Teaching as Career


The research paper uncovers the determinants of individuals who choose to be teachers, questionnaires were used to produce evidence which was collected and analysed, some factors were identified as having influenced the choice of teaching as a career and this included social and economic factors. The study found out that key determinant of individual likelihood to choose a teaching career was family background, financial incentives such as the salary and other benefits, it was also evident that career choice was also motivated by other intrinsic rewards that individuals would gain in the process, also the perspective that low pay and low job status was not a factor that would deter those who wanted to chose a teaching career.


The main aim of this research was to identify determinants of an individual to choose a teaching career. It examined the influencing factors of family background, the values that people attached to the teaching job and their own perceptions of their job. The research data was to be collected using a research questionnaire which was prepared and pre tested to check whether it was biased, the sample was randomly selected and the questionnaires were mailed to the correspondent wand after the questionnaire was returned data was compiled to undertake statistical inferences.

Policies measures to increase teachers assume that the number of teachers can be increased by increasing the rewards and salaries monetary incentives, this assumption is relevant in the short run, however it is eveident that choice of career is largely influenced by socio economic factors and at the same time cultural background. The Social determinant differ from the other factors in that they are longe term while economic factors are only short term determinants.


Teaching as Career

Teachers career choice is also believed to have been influenced by what the individuals value in the job and their perceptions of the teaching career, this research paper is therefore aimed at identifying these factors and how they have influenced career choice in the society.


The study involved three respondents from a local school, the sample was randomly selected from the teachers list of the school and permission to undertake the research was obtained from relevant authorities, A mailed questionnaire was sent to the respondents who were expected to return the complete questionnaire within two days.

The questionnaire was to collect information regarding the individual’s background, education level and after the questionnaire was prepared it was pre tested to check whether it was biased, and after verification the questionnaires were mailed to the respondent and the information collected and compiled to undertake statistical inferences.


Of the three individuals interviewed two were married and one was single, one was female and two were male and for this reason the random sample was not gender biased and therefore the views of both gender was considered in the study. The study involved mailed questionnaires and all the questionnaires were returned and data was analysed


Teaching as Career

After the questionnaires were returned the data was analysed to determine whether the respondent had similar patterns in the determination of the career choice, some of the factors identified that had led to career choice was education level. From the data it was found out that the level of education played a major role in determining what the position the individual was to take in the society.

From the data collected it was found out that individuals chose the career due to influence of family members, in the case where family members were teachers the other members had a high possibility that they would take up the same role in the society. The respondents viewed the family members as role models and for this reason they would take up the same roles as their relatives.

The other factor that led to the choice of career is the education background, having achieved a certain level of education then the individual had no option but to become a teacher, for this reason therefore it is therefore considered that education and the type of courses undertaken play a major role in determining what role the individual was to play in the society.

After data was collected it was found that those respondents with less educated parents were more likely to choose a teaching career, this was as a result of the analysis of data aimed at collecting the family background of the individuals who were pursuing the teaching career. Analysis also showed that career decisions was found to be related to the course of studied at college or university. It was found that social science course studied led to individuals choosing a teaching career.

Other factors identified to have contributed to the choice of career include the possibility of sharing knowledge, job satisfaction and the length of holidays. On sharing the knowledge it was found out that teachers did not take this factor seriously, non of the teachers took the part of this part of their job as significant, the length of holidays associated with the career was also not an important factor in choice of career, however the job satisfaction part was an important factor in determining the choice of career, due to the individuals motivation and their love for the job they


Teaching as Career

were satisfied with their job and their choice of career depended on the job satisfaction factor.

The respondent also reported to have been motivated by intrinsic factors which included job satisfaction and the interest in the teaching job, however they reported not to have been influenced by job status and salary. However the teachers reported that job security ewas a determining factor in the choice of career, teachers preferred to become teachers because of job security that is not evident in other types of jobs. Therefore in this case the respondent agrteed to have been influenced by the level of job security associated with the career.

