The future success of the Irish ‘knowledge based’ Economy depends on its citizens having a very high level of education. Over 80% of all Irish students now complete Second Level Education and over 50% proceed to 3rd Level Education. It is anticipated that these figures will climb even higher in the coming years.
Most careers in the educational sector involve some form of teaching. Research suggests that the vast majority of students opt for teaching because of the opportunity it offers to work in a creative and challenging environment with young people. Numbers applying for teaching in all sectors remains high. The latest Census results show that there was 36,000 more people at work in the education sector in 2011, compared to 2006, representing a 28% rise. The highest increase (31 per cent) was in the number of primary and nursery teachers. There were also increases in secondary teacher numbers, and in third level teaching staff numbers.
A career in teaching is still a prized profession in Ireland despite the growth of alternative and attractive careers in areas such as IT and Business. Recent reports indicate a shortage of qualified language teachers, in particular Irish language teachers, as well as teachers of home economics, art and materials technology.
A teacher needs to be able to plan lessons, lectures, tutorials or workshops well. They must be able to work on the same wavelength as their students and provide a working environment where learning can take place. Assessing and monitoring progress and completing follow-up work on a daily basis is essential.
Being able to demonstrate care and concern for students needs to be balanced with the ability to manage conflict or unwanted behaviour if it arises. The ability to motivate students, especially students at primary and second level has become a key skill.
Primary and Secondary school teachers must have a recognised teaching qualification. In Ireland, teachers must also be registered with The Teaching Council . Guidelines on how to become a teacher, and more detailed information on the education sector in Ireland are given in the 'Ask the Experts' section at the top right of this page.
The teacher may be found working in a variety of settings: Montessori schools; junior infant class in primary school; a group of adults on a ‘second chance’ education programme. In all cases the teacher interacts with his or her learning group each day. The range of teaching areas are outlined below:
Early Childhood Education
Pre-school children in Ireland are “children under 6 years of age, who are not attending a national school or equivalent”. Pre-school services include pre-schools, montessori, play groups, naíonraí, day nurseries, crèches, childminders and other similar services looking after more than 3 preschool children.
There has been a steady growth in the number employed in pre-school services and the sector is slowly becoming more organised. Regulation of Pre-school services has now been taken over by the Health Boards, whilst Pre-school education policy is the remit of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. Stricter guidelines are now in place for those wishing to provide pre-school education facilities.
Although particular qualifications are not essential to work with pre-school children, it is becoming more the norm to have a recognised qualification. Employers generally look for a minimum of Fetac Level 5 or equivalent, relevant the the specific job role and responsibilities.
Primary Level Teaching
The number of pupils entering education at primary or national school level has risen in recent years and continues to rise as the number of births has increased. This will lead to an increase in demand for teachers in primary schools. In addition, the Government has started to tackle the large class sizes in primary schools. Further specific class size reductions are promised over the next three years. If followed through, these reductions will bring class sizes in primary school down to European levels and will potentially create many additional teaching posts. There are 22 teacher training courses available accross five teacher training colleges.
Note: As part of the national strategy to boost literacy and numeracy skills, recent changes introduced by The Teaching Council mean that from September 2012, the length of teacher training (BEd) programmes have increased from three years to four years duration.
Secondary Level Teaching
Secondary school teachers have the opportunity to specialise in an area that interests them, for example Geography, English, Physical education, and to pass this knowledge on to students. This can be a challenging but important role and it requires a special type of dedication.
There are indications that some subject areas are short of specialist teachers, for example in mathematics and the physical sciences.
From September 2013 UCD is providing a new route to becoming a post-primary teacher. For students interested in Maths and Science who would like to follow a career in teaching, there is a five-year Teaching Council accredited degree leading to an MSc in Mathematics and Science Education now available.
Note: Recent changes introduced by The Teaching Council mean that from September 2014, the Professional Diploma in Education (PDE), formerly the H Dip. is to become a 2-year training course.
The starting salary for Primary and Secondary School teachers is currently set at 27,814 Euro. Although it compares well at starting level with other professions, some teachers complain about the lack of promotional prospects within the profession.
Usually based in primary and post-primary schools, Resource Teachers provide intensive instruction in English and/or Maths to pupils who experience difficulties. To work in this area you must qualify for primary or secondary teaching in the normal way. A specialised qualification is desirable but not always essential.
There has been a huge growth in special education in recent years as the Department of Education has recognised the need for early intervention with special help for some pupils. This has resulted in a large number of teachers working in special education and the employment of Resource Assistants. The largest increase in employment over the last 5 years across all occupations was for Educational Assistants.
Guidance / Careers Counselling
Guidance counselling in Ireland is a dual role combining responsibilities for general behavioural counselling and careers advice.
Guidance Counsellors can be found in most schools and colleges in the country. Their role is to advise young people as they make their career choices. Their job involves:
- Personal Counselling
- Educational guidance and counselling
- Career guidance and counselling
Guidance counsellors are mainly employed in second level schools, but also work with early school leavers, disadvantaged groups, in Local Employment Services (LES) and in FÁS. Most have spent some time in mainstream teaching before undergoing further training, allowing them to specialise in career guidance counselling.
Third Level Lecturing/Teaching
The number of people attending Irish Universities and Colleges has greatly increased in the last ten years. University lecturing is quite different from primary and secondary school teaching. A specific teaching qualification is not required to work in a third level college or University.
The most common route for people into this sector happens as a result of giving part-time grinds or tutorials to younger college students while working for a post graduate qualification such as a Masters or a PhD Degree. Full time employment in this area now generally requires a PhD Degree and having had a number of research papers published.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of students attending Institute of Technology Colleges in recent years. This has meant a big increase in staff to support that growth. Like the Universities a teaching qualification is not essential. Teachers in this sector have by and large good third level qualifications. Good experience from the world of industry or commerce has been an important factor in obtaining employment in these colleges.
Much of the work available for Third-Level teachers/ Lecturers is part-time or involving short term contracts of employment.
Adult and Community Education
Careers in Adult and Community education involve working with adults of all ages. This is a growing market as Ireland is adjusting to the need for all people to improve their level of education. Educators here may be involved in providing 'Adult Basic Education' - which focuses on improving adult literacy - upgrading their reading/writing/spelling/maths/computer skills, for example.
Generally adult education tutors are secondary school teachers, employed by FÁS and VECs (Vocational Education Centres). It can be advisable but not always necessary to have a qualification in adult education if thinking about teaching adults - UCD, Maynooth, UCC etc. offer certificates, diplomas in adult education, community development and so forth. [see AONTAS for more details]
There are many people employed in the area of training in business. This is usually undertaken by people with particular expertise in their subject area, sometimes requiring accreditation, but sometimes it is the person's business or technical experience that is important.
People interested in this area should make contact with the training providers and explore possibilities with them. [see CorporateTraining.ie for more details]