that you simply wouldn’t get in a different job.

“I have helped blind children take to the slopes of Austria and France – an experience that was out of this world. Even helping some children to learn how to brush their teeth gives such a sense of achievement. You don’t go into teaching for the money, you do it for the passion.”

Teacher salary

So, how much is a school teacher salary?

The average salary for a teacher in the UK is around £37,500. Like with most professions, teachers pay is entirely dependant on where in the country you work, the type of institution you work in – a school, college, university or specialist area of education – and the subjects in which you specialise.

According to the National Education Union teacher salary scale, teaching roles in London are typically paid at a higher rate than the rest of England and Wales. For example, a newly qualified teacher in London could be paid a salary of up to £30,000 – whereas this figure is approximately £23,720 in other areas of the country.

As your experience and length of service increases, so will your salary. Experienced teachers are typically paid between £36,500 and £48,000, depending on location and type of expertise.

With progression also comes opportunities to explore various leadership roles within the teaching profession, such as deputy head and headteacher positions, and education leadership roles with private organisations, or with local authorities. These posts are often highly paid and it is not uncommon for the most senior leaders to earn well into six figures.

For more information about the average salary for teacher jobs in the UK, use the Totaljobs Salary Checker. You can also search for teaching jobs in your area on Totaljobs to get a sense of local opportunities.

Where do teachers work?

Because of the national demand for good teachers, there is no shortage of opportunities for qualified candidates.“We recruit across a mix of primary and secondary schools and we also provide staff to SEN schools,” says Scott Simmons, managing director for education at London Teaching Pool Ltd. “We were once asked to recruit home-based tutors for a company that specialises in whiteboards and lesson resources for teachers.”

The most common places for teachers to work, include:

  • State primary schools and secondary schools.
  • Academies.
  • Private schools.
  • Colleges.
  • Universities.

However, schools are not the only places where teachers can work. In fact, according to a BBC report, upwards of 48,000 children across the UK are homeschooled; a figure that has risen by 40% in just three years.

Additionally, there are more than 20,000 pupils in ‘alternative provision’ – the umbrella term for Pupil Referral Units or PRUs. These specialist units support children who have been excluded from mainstream schools, or who are “unable to access education through the classroom environment,” explains Houlia L’Aimable, a teaching volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s School in Hertfordshire.

“I work with children who have had issues with gangs or drugs, who are not able to manage in a classroom environment – children who are highly anxious or who have experienced trauma. I help them to believe in themselves and support them with integration into a college or succeed in life.

“Nowadays there is lots of gang culture, peer pressure and bullying, and parents are unable to deal with the situation because of their child’s issues in the mainstream schools. PRUs are places where we can manage behaviour through strategies that are tailored to the children.”

As well as these specialist provisions, there are many other public and private sector organisations who employ teachers. Sarah Vaughan, founder of The Do Try This at Home School believes that a teaching degree can open up many opportunities. “You can apply the skills from teaching to work in charities, children’s centres, social services, and special education schools,” she says. “You can also establish your own business independently selling lesson plans or as a tutor in the private sector. Or you can travel or move abroad teaching English as a foreign language. The opportunities are truly endless!”

Types of teaching jobs

As we’ve discovered, there are many types of teachers and equally as many school teacher jobs. However, all of them have the same basic requirements: to impart knowledge to students and support them with their educational journey.

“Starting at the beginning, you can become a trainee teacher at an apprentice level,” says Hannah Wilson, executive headteacher at Aureus School & Aureus Primary School. “You’ll then progress to a classroom teacher and then a teacher with responsibility, such as a head of year. Then there are transitional teaching roles into senior leadership, such as assistant/deputy head and headteacher. We also now have newer roles such as the executive headteacher, who’ll look after more than one school. The teaching career ladder is much longer and wider than it used to be – there are so many different pathways.”

If you’re considering a teaching career, the most common types of teaching roles, together with salary outlook, are detailed below.

Primary School teacher

What does a primary school teacher do?

