The Careers Adviser: 'Should I take a year out before starting a Masters? Can I work while training to be a teacher?'

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The Independent Online

Experience counts

Q. I am a French native and in my last year of a French and Spanish degree. I intend to do a Masters in interpreting and translating. I am thinking of taking a year out beforehand to find some work. Or should I keep on studying and start work when I've finished my qualifications? What is the best way to get work?

A. Not getting any work or experience before you have finished your qualifications, then launching yourself on what you hope is an expectant world doesn't really work in any area. Your case is no exception. Plus, you may need to raise funds for your next year of study.

Alan Wheatley, general secretary of the Institute of Translating and Interpreting (, says that if you haven't worked in interpreting or translating in the past, it will be difficult to find work with agencies which usually demand more qualifications and experience than you have. He suggests choosing work in a field in which you might want to specialise later – that way you earn money, learn about the subject and prepare for a career in languages.

You can also try charities and NGOs operating in the international field, although the work won't pay much. Then, as soon as you have your Masters, you would be able to approach agencies with better qualifications and more experience.

If you stay in the UK, joining the Institute would also enable you to put yourself on its members' directory and take advantage of networking opportunities.

If your English is not as good as your French, you will find interpreting might be easier than translation (you might get a job translating, but only from English into French, not the other way around). It would be important when you are doing your Masters to take advantage of any courses offered by your university in both English language and writing.

Keep trying

Q. Throughout my degree in education I worked as a primary teaching assistant and don't want to lose this income to complete postgraduate training. How do I go about obtaining a primary school placement for the graduate training programme? The places seem to be for secondary schools.

A. The graduate teacher programme (GTP) does offer you a way to qualify as a teacher while you work, and often suits career changers who want to move into teaching but need to continue earning. Once you have found a job in a school as an unqualified teacher, you can follow a training programme through to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Your degree makes you eligible for this scheme, though if you intend to teach primary children, you need a grade C or equivalent in a GCSE science subject.

Entry is highly competitive, and places are likely to be awarded where there is the greatest need, in secondary school shortage subjects such as maths, science or foreign languages. But priority is also given to those trying to move to teaching after assisting, so you should keep trying.

The places are awarded by partnerships called employment-based teacher training providers (Ebitt), which include schools, local authorities and other bodies. Ebitt details can be found on the Training Development Agency for Schools website at

In addition to applying through these providers, who find you places in schools, you can watch for vacancies in the jobs pages or register with a supply agency. You might also be able to train by following a part-time postgraduate course – call the teaching information line on 0845 600 0991.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to