a teacher with two pupils

Engineer a career to build brains

Want to inspire the next generation of engineers and technicians? Why not take a look at a career in teaching?

Careers in engineering are based upon creating ideas and developing solutions. We bet you have never thought of teaching as engineering before. Why not? Teaching helps to develop the most impressive structure of all – the building of brains.

Most people will think that careers in engineering and careers in teaching are at opposite ends of the spectrum but there are so many similarities between the two that there’s no wonder so many engineers end up in the classroom. The skills you acquire through your engineering degree or apprenticeship, and as a working engineer, will set you in good stead to teach. Being creative, solving problems and having to think outside the box are daily requirements when you’re up against the most demanding of clients – young people.  

A variety of teaching settings and subjects

“Engineering in school is an innovative and groundbreaking subject,” says Stephanie Fernandes, the IET’s principal policy advisor for education and skills. “The knowledge and skills that are acquired through engineering are highly transferable such as logical thinking and the ability to problem-solve, ability to challenge theories and creativity. In addition the subject can be taught through a variety of academic and practical learning settings  - the classroom, local further education centres and industrial placements.”

“You could teach in schools such as the new university technical colleges (UTCs), many of which specialise in engineering – such as the JCB Academy and the Aston University Engineering Academy,” adds Claire Molinario, the IET’s Education 5-19 operations manager.

Many people find the versatility of teaching surprising. Most assume that teaching a set curriculum, to the same audience and at a specified time is restrictive - the reality is very different. The way you teach a lesson is all down to how you approach it. Testing, adapting and reworking your lessons will become part of your craft. For instance, a successful lesson on forces to one class may not work for another, even one with the same ability. Being reactive to your teaching approach is quite a skill and requires excellent problem solving skills – another tick against the engineer’s skill set.

Good career prospects

As engineering encompasses so many areas, there’s also variety in the subjects you could teach, and the Department for Education (DfE) even has a page breaking down the many options available. Plus, in these tough times, teaching can also provide good employment prospects as teachers of physics, maths and chemistry are in demand. Plus there are strong opportunities for career progression for engineers with the right skills

“Engineers have a range of skills that are suited to teaching mathematics, physics, and chemistry,” Fernandes highlights. “Graduates of engineering disciplines are currently under-represented in the school workforce therefore the knowledge and experience gained through an engineering degree will put graduates in an excellent position to train as a teacher.”

Having established that engineers are successful in the classroom, the Institute of Physics (IOP), together with the DfE, has been working on initiatives to make it more attractive for engineers to make that move from office to classroom. Firstly, a brand new teaching training course has been designed with engineers in mind, one that combines teaching physics with maths.

Initiatives to help you make the move from engineer to teacher

Traditional physics teacher training courses cover some biology and chemistry content so that you can teach other science lessons if required. The Physics with Maths PGCE course replaces this content with maths, equipping you to teach the two subjects that have featured so much during your engineering studies. Over 30 universities in England are offering this course and they start from September this year. Having recently launched, places are still available if you get your skates on.

The IOP is also awarding teacher training scholarships to make the transition to teaching even easier. Worth £20,000 each these scholarships are for the top 100 people entering teacher training this year.

Another initiative worth looking at is Teach First, which trains teachers to work in disadvantaged schools. Any Teach First teacher teaching science, maths or design and technology gets the opportunity to join the IET at the student rate for the two years they are training. This includes access to an IET mentor: very helpful for those who wish to keep in touch with the engineering profession.

There are many initiatives out there aimed at helping support engineers move into teaching. For example, engineers with a 2:2 degree or above will be eligible to receive funding while training to teach shortage subjects such as physics, maths or chemistry. Plus, once you are in the classroom teaching, support continues with the IET providing a plethora of teacher resources, including the renowned Faraday website.

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