“In a primary classroom you are trying to get the children to be confident and communicative,” says Kay Sanderson, programme manager for the UK government initiative, Transition to Teach. “If a child can communicate and can ask questions, it sets them up for secondary school. The early years’ experience is crucial.

“The role of the primary school teacher is to carry on the work of the parents/guardians. Children need a deep-rooted learning experience that a primary teacher can build on.”

Fran Crampton, lead teacher, believes that more so now than ever before, when more and more parents are working and don’t have as much time for their children, the role of a primary school teacher is to “be in a good mood.”

“You are the lifeline for the children and they look up to you. Motivating and inspiring children, and ensuring they are engaged, is really important. A primary school teacher will spend more time with the kids during the day than the parents do, so if the kids are upset about something they’ll tell you about it. It’s our job to listen.”

Primary school teacher salary

The starting salary for a primary school teacher is “around £24,000 with an increase every year, paid holidays and a good pension,” says Kay Sanderson, programme manager for the UK government initiative, Transition to Teach. “The teaching profession can be ‘time rich’, not necessarily ‘money-rich’. Teaching is probably one of the safest jobs available these days if you’re looking for job security.”

Fran Crampton, year three teacher at St John the Baptist School in Spalding advises that a newly qualified teachers’ salary can rise quite quickly after the NQT year. “Every year you’ll receive an increment allowance of £1,000 until you reach the tip of the pay scale. Performance management thresholds can take you up to around £35,000. Maths and science teachers can also get additional tax allowances, too.”

Consider exploring primary school teacher roles on Totaljobs to get a sense for what’s available in your area.

Secondary School teacher

What does a secondary school teacher do?

The role of a secondary school teacher is to “carry on the coaching theme and settle the kids into the transition from primary to secondary school,” says Kay Sanderson, programme manager for the UK government initiative, Transition to Teach. “You need to build on organisational skills and identify children that may need extra support. And then, later on, your role is to help the children to think about their future options.

“Teachers should be innovative, make links with industry and partners and think outside the box about what children need to prepare for the future. Secondary teachers should engage with parents and share best practice to foster and develop the passions of the children they are teaching.”

Francesco Milano, who teaches modern foreign languages, believes a teacher is an “educator who should inspire, motivate and prepare children for life outside of education.”

“Don’t just focus on what you teach,” he adds. “Encourage the children in all of their subjects: languages, PE, history, geography. In each of their subjects, kids can find the path for life. You should be an advisor every day, developing yourself to be able to improve your students.”

Secondary school teacher salary

Salary scales for a secondary school teacher are very similar to that of a primary school teacher and can start at around £24,000. However, salaries will rise rapidly depending on whether you teach in London – which has a higher salary rate than the rest of the UK – and what subjects you teach.

There can be additional bonuses for more difficult subjects such as maths and science. Plus, you could receive teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payments if you take on other responsibilities over and above the standard classroom duties.

The average salary for a secondary school teacher in the UK is £39,000. However, it is not uncommon for seasoned secondary school teachers to be paid more than £45,000.

To find out about opportunities for secondary school teachers in your area, search the Totaljobs website.

Head teacher

What does a Head teacher do?

“The role of a head teacher is to ensure the environment is conducive to allow teachers and students to maximise their opportunities,” says Harry Cutty, headteacher of Cantell School. “In our school, we operate a culture of high expectations and no excuses. We do the very best for our youngsters and help our staff to manage work-life balance. Our staff are treated as our biggest asset.”

“A headteacher should foster the very best teaching and learning – research and continued professional development is at the heart of everything we do. We allow staff to take risks so we can deliver an exceptional learning experience for our youngsters, day in and day out.”

“A headteacher sets very strong and robust systems and structure while allowing people to be as creative as possible,” concludes Cutty.

As the executive headteacher for two schools – Aureus secondary and Aureus primary school – Hannah Wilson works at the heart of a boom area where lots of new schools are being commissioned. She believes a “headteacher is the figurehead of a team of educators; they make sure the education needs of the whole community are met.”

