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Teaching as a Career - Exeter University

Watch a video from the Education department here at the University of Exeter, with PGCE students discussing what they most enjoy about teaching and why it is so special.

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Get Into Teaching

There are many general skills that will benefit you in any sector that you choose to work in, but we have highlighted some that are especially important to a career in Teaching.

  • Deadlines/Time Management
  • Patience
  • Sociability
  • Professionalism
  • Public Speaking
  • Confidence
  • Creativity
  • Planning
  • Adaptability
  • Clarity
  • Team work 
  • Leadership
Exeter University - Routes Into Teaching
Still Not Sure?

If you're still not sure about which sector you want to go into, you can find our other Careers Portfolios below.









"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge".

Albert Einstein

Sub sectors

Teaching is a hugely rewarding sector to work in, and there may be more variety in the roles available than expected.

There are often specific hiring processes for different boroughs, so doing your research on your local area is essential in finding and getting upcoming jobs.

Below is a breakdown of the different areas of employment available within teaching. Click on each to open a drop down with additional information.

In primary education teachers are most often responsible for one class and their schooling. They teach most or all subjects across the curriculum, and tend not to have a subject specialism, so the role is extremely diverse on a day to day basis.

The role may also involve management and administration for the running of the school as you progress. Much of this work is taken on by teachers as additions to their standard teaching day.

All teaching roles in state schools will require a PGCE qualification.

In Secondary education teachers are most often specialists in a specific subject, so will teach several different groups of students each day.

There may also be further roles as Subject Heads or for administrative work.

All teaching roles in state schools will require a PGCE qualification.

Roles in Higher Education will involve a combination of research and teaching, and up to 60% of your time will be spent doing your own research rather than teaching students.

There are also administrative level roles within the academic field. These can include additional work on top of research and teaching commitments, such as setting and writing examinations, marking papers or examinations, and organising or running modules and courses.

Higher Education roles often require PhD level qualifications. 

As a further education (FE) teacher, you'll teach a range of subjects in one of three main areas:

  • vocational training (including apprenticeships) - preparing students for work and making sure they have up-to-date skills
  • academic teaching - teaching a range of academic qualifications, mainly at GCSE and A-level
  • English and maths - teaching basic skills in areas such as numeracy, literacy and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).

You may also teach recreational courses that support personal interests, such as local history or watercolours.

Although you'll work mainly with post-16 and/or adult learners, you're increasingly expected to work with students aged 14 to 19 who are studying vocational subjects.

Work can take place in any of the following settings:

  • a general or specialist FE college
  • sixth form colleges
  • adult and community education centres
  • universities
  • prisons and youth offender organisations
  • voluntary and charity organisations
  • work-based learning such as apprenticeships.

There is the option to become an academic researching teaching and child development in a Higher Education setting.

This will often involve personal research as well as teaching on PGCE or other university courses and modules.

Training & qualifications

There are a variety of opportunities for gaining additional qualifications and training that will aid you in seeking employment in the Teaching profession.

Open the drop down menus below to find out more about some of the most well-known options.

The PGCE is the most recognised and popular graduate route to allow you to teach in the UK.

It can be either school-led or university-led training, and there are courses available at universities around the country.

Once you have gained a PGCE you will have Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) status.

Many graduate schemes involve gaining a PGCE qualification.

The qualification takes 1 full-time academic year or 2 part-time academic years to complete.

It combines studying the theory behind teaching and learning with substantial school placements in order to give you practical teaching experience.

There are different types of PGCE available depending on what type of teaching you wish to go into.

  • Early Years involves young children before they enter Primary school completely.
  • Primary Education equips you to work in a primary school, and can be with or without specialisms such as maths or special educational needs.
  • Secondary Education equips you to work at secondary level, and is subject specialist focused.

The Primary Specialism pathway in a PGCE includes English, Maths, Science, Humanities, Art and Modern Languages, and puts the candidate in a perfect position to attain a Subject Leader role in the future.


