Secondary school geography teachers develop students' ability to understand the Earth's landscapes, people and environments. They plan interesting, varied lessons, using resources such as satellite images, maps and Geographical Information Systems. They mark work, write reports, and go to meetings and parents' evenings. They also plan and lead field trips.
Also known as
- Teacher, Geography
Geography teachers inspire students with a sense of the subject's importance in understanding the world around us.
They teach both human geography, which focuses on societies, cultures and economies, and physical geography, which explains the formation of landscapes and the natural processes of climate and the environment. However, they also encourage students to see how the two are inter-linked, for example, the connection between using resources and climate change, and how human activity can increase the risk of flooding.
Geography teachers help students to develop the skills to investigate and form opinions about important issues. These include the pressures faced by our natural environments, the gap between rich and poor in developing countries, and the arguments for and against alternative sources of energy. Teachers organise discussions, debates and role plays to explore these themes.
They must plan and prepare interesting, varied lessons. Depending on the topic, these could include websites, satellite images and rock samples. Geography teachers enable students to develop map skills, as well as the ability to use Geographical Information Systems (GIS). For example, students might use satellite images to assess the impact of quarrying, and GIS to forecast and track hurricanes.
Geography teachers plan, arrange and lead field trips, for example, to measure coastal erosion or examine land use and disadvantaged areas in a city.
The work also includes:
- marking students' work
- preparing students for exams
- going to staff meetings and parents' evenings.
Some geography teachers are also form tutors, which involves duties such as taking a register and keeping attendance records, giving out general information and giving guidance.
Geography teachers might supervise one or more teaching assistants.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To be a geography teacher, you'll need:
- passion, and the ability to inspire, encourage and motivate
- excellent communication skills
- imagination, to prepare interesting resources
- the ability to maintain discipline and deal with challenging behaviour
- tact, patience and sensitivity
- willingness to keep your subject knowledge up to date
- organisational and planning skills.
Pay and Opportunities
Teachers in the state education sector are paid on a scale according to their qualifications, experience and responsibilities. The highest salaries are available in inner London schools.
The pay rates (per year) given below are approximate
- Unqualified teachers [who have not yet received Qualified Teacher Status] earn in the range of £16,000 - £25,000.
- Qualified teachers earn in the range of £21,500 - £31,500.
- 'Advanced skills teachers' earn in the range of £37,500 - £57,000.
- 'Excellent teachers' earn in the range of £39,500 - £52,000.
In the private sector, salaries are generally higher, though they are sometimes linked to state sector pay scales.
Hours of work
Teachers normally work from 8:30 am or 9 am to 3:30 pm or 4 pm, Monday to Friday. However, most teachers work extra hours - marking work, preparing lessons and going to meetings. They often have to work in the evenings and at weekends to prepare lessons and mark work.
Where could I work?
Employers are state and private schools.
There are also opportunities to teach in other countries.
Some teachers supplement their income by teaching privately, marking national exams or writing textbooks.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised by local authorities and in the local and national press, including The Guardian and The Times Educational Supplement (TES). There are also job boards, such as eTeach.
Entry Routes and Training
Most people enter through a postgraduate teaching qualification leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
Most graduates take a PGCE in geography. Courses are usually one-year full-time. You need to apply through UCAS Teacher Training.
There is also the employment-based School Direct scheme: you'll train while working in a school. The expectation is that you'd go on to work in the school or group of schools where you trained, although there's no guarantee of employment at the end of your training.
You can also train in a school after your degree through school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT). These programmes are delivered by groups of neighbouring schools and colleges and often aim to meet local teaching needs.
Teach First is a charity that recruits and supports graduates to teach in challenging schools in a number of UK regions. The programme takes two years to complete.
To achieve QTS, student teachers need to pass tests in English and maths.
Once employed, newly qualified teachers (NQTs) must complete a three-term induction period, usually within a single school year
There are opportunities for teachers to move into teacher training, advisory work, educational research or schools inspection.
Teachers can become heads of department, heads of year, or co-ordinators of special educational needs or careers guidance.
Rehabilitation of Offenders
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
All candidates for teacher training need GCSEs (or recognised equivalent qualifications) at grade C or above in English Language and Mathematics.
If you want to teach at Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14), you must have a GCSE (or recognised equivalent qualification) at grade C or above in a science subject.
If you don't have the GCSEs that are usually needed, you might be able to sit a pre-entry equivalency test; you should contact individual course providers to discuss your situation before making your application.
For entry to a PGCE, you'll usually need a degree in geography or a related subject such as environmental science, Earth sciences, Geographical Information Systems and planning (some universities ask that at least 50% of the course contained geography).
For entry to a degree in geography, the usual requirements are:
- 2/3 A levels, including Geography or at least one science subject
- GCSEs at grades A*-C in your A level subjects
- A further 2/3 GCSEs including English and Maths.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 Nationals
- The International Baccalaureate Diploma.
However, course requirements vary, so please check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
To enter teacher training courses, you'll usually need to have at least observed some classes in a mainstream secondary school. For some courses, you'll need paid or voluntary work experience in a secondary classroom, or other relevant experience with young people.
If you don't have the qualifications you need to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing a college or university Access course, such as Access to Humanities or Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
Some PGCE courses are available on a flexible learning basis. For example, you may be able to train by distance learning in combination with classroom-based teaching practice and campus study.
Instead of going to university to do a PGCE, graduates can follow an employment-based route. This is where you train in a school. Employment-based routes include School Direct, school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) and the scheme offered by Teach First. For more information, please see 'Entry Routes and Training'.
For funding information, see the GOV.UK website.
UCAS Teacher Training
Department of Education Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Enquiries
General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland)
UK government services and information