“As a headteacher, you drive vision and values of the school. The buck stops with you! It’s a hugely rewarding but very stressful role, and it takes around three to five years to really find your feet as a headteacher.”

Head teacher salary

On average, head teachers earn a basic salary of between £32,500 and £47,500 depending on the type of school and where in the country they work. Head teachers who work on an interim basis – stepping into a short-term role until a permanent replacement can be found – can typically work on a self-employed basis and charge a day rate of between £180 and £350 per day.

Explore head teacher job ads on Totaljobs to get a sense of what jobs are available in your area.

Supply teacher

What does a supply teacher do?

Unlike a permanent teaching post, supply teachers are not directly employed by one school. They are typically self-employed qualified teachers who prefer the flexibility of choosing when and where they work. As well as having direct relationships with schools, supply teachers can also work for an agency who will find the work on their behalf.

“When you work as a supply teacher, you teach from someone else’s plans and activities, filling in for teacher absences in schools,” explains Sarah Vaughan, founder of The Do Try This at Home School. “Supply teachers need to be prepared for everything, especially in primary schools where they can provide cover across multiple subjects. The best thing about being a supply teacher is the flexibility to work when you choose. You can also work in lots of different schools and learn best practice from across all environments.”

Supply teacher salary

Because supply teachers are self-employed, they will typically charge a day rate to the schools they work in. This day rate can fluctuate depending on the supply teacher’s area of specialism, where in the country they work, and the type of school they’re placed in.

“If you’ve done your QTS year, you can earn around £120 per day,” suggests Sarah Vaughan, founder of The Do Try This at Home School.

“On a temporary basis, we’ll place supply teachers into schools at around £120 per day on emergency day-to-day cover, or around £170 per day for a long-term supply arrangement,” confirms Scott Simmons, managing director for education at London Teaching Pool Ltd.

Find out about supply teaching jobs in your area, search Totaljobs.

Private teacher

What does a private teacher do?

A private teacher, often called a tutor, is typically self-employed and provides one-on-one or small group lessons based on their specific area of expertise.

A private teacher can hold their lessons anywhere – in a school environment, at a student’s house, or even online – and, if teaching a subject that is outside of the educational curriculum, they are not necessarily required to have teaching qualifications. Private tutoring sessions will typically last up to one hour and are provided to help students with things like:

  • Preparing for exams, for example SATs, GCSEs or A-levels.
  • Literacy and numeracy foundation skills.
  • Advanced skills in subjects such as English, maths and science.
  • Music and language lessons.

Because a private teacher is often not associated with or employed by a specific school, they can enjoy more flexibility in their working day than a traditionally employed primary or secondary school teacher. Private teachers often set their own working hours, negotiate their lesson plans with their students (or students’ guardians), and use whatever teaching methods they feel are necessary to deliver the teaching requirements.

However, private teachers are also responsible for making their own money, handling their own tax affairs, and managing their own schedules to fit in around their student’s requirements.

Private teacher salary

Private teachers typically charge by the hour. Depending on the complexity of the subject they teach, their level of qualifications and how in demand their skills are, private teachers can charge anywhere from £20 to £60 per hour.

If a private teacher is contracted through an agency, then the agency will take a commission from the teacher’s hourly rate. Private teachers are also responsible for their own expenses such as stationary, travelling costs, and practice examination papers. So this should be a consideration when calculating an hourly rate.

Search the Totaljobs for private teaching jobs.

What roles can I be promoted to after being a teacher?

Because teaching is such a high demand profession, newly qualified teachers can rapidly progress through the ranks and explore many challenging and exciting teaching opportunities.

The number of available education jobs and the direction of a teaching career is almost endless. Commonly, classroom teachers progress into management positions like head of a department, head of a year, pastoral roles and senior positions in the school.

