Banking on change

Q. I'm a recently redundant investment banker and, like many people I know, I want to reinvent myself as a secondary school teacher. My undergraduate degree was geography, but I'm happy to teach other subjects too. Is a postgraduate qualification still the quickest way in?

A. In recent months, more and more city workers have begun to consider teaching as a second career, prompting the Government to review entry routes and suggest fast-track options for driven and qualified people. These are only proposals at the moment, and the first schemes are likely to be aimed at subjects in which there is a teaching shortage, which might limit your options slightly. For the latest news, keep a close eye on the Teaching and Development Agency (TDA) website (www.tda.gov.uk).

The normal route into teaching if you're a graduate is the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), a one-year programme which combines academic work with teaching practice in schools. It's offered at universities and colleges across the UK.

You could also try School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), which is offered by groups of neighbouring schools and colleges. The course is highly practical, based at schools and taught by experienced teachers in collaboration with local colleges. It leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and is a good choice for people who want to get plenty of classroom experience. Applications for both programmes are through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry (www.gttr.ac.uk), vacancies for which are published with The Independent on 14 May.

For more information, visit the TDA website, which has a questionnaire to help you choose a course, or call their helpline: 0845-6000 991.

Genetically modified

Q. I'm coming to the end of my first degree in biology, and I'd like to become a geneticist as I've always been interested in breeding plants. Are there Masters courses available, or will I have to do a PhD?

A. Studying for a postgraduate qualification may not be necessary. Your biology degree will have covered elements of genetics pertaining to animals or plants, so you should have a good understanding of the basics already. Some commercial organisations prefer to develop their graduates through in-house training.

However, if you are more interested in high-end academic research, then a PhD is certainly desirable, both for entry and for future career progression. A Masters would only prove useful if your biology degree has not given you a grasp of plants genetics. Afterwards, you could decide which organisation you want to work for or whether you would prefer to do a PhD.

Masters degrees in plant genetics are offered by the universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and East Anglia, among others. Search the database at www.prospects.ac.uk for a full list. For PhD positions, see www.findaphd.com and www.jobs.ac.uk.

The British Society of Plant Breeders' (www.bspb.co.uk) is a good source of information, and also has a list of member organisations, so it's an excellent place to start looking for potential employers.

Word perfect

Q. I did a degree in English literature a few years ago and ever since I've been fascinated by the written word. My dream job is working for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Are there any postgraduate courses in lexicography?

A. The University of Birmingham has a Dictionary Research Centre (www.english.bham.ac.uk/drc.shtml) which offers an MA and a postgraduate diploma in language and lexicography. However, many other institutions offer general courses in linguistics with lexicography modules which might serve your needs just as well.

A qualification in linguistics will help you stand out. The largest employer of lexicographers in the UK is the Oxford University Press (OUP), which of course produces the OED. For vacancies, visit www.oup.co.uk/recruit/currvac, but don't forget about Chambers Harrap and HarperCollins, respectively publishers of the Chambers and Collins dictionaries.

Thanks to Mike Cox and Deborah Millan, careers consultants for Domino Careers (www.domino careers.co.uk)

Send your queries to Chris Green at c.green@ independent.co.uk

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