In order to be allowed to start a PGCE course, you must meet certain specific requirements and pass a set of Professional Skills Tests. The requirements are as below:

Entry to the PGCE programme is conditional on:

  • Graduate or equivalent status
  • The relevance of an Honours degree content to the chosen specialist subject(s)
    (current University of Exeter students are allowed to take up to 30 credits outside of their degree programme, some of which may strengthen an application for a PGCE)
  • Passes at GCSE in English and Mathematics at grade C or above or equivalent (or for GCSEs taken from Summer 2017 onwards, grade 4 or above) for those applying for Secondary. If you are applying for Secondary Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Modern Foreign Languages or Religious Education and do not have a pass at grade C/grade 4 in either English or Mathematics, you will have the opportunity to sit the University’s equivalency test in order to gain attainment at an appropriate level
  • Passes at GCSE in English, Mathematics and Science at grade C or above or equivalent (or for GCSEs taken from Summer 2017 onwards, grade 4 or above) if you are applying for Primary. 
  • Selection based on the information provided on the UCAS Teacher Training application
  • Selection based on a successful interview
  • A medical report which is deemed satisfactory
  • A completed Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) enhanced check which is deemed satisfactory by the University

You can find more information on the University of Exeter website.

For more information see the Prospects resources about PGCEs here.

Teach First is one of the most prominent graduate schemes for teaching roles.

It is a 2 year long scheme that includes teacher and leadership training.

It includes a fully funded Postgraduate Diploma of Education (PGDE), which differs from the PGCE: it is worth twice as many credits. This will afford you QTS (Qualified Teacher Status).

The focus is on key skills and personal qualities to be an effective leader, and the scheme is designed to launch candidates into leadership roles within the teaching sector.

The scheme is also based in under-priviledged schools, in order to provide support and aims to give every child a good start.

It primarily runs in secondary schools.

Please go to the Teach First website here for more information.


Obtaining a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in post-compulsory education is the most usual route into the profession for new graduates. Courses are available either full time (one year including teaching practice) or part time. They incorporate the requirements of the Level 5 qualification but also offer additional units at a higher level and are assessed at a higher level, usually Level 6 but sometimes Level 7. You'll need a degree in the subject you wish to teach.

You can also take a Cert Ed (Certificate in Education) which meets the Level 5 requirements but doesn't require a degree. Instead, you'll need a Level 3 qualification in the area you wish to teach or extensive experience.

A small number of courses use the UCAS Teacher Training application system. However, you usually apply directly to the teacher training provider. A list of publicly-funded courses in England is available by contacting the FE Adviceline.

Student tuition fee loans are available for approved and accredited full and part-time Level 5 DET and PGCE programmes that lead to the full teacher qualification for post-16 education and training. 


Your choice of modules during your undergraduate degree does not need to be specific or tailored towards education, but taking modules in that area may help when applying for PGCE places.

Several of the modules within the College of Social Sciences and International Studies are potentially relevant to a PGCE and a future career in teaching.

Below are some examples of modules within the SSIS departments you may want to consider taking in order to develop your understanding and gain the specific knowledge required within the sector. These modules may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning for Teaching: School Experience

  • This is the most relevant module for any student hoping to pursue a career in teaching.
  • It introduces you to what it is like to teach in schools, the role of a teacher, and helps you decide whether teaching is something you want to pursue and have the skills for.
  • It is available at all 3 levels of undergraduate study, and at 15 or 30 credits each year. 

Postgraduate study

You can easily and quickly find available courses by searching ‘teacher training’ at

Here at Exeter we have resources dedicated to showing you the routes into teaching available for you, and you can find them here.

Rather than study a PGCE, you can also choose to follow the School Direct Provision, which involves being employed by a school and paid a salary while you train for your QTS. It involves undertaking modules via distance learning while working in the school environment, and possibly taking a secondment at another school to gain the broad experience required for QTS. More information on this pathway can be found here.