“In our school, promotion can include you can be given phase leadership roles where you’re in charge of two or three year groups,” says Fran Crampton, year three teacher at St John the Baptist School in Spalding. “Teachers can also specialise, or move into roles such SENCO (special needs co-ordinators), safety leads, or school council lead. If you progress to a leadership role, then you could rise up the pay scale quite quickly and work towards a deputy head or head teacher position.

On the other side of the coin, there is always a need for teachers who are not following a progression path within their teaching career, and simply want to remain as a classroom teacher. Some may argue that there are not enough of these types of teacher in the modern school system.

“Teachers who want to continue teaching and not go into leadership roles should be celebrated within schools,” says Harry Cutty, headteacher of Cantell School.

Teaching career paths

Due to the nature of the teaching profession, there is no set career path for a teacher to follow. Some teachers will quickly progress into specialisms such as special educational needs (SEN), others will develop a leadership career path, while some are more comfortable remaining in the classroom for the majority of their career.

However, the teaching profession is as exciting as it is challenging. Opportunities are endless. And, once they have gained experience, a teacher can choose to work in many environments that focus on child or adult education.

A linear career for a school teacher may look something like this:

Teaching assistant > Secondary teacher > Head of maths (or head of any subject) > Interim or Deputy head teacher > Head teacher

How do I get a teaching job?

If you’re considering teaching as a career path, you may be wondering how to become a teacher or if you meet the requirements for teaching.

The brilliant news is, because of the shortage of teachers entering the profession, the government will often incentivise individuals who want to become a teacher with funding opportunities.

“We need to start talking more about teaching as a profession and we need to do more of that within our careers guidance at a much earlier age – from year nine onwards,” suggests Harry Cutty, headteacher of Cantell School. “We need to give our young people at university the opportunity for experience within the classroom and observe the teaching and learning that’s taking place. They need to immerse themselves in a school for a period of time, so they know that they can continue to teach for the majority of their working life.”

Becoming a teacher is also much more accessible than perhaps it used to be. There are now several different routes into teaching, so there’s a great range of opportunities for on-the-job training. “There’s also a variety of roles within schools now, and schools are far more innovative at creating roles that didn’t exist years ago,” suggests Cutty.

Scott Simmons, managing director for education at London Teaching Pool Ltd, suggests that in the modern world of job hunting, the easiest and quickest route to getting a teaching job is to go through an agency. He says: “As recruiters, we’re in the best position to hire marketing professionals to help with teacher recruitment, and we will use social media much more than schools do to search for the right people to fit the right jobs.”

“If a good teacher walks through our doors today, by following a rigorous process we could have them working tomorrow. The market currently is teacher-led, which is very positive for jobseekers right now.”

But what if you’re a career changer? Is the teaching profession open to you, too?

“Absolutely!” says Kay Sanderson, programme manager for the UK government initiative, Transition to Teach. “As a career changer you could approach us at Transition to Teach – our organisation was set up to assist and support career changers into teaching roles. You would be guided through the process to assess your eligibility and we would support you to complete a UCAS form. The questions on the form will help you to decide if you should take your PGCE at university or go straight to your Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which you would achieve through teacher training.”

“There are also salaried and nonsalaried routes, depending on your qualifications and experience. Certain subjects will attract bursaries, such as languages, sciences and maths. And, the government has recently suggested that changes are afoot with funding which could, in the future, make financing of your second career much easier.”

What are the skills needed to be a teacher?

When it comes to the skills required to be a teacher, Callum Thompson, primary school teacher at Crab Lane in Manchester, suggests that “you have to be extrovert and comfortable with standing in front of a class of 30 or holding an assembly for 150 kids. You really need a sense of humour and humility. And understand that teachers are not infallible, you’re allowed to make mistakes.”

Some of the most common teaching skills include:

  • Strong written and verbal communication skills.
  • Strong knowledge of the subject being taught.
  • Organisational skills: you’ll need to juggle many simultaneous projects and administrative tasks.
  • IT skills.
  • Numerical and literacy skills (GCSEs A* to C are required to enter the teaching profession).
  • Emotional intelligence and resilience.
  • The ability to interpret the behaviour of children and judge when something may be wrong or when they require extra help.

