While interviews get you the job, paper qualifications get you those interviews.

In this blog, we outline what qualifications will place you in pole position for that dream teaching post.

Note that these are qualifications which you can acquire before your teaching career commences or while on the job.

In your chosen subject

Top grades, especially in the subject you teach in the classroom, set you apart, as do a masters degree (MA) and a doctorate (PhD).

Further academic study is a great way to deepen and enrich your subject knowledge, while enhancing your empathy in the classroom. Learning is hard work, both cognitively and emotionally. It’s important not to forget the struggle.

Postgraduate study is something you may wish to pursue while teaching, although this can be rather demanding. One approach is to spread your study over a longer period of time. MAs, for instance, take 1 ½ to 2 years on average, but some stretch them out over a far longer period.

Advanced Skills Teacher

You may wish to prove your worth as a classroom practitioner by qualifying as an Advanced Skills Teacher. This role, which is cited in job vacancies in the maintained sector in England and Wales, entails sharing best practice and raising standards, be that in the teacher’s own school, or other schools in the vicinity.

Degrees in education psychology

The psychology of learning becomes a source of fascination for many teachers. Every day, they see how differently pupils approach the same problems. It soon becomes clear that some approaches in the classroom are more effective than others. Further education is one way to explore this in greater depth.

Degrees in education leadership

Another option is the formal study of best teaching and leadership practices. Again, this entails a significant investment of time, energy, and money, and views differ as to its worth.

Ask those whose opinion you value. Such degrees carry greater weight in some schools than others. The counter view is that appraisals and taking on greater responsibility in your current school may mean more to future employers.

You have to be committed. Otherwise you could well lose momentum as your initial enthusiasm fades.

Shortage subjects

The ability to teach a second subject is another possible string to your bow. Demand fluctuates, but perennial shortage subjects include Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and modern foreign languages.

A 2018 report from the Nuffield Foundation revealed that less than half of Maths teachers have a degree in the subject: just 44%, in fact. Compare that to English, where 65% possess a degree in the subject. Many Maths departments rely on teachers from other departments to teach the younger sets. Maths may not be your first subject, but ask yourself whether you’d be happy to teach it at Key Stage 3. (Note: most Key Stage 1 and 2 teachers are responsible for delivering several subject areas.)

Your ability to assist with SEN

As their careers progress, some teachers gravitate to helping the rising number of pupils who are diagnosed with special educational needs (SEN), with many finding this the most rewarding part of their role as a teacher. There’s a wealth of ongoing research in the area, and it’s a fascinating subject to study.

Some teachers decide to pursue an MA in special educational needs; others work through courses offered by their local education authority.

You can find out more from the charitable membership organisation National Association for Special Educational Needs (Nasen). As well as the most up-to-date news, information, and support, it offers a range of courses and webinars, of varying duration and depth, giving you a chance to see where your interests might lie. For example, there’s the SEND Leadership Programme or Youth Mental Health First Aid courses.

The last five years has seen an increasing focus on wellbeing in schools, with teachers formally teaching pupils breathing and relaxation exercises, and basic meditation.

For more information, have a look at the Mindfulness in Schools Project.

Proficiency in IT

With lockdown accelerating the introduction of remote teaching, ease with EdTech matters to employers more than ever, whether it’s supported by paper qualifications or not.

Schools rely on those who are willing to lead the way with tech and teach the rest.

You can express your enthusiasm for the latest technology in your cover letter, include it in your portfolio, or showcase your expertise in your sample lesson on interview day.

You could also prove your case with paper qualifications should you feel inclined. Google runs a series of certification exams for educators. Most favour learning IT on the job, through INSET, courses, and teaching and learning committees. Express a formal interest with your line manager as new IT systems are embedded into how your school does things.

Teaching isn’t just about what you can do in the classroom

As we said in “Teaching interviews: what to expect on the day” [link], schools are interested in “how you’ll contribute to the department, and the wider school community”. Schools pride themselves on providing a rounded education. It’s in their DNA.

With that in mind, you may also consider…

Coaching qualifications

Sport is an integral part of every child’s education, so expertise on the sports field or in the gym or dance studio will stand out on any CV.

For information on coaching qualifications, visit the websites of the governing body of your chosen sport for details.

The Football Association, for example, shows a range of qualifications, for all levels of expertise and experience. (It’s not just for ex-pros looking to move into management.) The FA Level 1 in Coaching Football, for example, offers a comprehensive introduction to both the theory and practice of coaching players from under 7s to open age.

Coaching badges are a great way to prove your passion and commitment to future or present employers, especially when applying to the most sought-after jobs

Outdoor pursuits

Professional associations should again be your first port of call. For instance, the Mountain Training Association is the awarding body for the Mountain Leader (ML), Hill and Moorland Leader (HML) and Rock Climbing Instructor (RCI) qualifications.

Another area for personal development could involve the Combined Cadet Force (CCF), which is offered in nearly 500 UK schools, with 42,720 cadets ably assisted by 3,370 adult volunteers. (The MOD invests approximately £28 million every year to make this possible.)

And the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, which is run in nearly 11,000 designated centres, many of them schools, is also worth considering. The age limit is 25 years old.

And the arts

Qualifications in the arts are no less highly prized; and, once again, official qualifications prove you have more than a passing interest in a pursuit.

If you play a musical instrument, have you taken exam grades?

Rather than exam qualifications, you may have won awards or scholarships or competitions.

All these add credibility and authority to your CV.

Final thoughts

We’d emphasise that it pays to research what qualifications are most sought after in the sort of schools you’d like to teach in.

It’s also worth enquiring about ways in which your current school might assist with CPD. If you, yourself, don’t have the money to invest in further training, this won’t necessarily matter. A willingness to get involved may be the only qualification you need. If you say in an interview that you’re interested in helping out with, say, CCF, but have no experience, they may well bite your hand off. Schools are keen to invest in training. They’re looking for people who want to constantly develop and improve, and they’ll have structures in place to help them.

And one final word of warning: choose carefully. Find the niche that most suits your interests, talents, and temperament. Staff new to a school soon find themselves courted by those needing assistance with their particular extra-curricular activities. If you’re not careful, you can soon find yourself overcommitted. Furthermore, a professed but fictitious interest in canoeing to boost an application in May, may lead to navigating choppy waters as you organise an outdoor pursuits expedition the following September.

Then again, if you pick the right activity, you may find you’re being paid to do many of the things you love. Schools offer a wealth of opportunities for pursuing a range of passions: music, drama, cooking, exercise, sport, travel, all things outdoor – the list goes on and on.

And that’s one of the best things about the profession – learning all the time, and learning alongside pupils.