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Teach for the stars: Get your foot on the education ladder

It’s a fairly obvious idiom, but children really are the future, and someone’s got to show them how to do long division and use apostrophes appropriately.

Maybe you’re passionate about the correct use of a subjunctive, maybe you’ve simply spotted an opportunity for travel, or maybe you are just great with little whippersnappers. Either way, there are plenty of ways to get a foot on the education ladder.

Teaching assistant:

These guys hold the classroom together. They’re a second pair of eyes, ears and hands that are invaluable in a rowdy classroom, helping keep kids in check while teachers are busy teaching. Much more prevalent in primary schools,TAs are flexible and level-headed, and can handle any tasks or finger-paints flung their way. Teachers rely on their TAs, and a good working relationship totally revamps the class dynamic. You get all the perks of working with kids without the pressures of teaching - but without the pay-packet either.

Qualifications and experience:

Employers generally base their decisions on personality and skills rather than qualifications. Any experience working with children is obviously a bonus, and it always helps to show that you’re reliable, a team player and cool in a crisis.

Pay and hours:

TAs are often on part-time or term-time contracts, so they’re not paid during the holidays. Salaries are determined by the school, but usually start around £12,000.

Primary school teacher:

If you’re going in to primary teaching, it’s important to have genuine passion for what you’re doing because Government guidelines, OFSTED and SATs for six-year-olds might start to grate if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. That said, it’s always rewarding to impart knowledge and watch the little ‘uns blossom... probably. Extra-curricular activities include marking, planning, training and meetings, but then you can put your feet up for that famously long summer holiday.

Qualifications and experience:

You’ll need an undergraduate degree with a teaching qualification on top, or a specialist BEd degree. Most people go for a full-time PGCE, but there are also paid on-the-job training programmes out there.

Pay and hours:

Teachers average about a 40-hour week, including all the bits and bobs outside the classroom. But be prepared for extra hours in the run up to inspections or exams. There are regulated pay bands starting at about £22k, or just over £27k for London.

Among other things, this job requires communication and buckets of patience with an age group not exactly renowned for these skills. Aside from the teenagers, the main difference from primary is that you’ll specialise in a subject and stick to it, whether it’s the essential maths and English or something arty like drama. You’ll also be bombarded with hundreds of kids rather than just one class, so learning the names of your little cherubs is that bit harder. While all the outside-hours stuff still applies, there’s the added satisfaction (or pressure) of getting them through their all-important GCSEs and even A-Levels.

Qualifications and experience: 

Official hours are 9am to 4pm-ish, but in reality teachers will find themselves attending parent meetings and marking in front of the telly until midnight. But again, there’s that summer holiday...

Teaching English abroad:

For jet-setting and earning some pennies to boot, teaching English abroad opens windows to hundreds of countries and gets travellers off the beaten trail. You can teach children in poor communities, or adults in city evening schools. Just don’t imagine it’ll be a doss, because classroom madness is even madder when there’s a language barrier involved. There are tons of good agencies to find work, but also plenty of sham ones, so do some internet stalking and scour the reviews before you set foot on a plane.

Qualifications and experience:

Most employers will want a TEFL qualification, which you can earn in a four-week intensive course or through part-time, evening or even online study. The most reputable ones will involve a lot of coursework and teaching practice. Weekend courses are available, and probably legit, but if it’s a career move, then it’s usually best to go for the more comprehensive (and expensive) option.

Pay and hours:

This could take you to any corner of any country, so it’s tricky to pin down average hours or salary. But, while an Indonesian countryside school will pay less than a Berlin college, it’s all relative, and you can expect to live comfortably in your country of choice.

These are the companies that we rate: Redbox Teachers, Protocol Education, TeachFirst, TEFL Jobs Centre and TeachAway.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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