An overview of the role

The role of a teacher is to help pupils to learn using a variety of methods. If working for a state school, a teacher’s learning objectives will be measured by the national curriculum. If working for an independent school, requirements will be much more varied.

The role of a teacher may vary quite considerably depending on the age group that they are teaching and whether the school is run by the state or an independent.

What are the responsibilities of a teacher?

The responsibilities of a teacher include:

  • Using a variety of methods to impart knowledge to children in the context of a classroom
  • Preparing and planning classroom activities
  • Supervising classroom activities
  • Acting as a positive role model and intellectual mentor to children
  • Recording the progress of pupils
  • Getting the classroom ready for work and tidying up afterwards
  • Marking and annotating work
  • Running revision and exam preparation sessions
  • Running after school clubs and activities
  • Supervising outings
  • Writing reports
  • Completing necessary day-to-day administrative tasks such as taking the register
  • Liaising with fellow teachers and staff members
  • Communicating with parents
  • Supporting students with pastoral care needs 
  • Attending regular conferences and keeping up with continuing professional development in order to ensure that students have the best possible academic experience

Other skills and specialist knowledge will be required depending on the subject that the teacher is responsible for teaching.


What are the key skills required by a teacher?

Key skills required by a teacher include:

  • Excellent communication skills and diplomacy
  • A love of learning
  • Specialist knowledge of one or more subjects
  • Leadership, teamwork and managerial ability
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Empathy and the ability to support pupils struggling, either academically or at home, in an unofficial capacity
  • Patience and a calm demeanour
  • The ability to control the class and discipline if necessary
  • Time management skills and organisation
  • An enthusiasm for continuing professional development

What qualifications does a teacher require?

In order to become a teacher, you will need a degree and an approved teaching qualification. There are two ways of achieving this. Your first option is to study for a Bachelor of Education (BEd), from which you will graduate with qualified teacher status (QTS).

If you do not have a BEd and have instead studied for an undergraduate degree in the subject of your choice, you can gain a Postgraduate Certification in Secondary Education (PGCE), which will incorporate teaching placements. You will graduate with QTS.

Do I need relevant work experience to become a teacher?

Although work experience is not strictly necessary in order to become a teacher, it will help to demonstrate commitment to future employers. Working as a teaching assistant or volunteering in the classroom is useful for any aspiring teacher’s CV.

Work experience is also beneficial for aspiring teachers because, despite its many advantages, teaching is a demanding and difficult job. It helps to be sure about it before committing.

For established teachers, career progress is dependent on experience in the role.

What are the prospects and salary of a teacher?

Teachers working in state schools are paid according to a national band system. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) start at the bottom and work their way up incrementally. 

The main band starts at £22,467 and ends at £33,160. Teachers working in inner London have higher rates of pay in order to cover living costs. Teachers at independent schools will earn higher pay, but wages vary considerably depending on school, subject and experience.

The most traditional form of career progression as a teacher is to become a head of department, deputy head and then a head teacher. This results in less active teaching and more managerial and administrative tasks, which may not suit those who are genuinely passionate about imparting knowledge. Teachers who do not wish to follow this route will be relieved to know that there are many other options.

If you would like to progress into a research role you could use your teaching experience to apply for a PhD in education, or in your chosen subject. Special education teachers can become music or art therapists depending on their area of specialism.  If on the other hand you dislike working within an institution and want to set your own schedule, you could work freelance as a private tutor.

Even if you decide to move into another field, training as a teacher allows candidates to move into a wide variety of seemingly unconnected roles that incorporate education, such as museum or art gallery work, either as a guide or in the design of learning and events.

Is the role of a teacher right for me?

There are both pros and cons involved in the role of a teacher.

Pros of being a teacher include:

  • For those passionate about learning and education this is a highly rewarding job
  • The contact with pupils makes for a very social and people-focused career
  • Almost unlimited options for career progression in a variety of fields
  • You can train and earn a wage at the same time
  • Excellent job prospects – teachers are always in demand
  • Should you wish to transfer your skills to teaching English as a foreign language, you will be able to live abroad
  • It is easy to work part-time or flexible hours in this role

Cons of being a teacher include:

  • Very long hours – teachers may only be paid from 8:30 until 3:30 but marking and lesson planning means constant work and this will eat into weekends
  • Not particularly good pay given the constant overtime
  • The workload is detrimental to a teacher’s work-life balance
  • Though you will receive good holidays, much of them will be taken up with marking and preparing lessons
  • Many teachers find current state teaching practice – which includes making Year 7 pupils sit GCSE papers intended for Year 11s –  unethical but are powerless to do anything about it
  • Teachers being forced to teach outside their specialities, sometimes in subjects they know nothing about, is widespread

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