A change of career to teaching: it’s never too late

A mature-age Charles Sturt University student is surprised but enthusiastic to find himself studying to be a primary school teacher late in his working life. David Watts didn’t in a million years think he would be looking at a change of career to teaching when he was 58 years old.

David Watts, who is studying to start a career as a teacher, in his classroom.

“But that is what happens when you say ‘yes’ to things like taking a job in an industry that you had never, ever considered before.”

The pathway to a change of career to teaching

David started studying a Bachelor of Educational Studies online with Charles Sturt University. He secured his place with the support of the Collaborative Teachers’ Aide Pathway (CTAP). The CTAP helps teachers’ aides, school learning support officers and Aboriginal education officers qualify to teach in primary or secondary schools. As part of the scheme, students complete the educational studies bachelor’s before moving straight into a master’s degree in either primary or secondary teaching.

The bachelor’s provides a pathway into the profession, for people with previous vocational or university study and relevant work experience. People like David.

What’s more, at Charles Sturt, we recognise the value of that experience. So you’re likely to receive credit towards your teaching course – and that means you can complete your degree faster!

Indeed, David says he wouldn’t have considered starting the degree without the availability of credit for his previous experience.

“Credit for vocational experience shortened the course to three years. Plus, it’s also very useful to enable access to the dedicated program support leaders for people in my situation. This means I have been able to discuss specific details with them. And they have always been really, really helpful.”

David’s journey down his new career path

David grew up in England, on the Atlantic coast (“Picture the coastline on the TV show ‘Doc Martin’”). He moved to Australia in 1995. Now he lives in Sydney’s Inner West with his partner, two teenage sons, a dog and a few chickens.

In his 20s David gained a degree in aquaculture at an agricultural college. But he didn’t use the qualification until he landed a job in the animal display section at Sydney Aquarium. He worked there for 22 years.

After this he worked as the aquatics curator at Sydney Zoo for 18 months before taking a very different route and rather falling into a teacher’s aide role at a Catholic primary school in Granville. This led to his current studies. And he hasn’t looked back.

Moving forward into teaching

David is now on the pathway to a career as a teacher of primary school students.

“I like the diversity of teaching all the subjects in primary education. Plus, I can mostly do the maths!”

His areas of expertise are science and literacy, with a focus on English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) learners. However, through his studies he has a new-found appreciation of all subjects from drama and art, to history and yes, even maths.

In addition to the well-rounded nature of primary teaching, David was inspired to take his studies further because of the positive school environment he encountered.

“Everyone thinks of teaching as a ‘caring profession’. However, I remember being so impressed with the authentic level of concern and commitment teachers showed for each student. I thought I would really like to be part of that process. Contributing to the astonishing journey of students from kindergarten onwards is wonderful.”

Making the most of the career move

Moreover, a couple of recent health scares have increased David’s focus onliving a more purposeful life.

“I want to be a classroom teacher, even though I may only have about 10 years maximum of working life left. I’ll graduate at 60 if all goes well. So I have no ambition to ‘climb the ladder’.”

“Maybe it was an inevitability. It occurred to me that my mother had been a primary school teacher. Suddenly there was the gentle thud of ‘the acorn falling not far from the tree’.”

David advises his fellow students and the next generation of teachers to “truly listen, and never stop learning”.

“While I never thought that teaching was an easy job, I had no idea until I started working in the education sector just how much teachers give. How much care they genuinely take in their roles. And how much of this is unseen.

“This deserves to be recognised and celebrated.”

Ready for a change of career to teaching?

Female teacher in a science lesson with students.

Wherever you are in your professional career, it’s never too late to fulfil that dream of a change of career to teaching – to inspire the next generation. And, like David said, your previous work experience will be beneficial to you – from the skills you already have to the credit you’ll receive towards your teaching qualification.

So, explore the pathway from teacher’s aide to teaching. Check out our teaching degrees. Or chat to our team of uni advisers to find the right route for you.