For many, the motivation to pursue a new professional life as an educator comes from a desire to make a genuine difference in the lives of young people. If you’re thinking about making a career change to teaching, you can gain the relevant qualifications by studying online – so you can fit study around your work and family schedule.
This article will guide for making a career change to teaching in Australia, and explore some real case studies of people who’ve made the transition. We’ll also address some common concerns including whether a career change to teaching at 40 is possible, and how to figure out whether you’re suited to the job.
Do your research
Before you decide to start heading down this path, it’s important to make sure teaching is the right career for you. This could involve doing something as simple as a personality test, to see if you’re naturally suited. For instance, those who have an ENFJ personality (according to Myers Briggs typology) are well suited to teaching because they ‘strive to have a positive impact on other people and the world around them.’
When making a mid-career transition to teaching, you’ll also need to consider your financial situation. While the average annual salary for teachers in Australia is around $90-95K, it’s important to bear in mind that remuneration is based on experience. It might take you a few years to work up to your ideal salary level if you’re new to the profession.
Another useful consideration is what kind of teachers are most in demand. According to a recent article published by The Age, there’s currently a shortage of secondary teachers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) areas, which bodes well if you’re looking for an engineer-to-teacher career change.
Similarly, those pursuing a career change from IT to teaching are in luck, since there’s currently significant demand for digital technology teachers in Victorian secondary schools. This is based on data taken from the Victorian Teacher Supply and Demand Report 2021, which listed design technology as the state’s most unfulfilled teaching role.
Think about what ages you want to teach
One of the first things you’ll need to decide when making a career change to education is whether you want to teach primary or secondary school students.
If you’ve had a lot of experience being around young children – perhaps you’ve worked in a childcare centre, or you’ve spent a lot of time looking after younger family members – you’d probably be well suited to a career in primary education. Primary school teachers need to give their students a lot of supervision and support and implement creative approaches to learning (which could include arts, crafts and music).
Secondary teachers, on the other hand, are responsible for teaching students aged 12-18. To be a high school teacher, you’ll need to specialise in a curriculum-approved study area such as English, history, science, maths, art or languages. If you have a passion for a particular topic, and you want to share your enthusiasm and knowledge with young learners, a career in secondary education would be a good fit.
Swinburne Online student Marnie decided to change careers from insurance to teaching after she became a mother of two. As Marnie explains: “As I watched my son grow and learn, I realised I was more interested in child development than insurance! And by the time I had my daughter, there was no way I’d ever be happy going back to a full-time role that I wasn’t passionate about.”
“Teaching wasn’t a dream I knew I had until my kids came along, but through hard work and the support of the online teaching staff at Swinburne Online, I’m about to become a Primary School Teacher. Wow!”
Speak to other teachers
Speaking to someone who’s currently working in education is invaluable when you’re considering switching careers to become a teacher. If you know anyone who is currently teaching, make some time to sit down with them and ask for their opinion. Even better, see if you can line up some volunteer work at your local school, so you can get a better appreciation for what life is like inside a classroom.
Paul’s advice to anyone considering a career change is to start by writing a “pros and cons” list. He says: “Take into account everything from changes to your remuneration and the impact on your family time. While it’s also important to speak to people close to you, remember that the decision to change careers is ultimately yours and yours alone. So if you are passionate about making that change, just go for it!”
Discover what motivates you
Taking the time to figure out what drives you as a person is another important first step when making a career change. One way to do this could be to look back at your own experience of going to school as a child – which teachers made the biggest impact on you, and why? Often it’s those early role models who provided us with direction and inspiration, helping us to find our way in life. If you’re motivated by a desire to fulfil a similar function in a young person’s life, teaching would be a good choice for you.
It also helps to be certain about what you hope to get out of your experience as a teacher. Is there a particular aspect of the job that appeals to you? Also, where do you hope to see yourself in the future?
Kait Kelly’s story (featured on Victoria Teaching Careers) showcases her transition from a career as a nurse and midwife to a teacher. As Kait explains: “Teaching was inspiring to me, just because it was able to encompass everything that I enjoy. I like the intellectual element of the subject that I teach, but I also really love people and working with young people, in particular.”
Although Kait enjoyed working in healthcare, she realised that her personality, skills and experience were a perfect fit for teaching. She goes on to say: “One of the biggest myths is those who can’t do, teach. There are so many talented people in this profession. They have chosen to be a teacher because they have skills that not everyone has.”
Get your certifications
If you’d like to make a career change into teaching, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right qualifications. Although postgraduate study is not a prerequisite for teaching in Victorian schools, it is recommended for those embarking on a mid-career change to teaching.
Swinburne Online offers the following teaching courses:
A master’s qualification will help you excel in your new career, plus it’s also great for those who want to focus on a specialty area. Best of all, both of these master’s degrees involve practical, hands-on experience inside a classroom, which is invaluable for anyone who wants to give themselves the best chance of success as a teacher.
Cathy Box is a Swinburne Online graduate who decided to change careers at the age of 37, after spending 16 years in accounting. As Cathy explains, “Changing my career was a big decision. I’m not 17, I didn’t have the kind of time I used to, and as a mother of two I have a lot more responsibilities in my life.”
After finishing a Master of Teaching (Primary), Cathy was able to secure employment at Brighton Grammar School. Her advice for anyone hoping to follow in her footsteps is to take responsibility for your future and look for ways to get to where you want. “Online study opened the door for me, allowed me to stay in my community and take control of where I wanted to go.”
Why make a career change to teaching?
Making a career change to teaching is a natural progression for many who have reached a level of success within their current career, and want to share their knowledge and experience with future generations. If you’re worried that you might be too old to change your career, remember that teaching is a profession that celebrates wisdom. Instead of seeing your age as a barrier, remind yourself that great teachers need maturity and life experience.
So yes, a career change to teaching at 50 is possible – but make sure that you set yourself up for success before you start heading down this path. Good signs that you’re suited to teaching include:
- You’re determined and committed
- You enjoy helping children learn
- You’re keen for a new challenge
- You’re a lifelong learner who’s open to new ideas
Swinburne Online graduate Adam Todd embraced online learning in his journey to becoming a teacher. He explains: “When I was first looking around for a course that suited my needs, Swinburne Online stood out. Having the flexibility of an online delivery meant I could still work full-time and study when it was most convenient for me.”
Adam is now working at the school where he completed his student placement. “A week after handing in my final assignment, I secured a job at the school where I did my last placement. This was a school I continued a relationship with after my placement ended. I made weekly visits to help out in different classrooms, and continued my teaching practice beyond just the theory in my units.”
Apply today to start your journey towards a new, exciting and fulfilling career