Careers in Education: Alternatives to Teaching

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When you talk about a career in education, people assume this means teaching children in a classroom. Careers Consultant, Beka Kimberley, discusses alternative paths and options here.

First, a disclaimer! If you’re a former classroom teacher looking for a change, there’s a huge amount that you can do and you shouldn’t feel limited to only seeking work in the education field. (You might find some inspiration hearing other people’s stories at

However, if it’s definitely an education career you want, read on for ideas and plenty of links to find out more…

It’s worth spending some time thinking about your motivation and interest, understanding this better will help you to identify potential employers and areas of work. You could start by looking at our self-reflective toolkit. Or you might prefer to browse vacancies to see what’s out there.  Useful general sites include Guardian Education and TES jobs where you can filter the position by ‘non teaching/support jobs’ (although you should note many of these are school-based).

Other careers in teaching

Do you enjoy the process of teaching but not conventional schools/classrooms? You might consider teaching in an alternative setting, perhaps in adult education, prisons, or private tutoring. The AGCAS guide to alternative careers in education has lots of information.

Another area is teaching English as a foreign language. Many people assume that this is primarily a temporary or summer job, but you can make a lifelong career out of it. Find out more at ‘Career paths in TEFL’ and ‘How to make a career out of TEFL’

Do you want to keep direct contact with children and young people? A career as a youth worker or play therapist could be a possibility. lists more ideas on its page ‘Working with children.’


If you want to be involved in education but not necessarily at the ‘coalface’ consider working in educational charities. I’d recommend using specialist vacancy sites like or both of which have filters for ‘children & youth’ and ‘education.’ Directories of charities such as and (international) have similar filters and can be a good way of finding organisations to apply to speculatively, even if they’re not actively recruiting. City Year, Into University and up Reach all offer work placements and/or graduate schemes around Widening Access to Higher Education. If you have a particular interest in education in the development sector, has an education filter and is dedicated to  education in emergencies and disaster relief.

To hear from people working in the educational charities, check out our Careers In Charities panel, where Brooke Hornby talks about educational charity Red Balloon. Our mentoring conversations series includes interviews with Katie Godfrey at Lively Minds and Poppy Hardee at Save the Children.

Research and Policy

Continuing the research theme, there are a variety of think tanks and institutes that research the field in order to influence policy and educational innovation. has an international directory that you can filter by ‘education’ and ‘children.’ These sorts of organisations often recruit on an ad hoc basis so speculative applications and networking are key.

You might interested in working more directly on educational policy. In the UK, the best way to get involved is to apply directly to the Department for Education through, check the official websites for recruitment information for other countries. You might also find it interesting to read this blog about how one alumni of the Unlocked graduate scheme, transitioned from working with young offenders in prisons, to his current role as strategy advisor for the Department for Education.

Your educational career might encompass Higher Education (HE), (a good number of careers professionals have teaching backgrounds!) Other particularly pertinent roles include student experience officer, academic support worker, and schools’ liaison or Widening Participation (WP) positions, focused on encouraging young people into university. There is a ‘professional/managerial/support’ section of where you’re likely to find these roles and as well as individual colleges if you want to stay in Cambridge.


Freelance educational consultancy can be an option when you have teaching experience The Society of Education Consultants will give you a flavour of what this involves. Some larger consultancy organisations have departments that focus on public sector and charities and some focus entirely on education, particularly with an international focus. To find these, look at  our directory under ‘public sector and charity’  and (filter by education). Be aware that those covering education as one of their many foci may not guarantee to place you in this department and you may apply through a typical recruitment process with a business focus.

If you’d like to discuss other options in education with us you can book an appointment through Handshake.

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