These days, having a strong education is vital for young people to acquire skills that will enable them to find work and support themselves as they become adults.
Because of this, the UK is always in need of teaching staff within a number of academic establishments – from primary schools to universities – who not only have a strong knowledge of their subject areas, but also an ability to engage with potential learners.
What A-Levels do you need?
The good news is you’re unlikely to need a specific subject at A-level, unless you decide to do a combined/joint honours course (studying for a
BSc in Chemistry with Education at the University of Reading will require a B in A-level chemistry, for example). There are a few exceptions, of course (Brunel ask for a social science subject at grade B for their Contemporary Education BA), but most unis aren’t too fussed about specific subjects (it probably won’t hurt if you can show you have a solid foundation in the likes of maths and English, though).
What are your study options?
There are a number of study options available to those wishing to improve their knowledge of the education sector. Some students, rather than going to university, opt to find work as teaching assistants and learn while working. However, if you want to become a fully qualified teaching professional, able to take classes on your own, then there are two main options for you…
Firstly, you may wish to study for a BEd qualification at degree level. This will equip you with a general overview of the teaching industry (such as funding, risk assessment, health and safety and CRB checks) as well as equipping you with skills in your specific specialised area. You’ll also learn about the psychology of education, and how different theories and techniques have changed and developed over time. A BEd is a particularly popular option for those wishing to work with either younger learners or those with special educational needs, as it will also cover the different cognitive approaches towards the acquisition and retention of information.
If education is a subject that appeals but you don’t wish to study it for 3 years at undergraduate level, then you may wish to study another degree subject before studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). This is more relevant for those wishing to teach older learners such as secondary school students and undergraduates, although it is still also an option for other educational sectors.
The structure of any education course will be split in to two strands: practical learning and theoretical learning. As well as gaining an overview of the education sector, students will be able to gain hands-on experience within a classroom environment. Towards the end of the course, some of these sessions will be marked and will contribute towards your final grade.
If you do decide to study a different subject and then take a postgraduate course, it is vital that you gain as much hands on experience as possible before applying. Any work experience you can find in a classroom setting will help your application to stand out (which is important, given how competitive many postgraduate teaching courses are).
Why study Education?
Providers of education are always in demand. Teachers and educational specialists offer an essential service to a wide range of people all looking to further their own knowledge. For a sharp individual with strong communication skills and a passion for working with others, education could be the perfect area.
It’s also worth remembering that teaching offers pretty decent careers prospects. The starting salary is £21,804 (higher if you teach in London), and this will go up every year – not bad in a time where graduate jobs aren’t the easiest thing to come by!
After your degree
Many students go straight into teaching, while others go on to take postgraduate teaching qualifications such as PGCEs or SCITTs.
However, if you’re looking to diversify your knowledge – or even shift careers completely – there are a number of other postgraduate courses you can take. Many students looking for a change may study for a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification, which qualifies them to teach international speakers how to speak English.
Some students will also use postgraduate study as a means of opting out of the teaching industry altogether. Educational psychology, social work, government work and even journalism are all popular programmes for those with a background in education.
Q & A with an Education lecturer
Mark Freeman is an Education studies lecturer at the Institute of Education...
Why should students study a degree in Education?
Education occurs everywhere – not just in schools and universities, but also in homes and families, libraries, youth groups, religious institutions, businesses, and so on. To understand education is to understand how society sustains and reproduces itself, and how individuals connect with institutions and with each other. Education studies at the IOE offers a broad interdisciplinary introduction to the field, with specialist input from historians, philosophers, psychologists and sociologists. There is also the opportunity to specialise in a particular area, i.e. philosophy, sociology or history. After three years students will leave us with a solid grounding in the social sciences and humanities, with a focus on how these disciplines shed light on the nature, purpose and contexts of education.
What kind of skills will students learn on the course?
Students will be assessed on a range of work that demonstrates their ability to work both individually and in groups. They will produce longer and shorter pieces of work, and will be exposed to a range of interdisciplinary influences. Students will graduate with the ability to produce written work effectively, and to make oral presentations on their research. From the very beginning, students are viewed as participants in the research process, taking control of aspects of their own learning, and devising their own research projects. Students will leave the IOE with skills and abilities that they can deploy in a range of settings, both in the workplace and in further study.
What key modules can students expect to cover in their first year?
In the first year, all students take a common set of introductory courses. ‘Introduction to Education Studies’ and ‘Education, Values & Society’ introduce students to key concepts and theories in education studies, and to the ‘foundation disciplines’ of sociology, philosophy and history. A module called ‘How People Learn’ introduces various theories of learning, and to key historical and contemporary debates in this area. There is also a course on ‘Representations of Education in Film and Literature’, which encourages wider thinking about the nature and purpose of education.
What kind of careers do students typically go into after they graduate?
This is a new programme, and we have no graduates yet! However, an education studies degree prepares students for a range of careers in and beyond education. Teaching is one obvious possibility, but our graduates are also well placed to pursue careers in educational support, youth and social work, research, administration, local and national government, the heritage sector, libraries and archives, and so on. With a broad-based interdisciplinary degree in education studies, with or without a subject specialism, our graduates can enter a challenging job market with confidence.
Q & A with a Primary Teaching student
Jamie is currently in his third year of studying a BEd (hons) Primary Teaching (with music as a specialist subject) at Plymouth University...
What attracted you to the course?
This course appealed to me as I really wanted to specialise in a subject and gain the knowledge and skills required to pursue a career in primary school teaching. I did some comparisons and Plymouth University emerged as the best place for me to study.
What are the best bits about the course?
I have really enjoyed exploring the current issues in education which have been incorporated into our modules, and the course has taught me to be more reflective about my education and my own teaching practice. Lectures and seminars are led by enthusiastic experts who make the course interesting and relevant to us as trainee teachers.
Have you undertaken a work placement?
Yes, one of the most enjoyable elements of my course has been my placements, which have really deepened my knowledge and experience within the teaching profession. I have had a variety of placements which have allowed me to work in a range of schools, and I feel that Plymouth University’s option to study a ‘subject specialism’ within primary teaching means that as a graduate I will really stand out when applying for future jobs.
What makes Plymouth University a good place to study?
The facilities available to students make Plymouth University a great place to study. The modern campus provides everything I need, including a great library and all the resources required for my specialist subject seminars. Plymouth has given me the best student experience I could have asked for, the city is a great place to live with plenty happening and many assets including the beautiful sea front (Plymouth Hoe). My time as a student here has been both enjoyable and rewarding and I’m glad I made the decision to come to Plymouth.