Career paths in FE and training

Which career path is best for you

Written by Elyssa Campbell-Barr, a writer and editor specialising in all areas of education, from Early Years to FE and HE.

When you speak to people working in the post-14 education sector, you’ll soon realise there is no typical career path to take.

The most common reason for joining the sector is the enjoyment which comes from working with young and adult learners and inspiring the next generation - according to a 2017 report by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).


Leadership and management

A teaching job in the sector could lead to a role as a team leader, curriculum manager, head of department or director of an organisation. You might also have aspirations to become a principal or CEO, perhaps via a deputy or vice-principal post.

Being in a position to make decisions and have more power to influence is usually the main drive for teachers and trainers to move into a leadership role. In addition, stepping into leadership usually includes higher pay, more autonomy and the chance to develop new skills and enhanced career opportunities. You may not spend as much time in a classroom, but as a leader you can have a real influence over learners’ experience.

If you are not sure whether leadership is for you, a management training course or time spent job-shadowing could give you a greater insight into the role. Visit the Eduction and Training Foundation's Leadership section to find courses, events, resources and information.


Moving into another part of the sector

Few professions offer as much scope for sideways moves as the post-14 education sector. If you are currently working in a Further Education college, you might want to consider moving to an independent work-based training provider – or vice versa. Alternatively, you could move to a different type of college: sixth form, land-based, arts or 'specialist designated' for adult learners.


The technical reform

The Government's drive to promote apprenticeships has led to a proliferation of roles to mentor and support apprentices, in both the state and private sectors. The new 'T-levels' for technical education are also generating new opportunities in vocational teaching. Fifteen new T-level pathways in 15 sector areas including business, catering, construction and social care are to be introduced by 2022.


Offender learning opportunities

Following 2016's Coates’ review of education in prison, offender learning is another area in the spotlight. Prison teaching roles tend to be either in vocational training or functional skills tuition, and may be with groups of inmates or one-to-one. The learners and working environment bring unique challenges, but this can also be one of the most rewarding areas of the sector.


Adult community education

You may also be interested in working in adult community education (ACE), either as a tutor, organiser or outreach worker. You will be helping adults return to learning, develop new skills and pursue leisure interests, enriching both their lives and the local community. Jobs in ACE often involve evening and weekend work, so may suit you if you are looking for flexibility or want to supplement your regular salary.


Non-teaching roles

Not all post-14 education jobs involve frontline teaching. Your education background could make you the perfect candidate for a job as an assessor, verifier, moderator, inspector, admissions officer or course designer. These sorts of roles are available in any field where people undertake vocational qualifications.

Business development is another option. This generally involves working with organisations, defining their training needs and co-creating a programme of learning. Skills required include effective collaboration and having an in-depth knowledge of learning and development.

You may also want to consider an advisory or welfare role. For example, you could undertake further training to become an educational psychologist or counsellor. This usually requires a psychology degree and completion of a postgraduate specialist masters. In addition, you will need to complete a certain number of counselling/therapy sessions on a professional and personal level.


Moving into another area of education

More than 200 colleges nationwide now offer Higher Education (HE) courses. These commonly include Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, Foundation Degrees, 'top-up' degrees and, increasingly, full honours degrees. As well as providing college staff with new teaching and training opportunities, these 'HE in FE' courses can be a bridge to teaching in a higher education institution (HEI). There may also be opportunities to undertake research.

In order to teach a HE course, you will need additional subject qualifications – most HEIs working with colleges will expect teaching staff to have a master’s level qualification to teach on degree-level courses.


Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS)

Some FE teachers decide to move in the other direction, from FE into school-teaching. FE teachers who have completed professional formation to gain Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status are recognised in law as being qualified to teach in schools and since 2012 QTLS has been deemed to have parity with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Ultimately, the headteacher has the final say when it comes to deciding what subject qualifications are required. In addition, having QTLS does not automatically mean that moving into teaching in a school will be easy. FE teachers can expect to be in competition with school trained and qualified teachers.

The culture and work environment in universities and schools can be very different to the further education sector and may take some getting used to. If you're thinking of moving, it’s worth doing some careful research before making a decision. You will want to look at what skills you have, what you enjoy, what you want to do more of, as well as asking what these roles offer and whether the environment meets your expectations.


Making a difference in the workplace

If you are interested in shaping the strategic direction and improving the performance of an organisation, volunteering as a governor is a great way to get involved and develop your leadership skills. You could do this as a teacher, parent, member of the community, or even as a learner. Although dependent on the organisation, in many cases no particular qualifications or experience are needed.

Another way to make a difference in the workplace, while developing your own skills, is as a trade union rep. A union rep's role usually centres around improving working conditions and supporting colleagues who have problems at work, but there are also learning reps who focus on training, and health and safety reps. All are entitled to paid time off to carry out their union duties and undertake relevant training.


Branching out – capitalising on your expertise

FE teachers regularly draw on their professional knowledge and experience to write textbooks, develop course materials, deliver talks and offer private lessons. There are a number of opportunities to connect with colleagues – and possibly boost your income – for example, podcasting, blogging, vlogging, delivering online lectures and private tuition via Skype.