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Do you want the ‘best job in the world’? Consider science teaching

Posted by on September 3, 2014

Sue Howarth, a senior lecturer in science education at the University of Worcester, talks about the challenges and joys of teaching, one of the career pathways that will be explored at Life Sciences Careers Conferences.Sue Howarth

I’ve been a science and biology teacher for most of my career and I’ve trained many graduates to become science teachers, so I’ve been there and got the t-shirt.

Teaching can be the #bestjobintheworld (check this hashtag on Twitter and see how often teachers use it) as it brings numerous rewards.

You get to influence young people and correct misconceptions, there will be many ways for you to engage in CPD (continuing professional development), which gives great opportunities to work with associations, such as the ASE, Society of Biology, and the Royal Society of Chemistry, in addition to using Twitter, blogs and teachmeets to find out more about teaching.

Even as a trainee, you are likely to help look after a tutor group and engage in a pastoral role. This can be fun, as you can be involved with fund-raising for charity, celebrating birthdays and encouraging participation in National Science and Engineering Week across whole year groups.

Finally, once in post, you have a secure job with reasonable pay and you will never be bored – every day is different with lots of space for creativity.

I hear you asking how you become one of those happy teachers?

First, make sure you have your finances and accommodation sorted as training will be intense: most courses offer QTS (qualified teacher status) and PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education) qualifications, plus you will have job interviews to prepare for while preparing lessons & writing assignments.  So, prepare to be very busy.  It’s much easier if someone can wash & cook for you!  Having said that, many trainees with young children or parents needing care successfully pass the course, so don’t worry.

Being a STEM Ambassador ( a national initiative puts you in touch with teachers wanting help with Science-related activities) is a fantastic way to explore schools and find out if you enjoy working with teenagers. Give it a go, see how it feels

How and where can you train to teach?  Use the UCAS & DfE pages. A recent article in the Guardian sums up the various routes into teaching very well.

My best tips:

  • apply early (October/November) for September start the following year
  • visit at least 2 UK secondary schools to observe lessons
  • brush up your school-level biology, chemistry and physics – at least to GCSE
  • enjoy science and working with teenagers
  • be a STEM ambassador

Most science education tutors, like me, will be happy to chat informally to you. We will tell you that training to teach can be demanding and that there are drawbacks: students don’t always behave, resources go missing, colleagues may forget to tell you that your class is on a trip, parents expect you to work miracles and the government keeps changing the rules. But as a science graduate, with plenty of stamina and enthusiasm, if you can take up the challenge, then the rewards are beyond measure and you will not have found a career but a vocation.  #loveteaching

Life Sciences Careers Conferences (LSCCs) showcase the breadth of careers available after studying the life sciences. The conferences consist of talks from top speakers covering a wide range of biology-related subjects, such as careers in academia, industry, teaching, biomedical science, environmental sector and others, in addition to CV and career planning advice, and a chance to mingle with the experts in our exhibition and ask informal questions over refreshments. Bookings are now open for conferences in Liverpool, London and Staffordshire.

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