The most obvious career path in education is to train as a teacher, which opens up plenty of career opportunities both in schools and elsewhere. You have to meet a set of official standards to qualify and work in state schools, and the requirements include having a degree and completing postgraduate training. However, there are plenty of other roles in education and related areas such as childcare that are suitable for school leavers.
Your career options as a teacher
One of the big decisions you need to make is whether you want to be a primary school teacher or a secondary school teacher, as they have separate postgraduate training courses and it’s not all that easy to move from one to the other after you’ve qualified.
You could also work in a range of other educational settings and institutions, including:
- FE (further education) colleges
- special schools catering for children with disabilities and special needs
- pupil referral units, which are for children who have been excluded or can’t be educated in mainstream schools for some other reason such as behavioural problems
- young offenders’ institutions
Who employs teachers?
Teachers at fee-paying schools – often referred to as private or independent schools – are employed by the organisation that runs the school, which is often a charitable trust. Independent schools are not required to employ qualified teachers, so technically, you could teach at an independent school without either a degree or a postgraduate qualification. However, in practice, independent schools usually want the same level of qualification as is required for state schools.
If you work for a state school, you could be employed either by the local authority or by another organisation, depending on the type of school. Community schools are run by the local authority; academies and free schools are funded directly by central government and have more control over teachers’ pay and conditions and the curriculum. So what you teach and what you earn will be dependent to some extent on the type of school you work in.
How could your career as a teacher progress?
If you want to hone your skills in the classroom, you could become a leading practitioner. This role involves leading the improvement of teaching skills and supporting your fellow teachers as well as carrying on teaching your own classes. There are also plenty of opportunities to progress to roles that involve more management, such as leading the teaching of children with special educational needs or becoming a head of department or headteacher.
Other career opportunities for qualified, experienced teachers include private tuition or working for an exam board or local authority, or as an education officer in a gallery or museum.
Career options for non-graduates in education and care
There are also plenty of jobs in schools that are suitable for non-graduates, as well as roles outside the classroom in education and childcare. If you want to work with children and young people but don’t want to become a teacher, you could consider the following options:
- Teaching assistant work, for example providing additional support for children with special educational needs. You can progress to a higher level teaching assistant role.
- Childcare. There are many different jobs that involve looking after young children, such as becoming a nanny, nursery nurse or nursery manager.
- Playwork. Playworkers support and supervise children’s play in hospitals, leisure centres that offer holiday play schemes and a range of other settings.
- Youth work. Youth workers are typically based in venues such as youth clubs and community centres. They organise activities for young people and provide them with support. You can take an apprenticeship route to qualify as a youth support worker, or study for an approved degree to become a professional youth worker. Qualifications are overseen by the National Youth Agency.
- Breakfast club, after-school club or holiday club supervisor. These types of clubs are often attached to primary schools and provide childcare out of school hours.
There’s a range of relevant vocational qualifications available at different levels for these areas of work; these are not necessarily a requirement before you take up employment and may be available to you on the job. However, a standard requirement for anyone working with children and young people is a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check of your criminal record history.
Administrative and management roles in education
If you like the idea of working for a school or other educational organisation but don’t want to be directly involved in teaching or caring, there are plenty of other types of job you could consider. Schools, colleges, childcare settings and the education departments of local authorities all need administrators and support with their financial management and accounting, and may have entry-level roles suitable for school leavers. You could also look for school leaver opportunities in public service and local government.