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How to become a teacher: a six-step guide, including setting up as self-employed

6-minute read

How to become a teacher: a six-step guide, including setting up as self-employed
Lauren Hellicar

Lauren Hellicar

15 January 2020

Deciding to become a teacher is about so much more than just choosing your next job – despite the obvious challenges, the rewards can be huge if you make the decision to work in education.

Read our guide to becoming a teacher to find out whether it's the right career move for you – plus tips on setting up on your own if you want to become a self-employed teacher.

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Why become a teacher?

It’s not unusual to find the idea of teaching daunting – even if you're completely set on the idea. Despite the fact that it’s a tough gig with an even tougher crowd, the benefits will outweigh the disadvantages for many who make the leap.

For starters, there aren't many jobs where you get to feel like you're really making a positive impact on other people’s lives and where no two working days are the same.

Below we’ve listed the steps you’ll need to take if you’re serious about getting into teaching.

1. How do I qualify as a teacher?

If you want to teach in schools in England you’ll need to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). A range of undergraduate teacher training courses is available to get you to QTS. Or, if you already have a degree you can do a postgraduate teacher training course.

The education system in Scotland is different, however, which means the qualifications you’ll need to teach north of the border are different. Read more about training to teach in Scotland.

2. Should I teach primary or secondary?

Become a primary school teacher

On top of QTS, primary school teachers also need a grade C/4 in maths and English at GCSE plus GCSE science. It’s worth thinking about which age you’d ideally like to teach, as postgraduate qualifications are usually aligned with one of the following ranges:

  • 3 to 7 year olds
  • 5 to 11 year olds
  • 7 to 11 year olds
  • 7 to 14 year olds

Some primary school teachers specialise in certain subjects, like maths, languages or PE. If you train to teach middle school (7 to 14 year olds), you’ll learn the primary national curriculum and specialise in a secondary subject.

Become a secondary school teacher

The subject you teach at secondary level will usually reflect what you studied at A level or university. It’s worth checking what your qualifications allow you to teach as you may have more options than you think, depending on your qualifications.

If you discover that you don’t have the required qualifications for the secondary school subject you want to teach, you can always take a subject knowledge enhancement course (SKE). These fully funded top-up courses help you increase your existing knowledge (or add to a related qualification) to get you to the level required to teach a particular subject.

3. Is funding available for teacher training?

Trainee teachers have access to three types of funding. You may be eligible for all three, depending on your circumstances.

  • tax-free bursary or scholarship of up to £28,000 – available depending on your subject
  • tuition fee loan and maintenance loan – available regardless of your qualifications or subject
  • extra financial support if you have a disability or dependants (children or adults) – available regardless of your subject

It’s also possible to earn a salary while you’re training to become a teacher and there are five ways to do this:

Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship

Earn a salary while you teach in the classroom, with 20 per cent of your time set aside for practical learning leading to QTS. You’ll take an end-point assessment (EPA) to make sure you’re ready to become a newly qualified teacher (NQT).

School Direct (salaried)

Another way to earn while you learn, School Direct (salaried) positions come up with schools directly. As the school recruits you and employs you as a trainee, this may be a route to a job at the end of your training.

The programme gives you QTS, and some may also give you PGCE or Masters level credits. School Direct trainee salaries will vary between schools so it’s worth checking you can afford to live on the pay the school is offering before you apply.

Start applying by visiting’s Find postgraduate teacher training courses page, where you can search for ‘only courses that come with a salary’.

Teach First

To be eligible to apply for Teach First you’ll need a 2:1 or above at undergraduate level. This challenging but highly rewarding route to teaching involves achieving QTS in your first year, followed by your NQT placement in year two.

While earning a salary you’ll work towards a high level of teaching and leadership skills, gaining a Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Leadership. This qualification is worth double the Masters credits of a PGCE.

Researchers in Schools

You may be eligible for this salaried route if you have a PhD and experience of working with young people.

4. How do I find teacher training courses? has a find postgraduate teacher training courses tool that allows you to search for teacher training courses by provider, location and subject.

5. How do I apply for teacher training?

You can apply for postgraduate teacher training programmes through the UCAS Teacher Training portal.

If you want to study an undergraduate degree to become a teacher, you can apply through the UCAS undergraduate portal.

Deciding which route is right for you can be tough to do on your own, so the Department for Education’s personal adviser service is there to help. They’ll give you advice on applying, getting experience in a school and attending teaching events as well as general hints and tips by email.

6. How do I become a self-employed tutor?

If your ultimate goal is to work for yourself as a private tutor or teacher, you’ll need to take some additional steps.

Pay your taxes

Register for Self Assessment with HMRC to make sure you pay the tax and NICs you owe. Failing to register, file your return and pay your bill by the deadlines could result in a hefty fine.

This also applies if you’re employed as a teacher in a school and do part-time tutoring on the side. Read our article on registering for Self Assessment to make sure you stay on top of your tax bill.

Health and safety

If you set up as a tutor in your own home you’ll need to carry out simple health and safety risk assessments regularly.

They don’t need to be written down if you’re working by yourself, but you will need to think about what could potentially cause harm to your students and make sure you’re taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm.

Read more about how to do a health and safety risk assessment.

Advertise honestly

Whether it’s through social media, websites, emails or printed flyers and posters, most tutors will advertise their business in some way.

It’s important to make sure any advert you display through any medium is honest. If you make false claims about the exam success of your students – for example, that they all get A* when they don’t – you may be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Student and parent testimonials are a good way to show new customers how existing customers rate your services.

Get DBS checked

Getting an 'enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate' proves there’s no known reason why you may not work with children.

It’s not a legal requirement for tutoring, although many tutors prefer to have a DBS certificate to give parents or carers peace of mind. Read more about [getting a DBS certificate if you're self-employed].

Enhance your skills

Joining a professional association like The Tutors’ Association, which organises Continuing Professional Development (CPD), is a good way to keep your tutoring skills and knowledge up to scratch. And if you’re just starting out, there are charities, like Action Tutoring, that will train you to volunteer as a tutor with underprivileged children.

It might also be worth joining an organisation relevant to the subject you teach, such as the Association of Teachers of Mathematics.

Protect yourself

Private tuition insurance can protect you if a client sues you. It usually covers public liability and professional indemnity – it’s also a mark of professionalism in the eyes of your customers.

You should also consider your personal safety, online safety and protecting yourself financially by using a tuition contract with terms and conditions. The following resources are a good place to start to make sure you're aware of potential issues:

Are you planning on training as a teacher or setting up as a self-employed tutor? Let us know how it’s going in the comments below.

Insurance for private tutors

You can build a tailored private tuition insurance policy. Start with public liability insurance and add other covers if you need them. Why not run a quick quote to get started?

Start your quote

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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