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I have been teaching Communication Design for nearly 15 years and friends who have established creative careers often ask me, ‘how do I get into teaching?’
Teaching can come up as a career option when you’re ready to give back a little or are looking to join the gig economy. Teaching can be a flexible option when you need hours that work around kids or freelance clients.
Teaching can also obviously be a full time career that can complement your creative practice. It can be fulfilling and rewarding at any level of education. But what are the first steps you need to take, to get your foot in the door?
Getting a start as a teacher in creative fields, like art and design, really depends on what level of our education system you are interested in. Your required qualification is directly co-related to the level of accreditation the students you want to teach are working towards.
For example, teaching a painting or sewing class at the local Community Arts Centre generally requires no qualification. However, working with children under the age of 18 requires a current ‘Working with Children Check’ or ‘Blue Card’. This is something you can apply for at the local post office or online and it differs in each state and territory in Australia but most cost under $100. You must go through a police check and it has to be regularly updated.
Most local council websites will have a listing of all their Community Arts Centres and the spaces and facilities they have available. You might find full computer labs, ceramics studios, kitchens, gallery spaces, community gardens, retail spaces and wet and dry studios. Generally you need to just get in touch with their programs coordinator and simply propose a program to teach.
I often taught illustration classes, folio preparation classes, ‘make your own magazine’ and other crafty classes in the school holiday programs when my children were babies. These classes were all pitched at primary and secondary school levels and were most successful when the kids got to take a completed masterpiece home.
Teaching at TAFE level is a different kettle of fish. TAFEs (Technical and Further Education) in Australia have a proud legacy of teaching highly accessible and practical courses that often fall into the realm of VET (Vocational Education and Training). However, all TAFE courses must exist somewhere on the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and be audited by the government to make sure they are legit. As a result the way skills and knowledge is transferred and the qualifications of those teaching are regulated. So to deliver classes at a TAFE you’ll need to have a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and ideally a qualification in the area you’d like to teach.
You can find these Cert IV courses everywhere. They can be done face-to-face or online and can cost anywhere from $800 to $6,000. So keep looking until you find one that meets the logistical and financial requirements of your life. You’ll learn how to plan, deliver and assess classes, understand how adults learn and be introduced to online learning platforms.
Then there is teaching at Universities. Here the demand on your qualifications is again increased. Universities generally offer Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate (eg. PhD) Degrees which also exist on the AQF. The rule here is that you must have a qualification above what you teach. For example if you want to teach in a Bachelor Degree, you need a qualification above it—which on the AQF is anything from a Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Masters Degree or Doctoral Degree.
Classes in large Universities have access to world class facilities and students from all around the world. They still often operate in the traditional form of lectures, tutorials and studio sessions. Yet, if you attended University in Australia prior to 2000, class rooms will appear a lot more diverse that you remember. During the new millennium, governments up-capped the number of graduates entering many creative industries and encouraged international students to study in Australia. It is exciting how this accessibility to Higher Education has benefitted the influences and voices you can now experience in University classrooms.
There are also options to pursue teaching at Primary and Secondary Schools. Some of the smartest people I have ever met completed a Diploma of Education straight after their Undergraduate Degree. They had the option of teaching any time during their career however, DipEds are no longer a thing which is disappointing. You now have to now do another two years, after your Bachelors Degree, to get a Masters of Teaching for either Primary or Secondary Teaching to become an accredited teacher.
Teaching at a local Community Arts Centre then TAFE and then at several Universities has been the journey that my personal teaching career has taken. The subjects I have taught have been built on my professional experiences in the graphic design industry. The flexibility of sessional teaching has allowed me to build a career around my children, but as a result I have regularly had to update my qualifications to keep in toe with my ambition. The renumeration has always been good and the other teachers and students have been the best part of my experience. I highly recommend the jump if you really want to teach.