Teacher (secondary): job description

Secondary school teachers educate children between the ages of 11 and 18 and specialise in teaching a particular subject.

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Anyone wishing to teach in the state-maintained sector must gain qualified teacher status (QTS).

What does a secondary school teacher do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Typical responsibilities include:

  • lesson planning and preparation
  • contact time with pupils
  • checking and assessing work
  • attending staff meetings
  • liaising with parents
  • monitoring playground and extracurricular activities
  • ongoing professional development

As a secondary school teacher you will specialise in teaching a specific subject, which is likely to be the subject you studied at university or related to it. This makes secondary school teaching a particularly good career choice if you are enthusiastic about your degree subject and want to share your knowledge of it.

You can find out more about secondary education from our advice about what it is like to work in this area.

Typical employers of secondary school teachers

Secondary teachers are employed by state-maintained and private schools and sixth form colleges.

Teaching vacancies are advertised in local authority jobs lists, the Times Educational Supplement, The Guardian and local newspapers, and by schools and agencies. You can also look for teaching jobs by signing up to teacher registration schemes and databases and pool application systems.

Our advice about when and where to look for teaching jobs gives more details.

Qualifications and training required

A degree in the subject you wish to teach, or one closely related to it, is a standard requirement for anyone who wants to obtain qualified teacher status (QTS) and teach in state-maintained secondary schools. There are some degree courses that incorporate QTS, but other graduates will need to undertake postgraduate teacher training.

You may be able to take a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course if your degree is in an area that is not directly relevant to the subject you wish to teach. You will also need GSCEs or equivalent at grade C/4 or above in maths and English.

There are various bursaries and scholarships available to help with the costs of training as a secondary school teacher, with the amount on offer varying depending on the subject you wish to teach. The most generous scholarships and bursaries are typically offered to those wishing to train to teach science subjects or maths. Our advice on funding your teacher training explains what you could be eligible for.

There are several different postgraduate teacher training routes open to graduates in England who wish to train as secondary school teachers. These include the PGCE (Postgraduate or Professional Graduate Certificate in Education), School-Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), employment-based School Direct training programmes and Teach First. Teacher training routes can vary in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Overview of teacher training routes in England

Training to teach in Scotland

Training to teach in Wales

Training to teach in Northern Ireland

Most initial teacher training programmes in England and Wales use the UCAS Teacher Training application system and it is advisable to apply early in the final year of your university studies. You can apply to a mixture of primary and secondary teacher training courses if you wish.

For those who have not yet started university, read about how to get into teaching and education in the teaching section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

You will be required to pass a disclosure and barring services check.

Key skills for secondary school teachers

  • Enthusiasm
  • Imagination
  • Commitment
  • Energy
  • Discipline
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