A Career in Teaching?

What to study to become an Teacher / Educator

A Career in Teaching?

What kind of educator do you want to become?

If you are reading this article, then you have probably considered education as a possible career. More importantly, you are thinking about what to study and how you are going to get there. Before going any further, identify which age level you would prefer to teach. This may be important in influencing  which study path you choose. Do you prefer working with babies, toddlers preschool children, primary school children or adolescents? Or maybe you would consider working with young adults?


 Pre-primary Teacher (kindergarten)

Pre-primary, pre-school or kindergarten educators use play to further language and vocabulary development. In addition, they lead children in activities designed to develop their physical abilities, communicative skills and interpersonal relationships. Examples of play activities would be storytelling, rhyming games, and acting games. Examples of creative play would be mixing and using colours to paint as well as dance, and music. As they grow, the play may take on a more academic focus as children begin to perform activities that lead to letter recognition, counting of numbers, and awareness of nature and science. Pre-primary educators are also acutely aware of the emotional development of small children and organise and supervise activities and games that promote self-confidence and social interaction with other children. They might make appropriate recommendations with regard to further development or detect signs of developmental disorder, ill health or emotional disturbance. They sometimes work with guidance officers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and psychologists, to assist children with special needs.


Primary school Teacher / Educator

Primary school educators play a vital role in the development of young people. What children learn and experience during their early years can shape their views of themselves and the world and can determine their later success or failure in school, work, and can affect their personal lives. Primary school educators introduce children to mathematics, language, science, and social studies. They use games, music, artwork, books, computers and other tools to teach basic skills. Educators at primary level generally teach all subjects and are generalist rather than specialist educators, as the primary curriculum is an integrated curriculum.


High school Teacher / Educator

High school educators specialise in the education of learners in Grades 8 - 12. They usually teach in selected subjects only and therefore are required to have a solid understanding of their subject and a mastery of core teaching skills. They follow the syllabus of work laid down by the relevant education department and may use various teaching methods and demonstrations, as well as audio-visual aids. They prepare teaching outlines, assign tasks and correct homework. They give learners tests to evaluate their progress and prepare them for examinations. In addition to the implementation of the curriculum in the classroom, high school educators also have various administrative tasks to perform, such as recording of results, the issuing of progress reports to parents, keeping attendance records and participating in departmental and professional meetings and educational conferences. Educators may also be required to coach learners in various kinds of sports and cultural activities during the afternoons and/or be responsible for special activities or school societies.


Special Needs or Remedial Teacher / Educator

Special needs or remedial educators work with children who have disabilities. These include learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, multiple disabilities, hearing impairments, orthopaedic impairments, visual impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, and other health impairments. Learners' disabilities are classified under one of these categories, and special education educators work with specific groups. Early identification of children with special needs is an important part of a special needs educator's job. Special needs educators communicate frequently with parents, social workers, school psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, school administrators, and with other educators.


What to study?

There a few possible routes to becoming an educator: What suites you best? First lets look at the options available to becoming an educator.

Option 1: Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree  (Baccalaureus Educationis)

One of the most common routes of study to becoming an educator is to do a Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree. A BEd is a 4-year programme that integrates academic and professional training. Before choosing this option to study a BEd, identify which age group you prefer to work with based on the school-phase endorsements (each having a particular combination of core and phase-specific modules): Students who which to register for the B.Ed. may choose to specialize in one of the following Phases:

  • B Ed in Foundation Phase Teaching: Preschool - Grade 3
  • B Ed in Intermediate Phase Teaching: (grades 4-6 & 7-9)
  • B Ed in Senior Phase and FET Teaching: (grades 7-9 & 10-12)

For a Senior phase and FET endorsement, specialisation is offered in: Services, Engineering and Technology, Business & Management Studies, Science (including Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences).


Option 2: Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

You don’t have to study teaching to become an educator. You can do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). The PGCE is a one-year qualification to train graduates who wish to become educators. It is the only qualification that provides professional registration with the South African Council for Educators (SACE) for graduates with degrees other than the BEd. Choose an appropriate degree which suits you, for example, a B.A or a B.Sc degree depending on your interests. Let’s say you want to teach English then a B.A with English will be suitable. If you want to teach life science or physical science or Math then a BA or BS with Maths may be suitable. Or if you want to teach music then do a B.A in Music Education followed by a PGCE.


Option 3: Certificate / Diploma in Early Childhood Development

 There are various TVET Colleges and Private Colleges offering a Further Education and Training Certificate in Early Childhood Development.


What study option suites me?

This really depends on the you. If you are interested in teaching younger children, then a Bachelor of Education degree (BEd) may be the best option because you focus on a specific phase (age) from the start of training. On the other hand, if you want to keep your options open by doing a degree first or if you would like to teach a specific subject at high school level then you could opt for a bachelors degree followed by a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). If you are interested in working with young children then a Certificate in Early Childhood Development may be an option.


What can I do with teaching?

A South African education qualification is highly regarded in most other Commonwealth countries. It also provides an excellent foundation for entry into other career paths outside the education industry.   

All educators need to register with the South African Council of Educators (SACE). You cannot be hired as an educator if you are not registered.


Funding for Teachers

The Department of Basic Education has Funza Lushaka bursaries, Funza Lushaka or see www.funzalushaka.gov.za. You could also apply for NSFAS funding. To find out more about this bursary, contact the Financial Aid office at the institution you are considering applying to.

Alternatives to Teaching: 

Adult Educator 

Training Officer


Environmental Education Specialist, Training and Staff Development Professional

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