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How to become a teacher if you haven’t yet studied teaching

Elise Tornos

Making a career change to teaching? Here are three ways to become a teacher if you haven't completed an education degree.

So you’ve decided to become a teacher—that’s terrific news! Depending on where you are in your educational journey, there are three main ways that you can go about achieving your goal. We’ll summarise these below along with some of the other processes you can expect to go through before taking command of a classroom.

Complete an education degree (ideal if you haven’t yet started university)

If you’re nearing the end of school (or your gap year), and you’re determined to become a teacher, there’s no easier way to pursue your goal than enrolling in an education degree. Teaching degrees are generally four years long, focus on early childhood, primary, or secondary education, and require you to complete a concurrent major in the discipline you’d like to teach.

Be sure that the degree in which you enrol meets the accreditation requirements of your state’s educational regulatory body. In New South Wales, for example, your studies will need to satisfy the demands of the NSW Education Standards Authority. If you've not started uni, a Bachelor of Education with a major relevant to the type of teaching you intend to be doing is ideal. You can find a list of NSW government-approved institutions here.

Teaching & education bachelor's degree programs

The University of Queensland - Bachelor of Education (Primary) (Honours)
University of South Australia - Bachelor of Primary Education (Honours)
Monash University - Bachelor of Education (Honours) / Bachelor of Science

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Complete a master's degree in teaching

Perhaps you’ve finished an undergraduate degree and realised only now that your heart is set on teaching, or maybe you’ve been building a career in a different profession and have now decided to switch.

Either way, Australian accreditation procedures are designed to attract degree-qualified individuals who wish to shift careers into teaching. Generally, if you already possess a tertiary qualification, you can use it to apply for credit towards a Master of Teaching or Graduate Diploma in Education, both of which take between one and two years to complete. Please note, however, that as of 2020, the latter is no longer sufficient to become a teacher in Australia. A master's degree is essential. But a graduate diploma can be a viable stepping-stone toward a master's.

Teaching & education master's degree programs

University of Southern Queensland (USQ) - Master of Learning and Teaching (Secondary)
Flinders University - Master of Education (Special Education) - Basic entry level
Swinburne University of Technology - Master of Teaching (Primary)

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Get paid to study

Whether you’ve just finished your higher school certificate, you’re approaching the end of an undergraduate degree, or you’re considering a career change, there is a range of government incentives designed to attract and support teaching professionals.

For example, the NSW Department of Education offers a teacher education scholarship, worth up to $7500 per year for up to five years. In Western Australia, final-year students can apply for lucrative scholarships awarded on the condition that they subsequently commit to working in a rural or remote area. Similar programs exist across the country.

Teach for Australia

Researchers have long known that education and socioeconomic status are closely linked. On the one hand, a comprehensive education can greatly increase one’s chances of escaping poverty; on the other, socioeconomic disadvantage can greatly decrease one’s chances of receiving a comprehensive education. For example, by the time they turn 15, Australian children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are, on average, three years behind their peers from high socioeconomic backgrounds. In this way, socioeconomic disadvantage becomes education disadvantage—and this can have a devastating effect on the futures of young Australians.

Teach for Australia aims to address the problem of educational disadvantage by supporting career-changers and high-achieving university graduates who wish to move into teaching. It provides thirteen weeks of rigorous training to successful applicants before awarding them two-year contracts at regional or low socioeconomic schools with a full salary and benefits. By completing the contract, participants earn a Master of Teaching degree while also gaining invaluable classroom experience. This makes Teach for Australia highly appealing to aspiring teachers who haven’t yet earned the relevant qualifications but wish to make a positive impact in disadvantaged communities as quickly as possible.

Other standard procedures

As of 2020, all teaching students in Australia must complete literacy and numeracy tests designed to assess whether or not their skills rank within the top 30 per cent of all Australians (this is seen as a benchmark requirement for all teachers). Students are allowed to attempt the test three times and must pass in order to apply for teaching jobs in the public education system, with a fee of $198 for both components of the test per attempt. You should also expect to undergo a criminal background check and a ‘Working with Children Check'.