The skills you need to be a good teacher have changed a lot, says Hannah Wilson, executive headteacher at two schools outside of Oxford. “Back in the day, teacher recruitment was based very much on subject knowledge. Although this is still important, a teacher is much more than the subject they teach. I recruit the right people for the team, where their vision and values align with ours. Once we have the right people, we can upskill where we need to.”

Houlia L’Aimable, a teaching volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s School in Hertfordshire, suggests that communication skills are the most important. “You can have the brain of the year,” she says. “But if you can’t communicate, then you can’t teach.”

What are the most in demand teaching skills?

While many schools and other institutions require their teaching staff to have a set of common skills, there are some that are more in demand than others.

“Resilience and organisation skills are always in demand,” suggests year three teacher Fran Crampton. “Finding ways of managing the workload and not cutting corners. Teachers can be under a lot of pressure, so resilience is key.”

Head teacher Harry Cutty has observed a great deal of time pressure on teachers to deliver curriculum content and ensure students achieve certain grades. “Staff just need to give themselves some time for reflection during lessons. They need to stand back and watch. They need to see more of what the students are understanding and what they’re not. Teachers that can take a step back, breathe and assess is somewhat lacking in schools currently.”

Teachers with tenacity, grit and resilience are also in demand, suggests Hannah Wilson, executive headteacher at two regional schools. “There is so much pressure on children in our society, and as a school, you become the sponge for this. The staff that fly in our school stay focussed and keep pushing forward, no matter what the setbacks.”

What qualifications do I need to be a teacher?

Formal teaching qualifications are essential if you want to teach in UK primary or secondary schools. Although in more recent years, the route to achieving the qualifications needed to be a teacher is more accessible than ever.

All teachers need to reach Qualified Teacher Status if they want to teach at a state-funded academy, or a primary or secondary school. There are several ways to achieve this, including studying at university or on-the-job training.

You can also achieve QTS status by gaining the Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) which is also obtained through university study. Having a PGCE is not necessary to become a teacher, but it does allow for further study towards a master’s degree in education.

“You will need Maths and English at GCSE grade C level or above. You’ll also need a degree, preferably an honours degree as it attracts a bursary,” explains Kay Sanderson of Transition to Teach. “It’s essential to have all of your original certificates or a transcript. You’ll also need eligibility to work in the UK and have a DBS check to work with children and young people.”

Executive headteacher Hannah Wilson confirms that you do need a degree to teach, although “not necessarily in the subject you want to teach. You can do a B.Ed. or a BA, and then a pathway course to obtain your PGCE or QTS status.

“You also need to be committed to lifelong learning. And then, depending on where you end up teaching, there are often different programmes to follow, including leadership development programmes if you want to branch out into leadership.”

How do I get teaching work experience?

Anyone who is old enough to have a degree can become a teacher at any age, as long as they meet the educational requirements. See section on What qualifications do I need to be a teacher? So, if you think you’d make a great teacher, then it’s worth exploring ways to get some teaching work experience to see if the job could be for you.

For Callum Thompson, primary school teacher at Crab Lane in Manchester, teaching is a second career. “I worked as a regional visual merchandiser for a large retail firm,” he explains. “I always wanted to be a teacher but I didn’t think I was capable because of my own academic background. But, I was bored in retail with no job satisfaction and really wanted to be passionate about my career. I volunteered at schools to make sure it was the right fit and then I got a teaching assistant job, which I stayed in for two years.”

After gaining some teaching experience, Callum was offered a school placement. “The school offered to support me through the diploma route, which meant I could gain my QTS and PGCE after one year. With a PGCE, it means I can go on to study a master’s qualification at a later day, which I’d really love to do. I put off trying to change career for a few years, but I would say to anyone considering a career change not waste time and get stuck in!”

