Looking to enhance your career? If you’re already working as a TA, you’ll have a wealth of classroom experience. Often, you will work one-on-one with students when they need support and help.
While that in itself is a fulfilling feat, you may be looking to take the next step up. The smart career progression is training to become a fully qualified teacher. If you’re wondering how to make the leap, you’ve come to the right place. We have the insights you need no matter where you are in your professional journey.
What is the journey to becoming a TA
First things first, let’s talk about how you become a teaching assistant (TA). To excel in a teaching assistant role, you will need to have excellent communication skills, oodles of patience, and a great deal of flexibility. You never know what each student will need in terms of support. For that reason, you need to be ready to adapt your approach on the spot.
If you’re looking to get started in this rewarding career and have a positive impact on students, it may be helpful to get some work experience by doing some part-time volunteering at your local school. This will get you used to working in a learning environment, and give you a good understanding of the principles of lesson planning, safeguarding, and the responsibilities of a full-time TA or teacher. You can do this while undertaking a course that is related to the field. For example, you might want to study childcare as an evening course.
While you may not need a degree to become a TA, most schools will expect you to have strong GCSEs. That means at least five qualifications in the top grade brackets. If you don’t have that, you may need to take a BTEC or equivalent qualification to get started.
Of course, any of the skills that are required for this role can be learnt on the job. When you have gained experience in this role, you may choose to take your Level 1 Teaching Assistant course so that you can better support both the students and teacher in class.
Where should I start in order to become a teacher?
Since each of us learns in a different way, there are many pathways you can consider. One of the most obvious is to go to university and take a teaching course. That is the traditional option. If you are ready to take the leap and become a teacher, you will need to gain the Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
However, you should keep in mind that there are other ways to go. If you want to become a teacher but don’t want to go to university, it’s worth weighing up your options. You can also train via the Straight to Teaching initiative or within a QTS development programme. It may be worth speaking to your boss and asking them what options are available to you.
Looking at online teaching courses or education-centric qualifications may be a savvy place to start. The more knowledge you gain of this field, the better position you will be in when it comes to making the leap. Should you already have a degree, you can apply to start a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Consider the experience and qualifications that you already have before you determine which way will suit you.
How much experience do I need as a TA?
There is nothing more valuable than in-classroom experience. As a TA, you will already have a wealth of experience that you can take to the role of teacher.
That’s excellent news. While it’s not always a requirement, if you have one or two years of experience in this role, it may help you gain access to a fully-qualified teaching course. In addition, having references from the school leaders will put you in good stead here.
Is it difficult to transition into becoming a teacher?
There’s a wealth of crossover between teachers and TAs. Chances are, you already know what it takes to impart wisdom to young minds. When you’re working as a TA, you have to support those who need it the most, sometimes focusing more on small groups or smaller-scale pupil progress.
That means trailering your approach to the student at hand. Within this TA role, you will already be an active listener, strong communicator, and patient person. All of the experience you gain from teaching assistant jobs will come in handy when you’re a teacher taking on the challenge of looking after a whole class for the entire academic year.
Needless to say, becoming a teacher is a gigantic step up. You will need to take all of that classroom experience and use it in your job. However, this new role comes with a wealth of additional responsibilities. You will need to teach a wide range of subjects, align with a predetermined syllabus, mark papers, help students understand complex matters, and more. It’s a high-pressured job, and so you need to be a strong character to take it on.
Before you decide to become a teacher, speak to your manager about the realities of the role. While the job comes with a larger pay grade, the extra duties are challenging.
What next steps are there after I’m qualified?
When you are a qualified teacher, you will work in either a primary school or a secondary school, depending on vacancies. Should you choose a high school setting, you will need to pick a specialism. For example, you may become a French teacher, a PE teacher, or an English teacher. Consider what interests you when you are starting your educational journey.
Luckily, there’s plenty of room for progression here. After years on the job supporting teaching and learning, you may become the Head of Year or Head of Subject. Eventually, some teachers make the leap to become either headteachers or lecturers helping young people at university or even pivoting towards becoming special needs teachers, helping those with learning difficulties and special educational needs. The opportunities as a school teacher and beyond will be knocking!
Switching things up and becoming a teacher is an intelligent way to further your career. If you have been working as a TA for some time but want to do more to help learners progress, you might find that this is the right route for you. Why not look into your options in the education sector now and see how you can start training?