Teaching is a terrible career choice - or is it?

'It's an incredible feeling seeing your students doing well'

Caucasian teacher writing on chalkboard

Earlier this month, a coroner criticised a secondary school in Rochdale after a science teacher took her own life. Laurian Bold, 31, was so stressed after a promotion that she broke out in a rash and needed medication. Within three weeks of the promotion she was on sick leave, but still marking books from home; and a day after her return to work, she jumped off a bridge and killed herself.

"I am satisfied that work related stress and the temporary promotion triggered the stress and anxiety at this time," said coroner Lisa Hashimi.

Tragically, Laurian isn't the only stressed teacher to have killed herself over the last year, and many more say they are finding the job harder than ever.

This summer, figures released by the Department for Education revealed that record numbers of teachers are quitting the profession, and almost a quarter leave within three years.

"The government needs to look at the drivers – workload, stagnant pay and an over-bearing accountability system – behind this worrying trend, commented Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

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Teachers say that the job is becoming less satisfying, as workload increases and real pay falls. Increasingly, they are being asked to cover roles outside their specialism. Many are working 60 hours a week or more, thanks to what they see as excessive bureaucracy.

"On top of low starting pay and little or no time for professional development, it is hardly surprising that teachers are voting with their feet and leaving the profession in such large numbers," says Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

You might think from all this that teaching is the job from hell. But at the same time as being so stressful, it's also the career that's consistently rated as being the most satisfying.

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In most careers, a 'goosebumps moment' - a sudden feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment - is pretty rare. But according to a new survey from the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), three quarters of teachers have had a moment like this within the last eight weeks, while a quarter of the general public say it's never happened to them at all.

Only health work, media and marketing, charity and the law come anywhere close in terms of satisfaction.

As a result, the vast majority of teachers feel proud of the job they do, and twice as many teachers as non-teachers say those special moments make their hard work worth it.

"Teaching is a unique career that can provide unrivalled amounts of pride, sense of achievement and rewarding opportunities," says Roger Pope, chair of NCTL.

"It's an amazing feeling when something clicks for a pupil for the very first time - moments like this can give you real goosebumps."

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Teachers are twice as likely as the rest of us to believe they help to shape lives and inspire people every day.

"As a teacher, it's an incredible feeling seeing your students doing well, particularly when you can see they are engaged with the subject matter. I've experienced 'goosebump moments' where you can instantly see the impact your work is having on a student or even a whole class," says Mat Galvin, a chemistry teacher from Firth Park Academy in Sheffield.

"It's a great feeling and makes me proud of my job, and vocal about encouraging others – whether they are just leaving universities or in a career that isn't fulfilling – into teaching."

To become a teacher, you'll need to have professional qualified teacher status (QTS) - unless you're working at an independent school, an academy or a free school. Even here, most teachers do.

To get your QTS, you have to complete a period of initial teacher training. This is available in a number of different forms, from one-year post-graduate courses to on-the-job training.

This is followed by an induction period, which is your first year of employment as a teacher in a school.

Tuition loans are available, along with a range of scholarships and bursaries, particularly for subjects where qualified teachers are in short supply: this year, for example, graduates with a 2.1 or above who were training to teach maths, physics, chemistry or computing were able to apply for scholarships of up to £30,000.

There's more information from the Department for Education here.

"Teaching is not without its challenges, but the benefits and rewards make the hard work worth it," says Pope.

"Our research shows us that other professions and careers don't always match up or make people feel the same way that teaching can. That's why we are encouraging more people to consider using their skills and passion to train to teach."

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