Facing enemy fighters is one thing, but how about a classroom of children? We highlight the transferable skills and career opportunities that could make teaching the right career move for you.

Confidence and selfless dedication to the job in hand are natural requisites of those serving in the UK’s Armed Forces. They’re also useful in the classroom, which is not necessarily as far away from the battlefield as you might think!

Since each of the Services retain responsibility for the training of their own staff, it’s no surprise that numerous officers are also qualified teachers, either based in specific education and training posts or on duty as instructors. Also, many Service leavers – before resettlement – will have worked towards the likes of the post-16 Certificate of Education or City & Guilds Further & Adult Education Teachers’ Certificate.

There are currently around 527,600 full and part-time teachers in the UK, working in both the public sector and independent or private schools. While the largest employers are local councils, control of overall policy and standards remains in the hands of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) in England, and the education departments of the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Because of this division, education systems do vary across the UK – Scotland, in particular, retains a distinctive training and career structure. Training to be a teacher in one country within the UK is by no means a passport to teaching in another.

According to Peter Eaton of the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA, formerly Teacher Training Agency, and still the body responsible for the standard of teacher training in England), there is no career quite like teaching, particularly for someone used to the levels of support offered by the Armed Forces. He told us: “A school is a community, and by working with other intelligent, like-minded people, teachers and support staff pull together to help and encourage each other. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of ways to train as a teacher, so for those with the qualifications, commitment and ability, there is a suitable course, from full-time, part-time and flexible training to on-the-job training while earning a salary.”

Qualifications: There are two main routes to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England, Wales or Northern Ireland: as an undergraduate, you take a combined degree which includes the main subject, an education course and some classroom experience – these could be a three year BEd or four-year BA or BSc). If you already have a degree, you can complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE); this takes a full academic year, at least half of which is spent in real classroom situations.

Every year, a small number of people join the England-only Graduate Teacher Programme; this allows graduates to complete their PGCE while actually working in a school. This is a particularly good option for those who need to continue earning while they train; depending on the school, those on GTP will be paid the salary of either an unqualified or newly qualified teacher – at least £14,000 for the year. Understandably, competition to enter the GTP is very high. To apply for a place on the GTP, you must contact the relevant Designated Recommending Body (DRB) in the area you wish to work; a list of current DRBs is available on the TDA website at www.tda.gov.uk

Funding: From September 2006, undergraduates training in England will be able to claim a means-tested grant of up to £2,700 a year from either the DfES or the Welsh Assembly, if your Welsh. Postgraduates working towards PGCE in England will be eligible for a non-means-tested grant of £1,200 for the year and an additional means-tested grant of up to £1,500 – the rates in Wales are still under review. Those studying to teach ‘priority subjects’ (such as secondary mathematics, science, ICT, modern languages, RE and music) also qualify for a tax free bursary of up to £9,000 for the year it takes to complete the PGCE.

People in England who go on to teach secondary priority subjects are also eligible for a taxable £2,500 – £5,000 ‘golden hello’ at the start of their second year as a qualified teacher. Full payment conditions on these and other financial incentives can be found on the TDA’s website or through their Information Line.

There are no additinal financial incentives offered to students studying to become teachers in Northern Ireland, although students accepted onto PGCE courses are eligible for mandatory, means-tested awards from their local Education & Library Boards.

Pay: Salaries for qualified teachers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland range from £19,161 to £30,339, with bonuses depending on responsibilities. In England, experienced teachers unwilling to be promoted out of the classroom can train to become Advanced Skills Teachers. ASTs work to raise standards of teaching and learning by the likes of contributing to high quality teaching materials, mentoring newly qualified teachers and providing ‘model’ lessons to enhance the skills of teachers in their own and other schools. AST’s can earn up to £56,526.

Qualifications: In Scotland, there are three routes to gain QTS. Undegraduates at Scottish universities can complete either a four year Bachelor of Education degree (BEd) – in Primary Education, Physical Education, Music or Technological Education – or a combined (sometimes called ‘concurrent’) degree course – including main subject, study of education and school experience. Meantime, graduates can complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) course either full-time (one year) at university or – with some institutions – through part-time / distance learning.

Funding: Tuition fees for Scottish undergraduates studying north of the border are paid for by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland, which can also offer a means tested maintenance grant of up to £2,480, and a range of supplementary grants (for disabilities, dependents, lone parents, etc) – these are not specifically for student teachers. Those already with a postgraduate qualification looking to move into teaching will normally qualify for tuition fee support, particularly if they want to teach in subjects such as Art, Chemistry, Gaelic and Physics.

Pay: From next April, classroom teachers’ salaries will range from £19,440 up to £31,008, depending on grade and experience. Teachers who have the skills and experience of many years teaching, but who wish to remain in the classroom can choose to become ‘Chartered Teachers’, sharing their skills and experience with other teachers through the likes of mentoring schemes. Chartered Teachers can currently earn up to £38,868.

On gaining QTS, you will be required to register with the appropriate General Teaching Council – for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Once qualified and in employment, teachers must then complete a three-term programme of tailored training and support, designed to equip them for the classroom and lay the foundations of their future career. Nor is this the end of the learning process; Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is a process through which teachers widen and develop their skills and qualifications, ensuring they continue to meet statutory and advisory standards.

While significant government investment in education is bringing more people of all ages to the teaching profession (some 41,000 in England and Wales, last year), there are still subjects – such as mathematics, science, english and modern languages – where shortages of qualified teaching staff mean that those who are qualified have a good choice of where to work – at least in mainland Britain, since Northern Ireland is not affected by the same shortages as the rest of the UK. Not only that, once you are in the profession, there are clearly defined career routes with agreed additional allowances as you make your way up the appropriate pay scales.

Peter Eaton added: “There are widespread progression opportunities for the most ambitious candidates. In secondary schools, teachers can move up the management structure within their subject team to become head of department. They could also become a head of year or lead an area such as special needs or pastoral care.” Also, with teaching having become increasingly female dominated in recent years, there are concerted efforts to attract more men into the profession, particularly in primary school teaching.

The TDA organise short taster courses throughout the year. Lasting three to four days, including a one day school placement, these aim to give as realistic an idea as possible about the training and working environment. Alternatively, TDA’s Open Schools Programme allows you to spend a day in one of some 700 schools, observing lessons and talking to staff about the work, the curriculum and careers.

What makes a good teacher? According to the Scottish Executive, which has done much to boost the status and working conditions of the profession north of the border, important attributes include: good communication and interpersonal skills; commitment and enthusiasm; time management and organisational skills; the ability to work in a team as well as take on individual responsibility; stamina and resilience; flexibility and motivation.

Now, if that’s not a good match for people in the Armed Forces, what is?


Department for Education ( Northern Ireland)
028 9127 9534

General Teaching Council for England
0870 001 0308

General Teaching Council for Scotland
0131 314 6000

General Teaching Council for Wales
029 2055 0350

Graduate Teacher Training Registry (GTTR)
Customer Service Unit: 0870 1122205

Skill Force
01623 827651

Teaching in Scotland
0845 345 4745.

Training and Development Agency for Schools
(formerly Teacher Training Agency)
0845 6000 991 (English speakers)
0845 6000 992 (Welsh speakers)

0870 11 222 11