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How to become a secondary school teacher

If you want to inspire young people and have a desire to teach, this guide on how to become a secondary school teacher is your key to unlocking success.

Secondary school teacher chats to student

Do you have a passion for teaching and want to help shape the lives of young people? If the answer is yes, you’re in the right place! Guiding students through the exciting journey of secondary school, you’ll help to inspire and lead the next generation through an important period in their development.

In this article, we discuss everything from requirements for secondary school teaching to salary expectations, so you can decide whether it’s the career for you. With a diverse range of subjects you can teach and rewarding opportunities at every turn, let’s take a look at whether becoming a secondary school teacher is as easy as your 10 times table.

What is a secondary school teacher and what do they do?

Secondary school teachers are responsible for teaching students between the ages of 11 and 18 years old. More often than not, they’ll focus on a specific subject area, but will also work alongside other teachers to improve student wellbeing and support academic progress.

Whether your expertise lies in the works of William Shakespeare or volcanoes, there’s a diverse range of subjects you can teach, including:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science (biology, chemistry, and physics)
  • Geography
  • History
  • Music
  • Physical education
  • Languages
  • IT
  • Drama 
  • Design and technology
  • Religious education

Your main responsibilities will be preparing lessons, creating lesson-based activities that inspire and motivate students to learn, and assessing work whilst providing supportive feedback. You may also be required to be a mentor to support student development and take part in extracurricular activities.

Other key day-to-day duties include:

  • Leading lessons and developing activities and assessments according to the national curriculum
  • Preparing teaching resources and learning tools for students
  • Monitoring student development and tailoring lessons to different academic needs
  • Preparing assessments, setting homework, and providing feedback
  • Working with other departments to develop learning objectives and ways of improving student wellbeing
  • Creating an inclusive teaching environment for all students
  • Communicating with parents and other staff, plus attending parent and teacher meetings
  • Planning and supporting school events 

What qualifications are required to become a secondary school teacher?

Applications to become a school teacher have gradually become more competitive, which means that the list of requirements for secondary school teaching has grown. 

The university route

To become a secondary school teacher via the university route (which is probably the most common route), you generally need to meet the following requirements:

  • Four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths
  • Two to three A-levels, or equivalent
  • An undergraduate degree. Either a Bachelor of Education (BEd), Bachelor of Arts (BA), or Bachelor of Science (BSc)
  • To have completed a postgraduate teacher training course at a university or college

Once you’ve completed your degree, the most common way to become a secondary school teacher is through a PGCE. This course will take up to two years to complete and provide you with the professional skills you need to teach. You can do this with the School Direct Training Programme framework.  

The Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills route

Whilst the university route is the most popular path and the recommended option, there’s now another method for becoming a secondary school teacher. Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status means you won’t need degree-level credentials as it’s an alternative to QTS.

You’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be a member of the Society for Education and Training
  • Achieve a teaching qualification at Level 5 or above
  • Level 2 English and Maths at grade C/ band 4 or equivalent
  • Hold a Level 3 qualification in your chosen specialism
  • Must be teaching or training in a Further Education and Training setting throughout the Professional Formation programme
  • Have identified a suitable supporter (someone you have worked closely with and has observed your teaching)

Other routes into secondary school teaching

  • School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) – you’ll learn the necessities of teaching through a simulated environment. If you choose this route, make sure it provides you with PGCE credits.
  • Class-based assessment – do you have teaching experience or qualifications outside of the UK? If so, you can be assessed by teaching a live class in front of an examiner. 
  • Teach First – they provide professional placements within the most challenging schools in the UK.

As well as meeting the requirements above, you’ll need to reach Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by the end of your training.

What are the skills required to be a secondary school teacher?

Sure, you know your chosen subject like the back of your hand, but what about the soft skills you need to become a secondary school teacher? Important skills include:

  • Extensive knowledge and passion for the subject area you teach
  • Desire to work with young people and contribute to their development
  • Ability to create a teaching environment that inspires and motivates  students
  • Patience and ability to work calmly in stressful situations
  • Good problem-solving and organisation skills
  • Empathy and ability to be understanding
  • Strong communication skills
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Leadership skills for coaching and mentoring

How long does it take to become a secondary school teacher?

Usually, it takes three to five years to become a secondary school teacher. This includes the time it takes to complete your degree and a postgraduate teacher training course. Factors that may impact this timeframe include whether you study part or full-time, work placements, and the teacher training course you choose.

What are the typical working hours of a secondary school teacher?

When teaching secondary school education, your hours will usually be from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm (five days a week). In addition, you’ll need to spend extra hours outside of these times to plan lessons, mark homework, and take part in parent evenings and training courses. 

Start and end times may differ depending on the school you work for.

How much is the average secondary school teacher salary?

In the UK, the average salary for a secondary school teacher ranges from £28,000 to £43,685, and this is based on location and experience. Depending on where you’re based in the world, your salary is likely to change. For example, a high school teacher’s salary in the US is $58,538.

Other salaries from around the world include:

What is career progression like as a secondary school teacher?

If you continue to teach at secondary school level, you could progress to become the head of your department or even fill a head teacher role. This is a popular option for teachers who have reached a ceiling in terms of their pay.

Alternatively, you could start teaching a different age range of students. For example, you may find you’re better suited to life as a primary school teacher or want to try teaching your subject area at college.

How to become a secondary school teacher: additional learning

Now that we’ve taught you everything you need to know about how to become a secondary school teacher, it’s your turn to get your teaching hat on and start inspiring the next generation. 

Still need convincing? Explore our range of teaching courses at FutureLearn to see what tickles your fancy. Whether it’s English teaching courses or STEM teaching courses, you can take your first steps to becoming a secondary school teacher with our help.

Online secondary school teaching courses at FutureLearn

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