The respondents also agreed that the career was very rewarding; the respondents agreed that teaching was appealing to them and this is because they believed that the career offered them values they were looking for in a job. They reported that teaching was a rewarding career according to them than other careers available, this was in terms of financial rewards and other incentives associated with the career.

Training in teaching career and the pursuit of social science were also found to be contributing factors in the choice of career, the respondents reported to have a very positive experience when undertaking their education to become teachers, the positive experience at school offered an opportunity that led them to choose to become teachers due to the positive perception towards the education institution. For this reason therefore the personal experience at school is also a factor that influences the choice of career, positive experience of the individual in early years of school influenced them to choose the career. Negative experience at the early years of school will therefore lead to a negative perception towards the teaching career.

Despite the rewards associated with the teaching career the respondents Confirmed that teachers more likely to have heavy workload and also were underpaid for the services they offered, however this did not put them off from becoming teachers or even quitting their jobs due to the intrinsic motivation associated with the career. On job status the teachers viewed their job has a job with medium status, for this reason they did not feel inferior to speak about their career to other professionals.


Teaching as Career

The respondents also confirmed that when choosing the career as teachers they were well aware of the financial rewards associated with the career

for teaching when deciding upon a career. When their responses were entered into the logistic model, the accuracy of predicting who were likely to be teachers and non-teachers increased from 90% to 94%, while that for confirmed and marginal teachers increased from 80% to 81%. This shows that financial incentives did not dramatically change individual career plans, although they did make it easier for those who wanted to teach to go into teaching. As determinants of career choice financial incentives were not as important as the values people attached to a job and their perceptions of teaching. They did not appear to have much influence in persuading non-teachers into teaching. These are people who have already made up their minds about their career paths and would not be likely to be persuaded otherwise. Those who reported that they were most likely to be persuaded by these incentives were marginal teachers (Table 4).

Table 4 – Reported influence of financial incentives

Career decisions

Confirmed teacher (n= 550)%

Marginal teacher (n=621) %

Non-teacher(n=674) %


Teaching as Career

Offer of training salaries




Promise of shortage subject bursaries




Exemption of fees



Teaching as Career



‘Golden handcuff’ deal




The two incentives that were likely to influence people’s career choice were the offer of training salaries and the exemption from fees (Table 4). Shortage subject bursaries appeared to be the least effective (because they apply only to a subset of cases). Shortage subject bursaries and exemption of fees also did not seem to be effective in persuading maths and science students. Maths and science students were the most likely to be influenced by the ‘golden handcuff’ deal compared to students in other subject groups, and least likely to be influenced by the offer of training grants.

Male and female students did not appear to show any difference in their responses to these financial incentives. Exemption of fees appeared to be the most effective in influencing the career decisions of non-white students. These findings have (sometimes negative) implications for policies to increase ITT recruitment of ethnic minorities and those in shortage subjects.


Teaching as Career

Training grants and shortage subject bursaries were the two incentives most widely known among students and proved to be most influential in getting those who were interested in teaching take up teacher training. It was effective in attracting those who were already interested in teaching, but not those studying shortage subjects at university. Training salaries made it easier for some to give up their job, but certainly did not act as a ‘carrot’ to those who had not considered teaching. Many had applied for course entry before the schemes were announced, while others would have gone into training anyway, though much later, after they have saved up enough. This point was clearly illustrated by PGCE students in the focus group interviews.

English PGCE students:

Anna: I umm.. I mean the thing is because I applied really early on the course really really really on and I knew that I wanted to do it, and I’d already taken a year to work to try to save some money up and so actually it’s a surprise when the training salaries were announced.

Michelle: Like me I applied before the salary was introduced. I am like Anna, I applied to do the course and, and was accepted on the course before the training salary was announced so it was a nice surprise – and exactly the same I didn’t entirely anticipate how much it probably would cost to do it, and I’m living at home. I mean I’m actually not even paying rent but I’m driving a car everyday and you know, so the little expense I didn’t even anticipate before.

