As advisers, we see lots of students who are interested in going into teaching. For many, this is a well thought-through plan. Many students have experience of interacting with school-age children, have observed or helped out in schools, and have a realistic picture of teaching as a profession and how well they might be suited to it. However, for other students, discussion of why they want to teach often reveals a different picture. It becomes clear that many feel they should go into teaching because they don’t know what their other options are. Some feel they should go into teaching because they need to do something using their degree subject, otherwise their degree “will have been a waste of time”.
Why does this happen? I think part of the reason is that teaching is a high profile profession – we have all been taught, and probably all think we have an idea of what being a teacher involves. It is therefore a career we all know about. While there are thousands of other careers out there, most are not as apparent or obvious as teaching. It is very difficult to know whether you will like a career unless you have some experience of it, or have at least met and spoken to someone working in that career. The result is that lots of people say they want to be teachers because it is the only career or profession they know much about.
Teaching your subject at secondary level is an obvious choice for making direct use of your degree subject. However, I would suggest that this alone is not a good enough reason to go into teaching! There are many careers where you can make use of your degree subject, but are perhaps less obvious than teaching. Finding out about these will require research and effort – for some idea of where to start, have a look at the ideas at the end of this post.
You are not limited by your degree subject – you don’t have to go into a career that is related to your degree subject. Students are often surprised to hear this! Your options are probably wider than you think, as the majority of graduate jobs are open to graduates from any degree subject. Many employers tell us that they are often less concerned about your degree subject, but are more interested in the intrinsic added-value you will have gained from studying for a degree: analytical and critical thinking abilities, research skills, presentation skills, independence, project leadership, and so on. So while not all graduate jobs will be related to your degree subject, they will still require you to use the skills and attributes you have gained from your degree.
So, what am I saying? Yes, teaching is a brilliant career, rewarding, challenging, interesting… However, it’s not for everyone, and it is just one of many rewarding, challenging and interesting careers out there! If you are one of those thinking you should teach because you don’t think you have any other options, here are some steps you could take:
- Have a look at the “Planning Your Future” section of our Careers Central website – and start to think about yourself, in the knowledge that there are lots of options open to you!
- Follow these links to find out the many options you have with your degree: http://careerscentral.shu.ac.uk/options-your-subject/options-your-subject and http://www.prospects.ac.uk/options_with_your_subject.htm
- Seek inspiration from others – have a look at what other graduates do from your course: https://research.shu.ac.uk/gems/egems/ and use LinkedIn to look at where alumni from your course have gone
- Book to see a Careers Adviser – talking all of this through with someone who is non-judgmental and unbiased can really help!
Rachel Firth, Careers Adviser