Teacher Fran Crampton also suggests working in a school on a voluntary basis and then gaining a job as a teaching assistant.

Scott Simmons of London Teaching Pool Ltd has previously supported people into teaching assistant roles from other careers, in order for them to gain teaching experience. “We’d discuss why you want to become a teacher; what’s motivating you,” he says. “We’d then place someone into a school as a teaching assistant or a cover supervisor. We also offer voluntary days in schools where the candidate would get feedback from teaching staff at the end of the day. This is really beneficial when it comes to your ability to market yourself to schools. A supportive TA or cover supervisor position is a great way to get teaching work experience.”

What are the qualities of a good teacher?

Aside from the skills mentioned in the section What are the skills needed to be a teacher?, a good teacher will need a set of soft qualities that may be more difficult to define on paper.

So, what makes a good teacher?

Transition to Teach’s Kay Sanderson explains that “a good teacher should be able to listen and pick up on the nuances. If you have a good rapport with students you’ll enable the class and the students to grow.”

“From a career change perspective, I was used to being highly organised in my career outside of education,” says Callum Thompson, primary school teacher at Crab Lane in Manchester. “But, being organised enough to manage 30 children with 30 individual things going on in their lives, plus assemblies, rainy break times when the kids are stuck inside, and a million other things going on in school – well, this takes organisation skills to a whole new level.”

Thompson also suggests that one of the signs and qualities of a good teacher is someone who has a passion for knowledge. He says: “Coming back into education as an adult, I now love learning more than ever and having this passion is really key to my success.”

Personalities that suit teaching jobs

Many positive personality traits define a good teacher. The best teachers are the ones that teach us as children and we remember them fondly for the rest of our lives. Most of these teachers have common traits. They are calm, enthusiastic, imaginative, challenging and compassionate. They are responsive and generous with their time, and will always be available with a listening ear.

When asked what personalities suit teaching jobs, Sarah Vaughan, founder of The Do Try This at Home School, replies: “Someone who is endlessly kind and has an understanding of the children in their class. Teachers need to understand every child has a different learning style. They need to listen and encourage questions. A teacher should be someone who is highly organised and able to divert from plans and follow how the children want to learn. Most importantly, you need to actually like children!”

Languages teacher Francesco Milano suggests that the ability to listen is one of the most important attributes of a good teacher. He says: “When you listen to children you can answer, advice, engage, and help them to contribute to society.”

“Patience,” says primary school teacher Callum Thompson, when asked what personalities reflect those doing his job. “Someone who understands that children need patience, especially the kids with external issues or poor behaviour.”

Teacher job description summary

As we’ve discovered from this teacher job description, the teacher’s job role is a challenging and rewarding career path. If you’re considering becoming a teacher, then here are our top 10 takeaways.

  1. As long as you hold a degree, teaching is an accessible career path to anyone, at any stage of their career.
  2. Great teachers support young people not just in education, but in life and vocation choices.
  3. Because of the national demand for good teachers, there is no shortage of opportunities for qualified candidates.
  4. The teaching career path is expansive. There are several opportunities for someone with teaching experience both in and out of the education sector.
  5. The average salary for a teacher in the UK is around £37,500. However, experienced teachers can earn over £48,000, and those in leadership roles can earn six-figure salaries.
  6. You will need a degree to become a teacher. And, all teachers need to achieve QTS status to teach in state-funded primary and secondary schools in the UK.
  7. Volunteering at a school or working as a teaching assistant is a great way to gain teaching experience.
  8. Teaching is a great career choice for those who want to make a positive difference in the lives of children.
  9. A love of lifelong learning is necessary to succeed in a teaching role. Teachers are always learning and imparting new knowledge to their students.
  10. Because of the shortage of teachers entering the profession, the government will often incentivise individuals who want to become a teacher.

Teacher jobs FAQs

Where can I find Teacher jobs online?

How to get notified about the latest Teacher jobs?

Where can I advertise a job vacancy?