Nina: I think because I sort of applied late on and I hadn’t really thought about training salary didn’t really you know haven’t been keeping up with that so I wasn’t sure, but I guess I just knew that because it’s what I really wanted to do that I would have the support of my parents I guess so I knew that I’d be able to struggle through this with my parents. Just being in that lucky situation and you know…


Teaching as Career

Hannah: I had the promise of that support from my mum and dad as well which, which because I didn’t know when I was going to get this training salary because I live in the Isle of Man and they have different rules and everything, but I was just so relieved when I did…

Jemma: I would have just done it a lot later. I would have done it like 10 years down the line if they haven’t offered the salary.

Nicola: I would have done it later as well (Jemma, and Edward would have done it later as well)

PGCE history students

Nick: I suppose the question to ask about our motivation is which of us was motivated by the 6,000 grant. I personally wasn’t.

Anthony: I wasn’t because I applied before.

Nick: In retrospect, the same I didn’t realise when I applied because I want to teach, but now knowing how much it cost….

Tom: Same here

Andy: I applied before. It didn’t attract me, I only come in before…

Charlotte: I probably would perhaps have waited for two or three years until my children are


Teaching as Career

older and I wouldn’t need to pay childcare.

PGCE maths students also applied before the policy came into place and for some it did make it easier for them take up training.

Marnie: I applied before.

Toby: So do I. (There was general agreement – students nodding their heads)

Fran: I was going to apply about 3 or 4 years ago. I actually got the application form, decided where I was going to apply to and I was earning about 14,000 pounds at that time, not a huge amount of money but then the grant that I would have got for doing the PGCE was 1,000 pounds and I thought that was stupid I’m going to run into so much debt, what’s the point, you know, I’ll put it off and I’ll try something else, so I tried another couple of jobs umm, and then when I decided that I was going to reapply definitely at the time they said you’d get two and a half thousand pounds and then when they say you’ll get 6 thousand pounds it all coincided with me applying, I said great really good, really good.

Interviewer: So you’ve already made the decision even before these policies came into being, but that policy did help you.

Fran and Catherine: Oh yeah.

Lack of publicity regarding these incentives seemed to be an issue. Some comments made by students in their questionnaire returns with regards to these incentives included:


Teaching as Career

Throughout my degree course, no one actually came to persuade us to go into teaching.

3rd year Law student

I am interested in teaching but not sure how to get into it, whether my law degree is enough, and what kind of qualifications I would need.‘

3rd year Law student

There should be more publicity if the incentives were to be effective. Many of us have not heard of these incentives at all. We are not aware of their existence.

2nd year Language & Communication student

I have considered teaching in the secondary sector but still undecided whether to go into teaching or not. The reason for my indecision is the lack of information available. I don’t have any clue of what to do .

2nd year Accountancy student

Had no information about teaching, rather get a job.


Teaching as Career

Have not been given any information regarding being teacher.


This study reminds us that merely introducing financial incentives to recruit teachers is not enough. Individual decisions to teach depend, to a large extent, on the values attached to a job and perceptions of teaching. My findings reveal that there are fundamental differences between non-teachers and confirmed teachers as to what they look for in a job and in their perceptions of teaching. This study and that of Smithers and Hill (1989) revealed that those who had not considered teaching were more likely to perceive it as offering intrinsic rewards and person-oriented satisfaction but were more likely to be motivated by extrinsic rewards. On the other hand, those who go into teaching were not likely to stay on unless their experiences with students and the school, in general, are rewarding. Clear lessons emerge, not only for policymakers, but also principals and school administrators. Teaching must be seen as an attractive and financially rewarding career. At present, policy is too much focused on teacher training and the incentives and barriers to that, and the move from training to post. If these results are to be believed, then work to enhance the status and professional prestige of teachers in later career will be just as important, long-term, in attracting high-quality students to the profession.


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This work was funded by ESRC grant number R42200034537

The response rate varies between subject groups, and was made difficult to calculate in specific departments by the presence of overseas students in teaching groups.

This document was added to the Education-line database on 12 November 2004