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Developing your career: Teaching

If you enjoy being with children and young people and you’re enthusiastic about sharing your knowledge, teaching could be the career for you. You need to be a good communicator; ready to work hard in an environment that can be quite tough; resilient, flexible and well organised. It also helps to have a sense of humour!

Teaching is certainly challenging, but it can be immensely rewarding. There are few other professions that have the potential to make such a difference to individual lives – not only to a young person’s career, but to their wider interests, personal development, confidence and wellbeing.

Teachers work in a wide variety of settings, in schools and colleges from nursery to secondary level, in further or higher education, and in the statutory and private sectors. You can work as a general teacher (particularly in a primary school, where teachers tend to work across the whole curriculum); specialise in one subject area; or focus on children with special educational needs.

To get detailed information about typical jobs within these areas – including day-to-day activities, the qualifications you need and what you might expect to earn – visit the Prospects careers website, GradIreland website, or Skills Development Scotland website. More information can also be found about routes to entering teaching by downloading our Becoming a teacher booklet.

How the OU can help

Teaching is a graduate profession, and the early years sector is moving the same way, so you’ll need a degree as a starting point.

The Open University offers flexibility, quality and a huge choice of options. You could study a subject that you’re passionate about and would like to teach later on. Alternatively, you could study a degree with an education focus, choosing from courses such as early years, childhood and youth studies, or the teaching and learning of mathematics.

In addition to a degree, you need to undertake Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) such as a PGCE (or a PGDE in Scotland), and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) which you can do at a wide range of higher education institutions around the UK, or through a school-based training scheme. There may be incentives for shortage subjects like science, technology and maths, while for other subjects, training places may be limited. It’s worth checking with training providers at an early stage, and having a look at the teaching jobs market to help with your planning – which could also have a bearing on your choice of first degree.

Whichever approach you adopt, our practice-focused courses enable you to apply your learning as you study. They draw directly on our world-renowned research programmes – bringing you up to date with the latest thinking.

See a list of degree courses

Already a teacher?

We offer a wide choice of standalone modules and postgraduate qualifications for professionals already working in teaching, to update your knowledge and skills and support your continuing professional development.

See a list of standalone modules

See a list of postgraduate courses

Getting started

If you’re not quite ready for degree-level study, our People, work and society Access module (Y032) could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s designed to build your confidence and study skills while introducing ideas and debates about children and young people, health, law, management, psychology and social science. By the end of the module, you’ll be well prepared to begin your first full OU course.

More about Access modules

Work experience

Before you commit yourself to a career in teaching, it’s worth finding out first-hand what being a teacher involves, to make sure it’s really for you. Aim to get some classroom experience if you can – for example, assisting a qualified teacher or observing teachers at work. You could also volunteer in a nursery or school; help run an activity, sports or youth club; become a summer camp counsellor or help with a holiday play scheme; do some play work on a children’s hospital ward; or sign up as a school governor. If you particularly want to teach younger or older children, it would help to focus on your chosen group, which both demonstrates your commitment and will help confirm your interest.

Note that you’ll need to apply for a police check to work with children and young people.

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