Once you have completed your studies, you can also continue in Higher Education and undertake a Masters level qualification. Here at Exeter, the MA Education is taught on the St Luke’s campus, and more information can be found here. This route would set you up well to pursue a career as an academic in the field of Education.

Extra-curricular Experience

Extra-curricular activities are hugely important to any job search, and can really make you stand out in comparison to other graduates. 

There are many opportunities to gain extra experience during your time at university, but below are some examples of things you could consider. 

We have split this into Student's Guild opportunities and Volunteering, and have highlighted some of the options that are most relevant to education and teaching. This is by no means an exaustive list, so if you have something specific in mind you can do your own research on the Guild website or online.

Joining societies and getting involved with the Students' Guild/Students' Union activities is a fantastic opportunity to gain experience for your CV and show your dedication to your chosen field or career path.

This experience will prove very useful when it comes to applying and interviewing for PGCE or graduate scheme places, as they will expect a level of experience in schools or education to prove that you have carefully considered the career path and understand what it involves.

Below is a list of some Societies or student groups that you might consider joining in order to give your skill set a boost and make yourself stand out from the crowd.


  • Scouts, Guides & DofE Society – volunteering with local scouting and guiding in Exeter
  • YMCA – raise awareness of plight of disadvantaged young people in Exeter, fundraising to help them in practical ways, training and volunteering opportunities

Volunteering is another excellent opportunity to show your commitment to the teaching profession and gain further skills and experience to contribute to your CV.

You will likely need a DBS check of some sort in order to participate in volunteering with children, but many volunteering opportunities can help you with this. You can also check the government information about DBS checks here.

There are several different ways you can volunteer locally, so you can find something that suits your interests and gives you the skills you are looking for.

  • Schools in Devon and Cornwall – you can volunteer at local schools in order to get practical experience in a teaching environment. This is often vital for applications to a PGCE to show that you understand the practicalities of the work and have spent time dedicated to the sector. In order to do this, you will need to contact schools individually to organise.
  • ESV Global Touch – Exeter Student Volunteers run a support group for local school students in Exeter for whom English is a second language. Volunteers are required to speak a foreign language fluently and volunteer for two hours per week.
  • ESV Mentoring for Success – this project provides support for students in local secondary schools in order to help them to reach their full potential. It can involve help with homework, applications for college or university, and 1:1 support.
  • ESV smART Club– this is an after school craft club run by students at the university, for children aged 5-7.
  • ESV Department & Society Linked Volunteering – The society also run 20 other projects ranging from primary school language clubs to care home reading projects. See the website for more details.
  • There are also societies and volunteering opportunities on the Penryn Campus-

Employers & Organisations

There are many different potential employers and organisations that you may need to be aware of in the sector. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it is recommended to do your own research on employers before attending an interview.

  • Department for Education – this is the government department responsible for organising and monitoring the education sector in the UK. They have webpages called Get Into Teaching that provide information on bursaries, an FAQ, help with teacher training applications, and more.
  • Explore Learning– this is an award-winning network of 120 education centres, impacting over 3,000 children across the UK. It has previously been listed in The Sunday Times 100 best companies to work for. There are opportunities to join their Assistant Director Scheme, which trains you to run one of their centres, developing your customer service, leadership, sales and teaching skills. This opportunity involves working closely with children, you will earn £23,000 per annum, and there are openings across the UK.
  • The National Education Union (NEU) is the relevant union for teachers throughout the UK. Their website can be found here, and they can provide support country wide and with employment issues. 

Career Zone

Below, you can find feeds of the current jobs, events and mentors available through The Career Zone that are relevant to Teaching.

Click on any of the tabs to be taken to the specific page. 

Career Zone also run a programme called Aspirational Educators which provides a range of opportunities to get teaching/education based work experience.

The Career Mentor Scheme is a popular employability scheme which matches experienced professionals with a mentee (current student or recent graduate), to meet monthly for sector insights and one to one careers advice and guidance over a six month period.

Find out more.