Teacher, second level

Last updated: 1 Mar 2023, 09:34

Second-level teachers, also known as post-primary teachers, students from the first year to the sixth year.

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Job description

Second-level teachers, also known as post-primary teachers, will normally specialise in one or two subjects and will teach these to students from the first year to the sixth year. This means that a teacher can teach up to eight lessons in one day to different classes containing up to 30 students each, often of differing ability levels.

Work activities

  • Planning, preparing and delivering lessons to classes
  • Researching, devising and writing new material
  • Assessing and recording pupils progress, both orally and by setting and marking coursework and examinations
  • Participating in staff meetings, parents’ evenings and extra-curricular activities
  • Writing reports for pupils, parents and other educational professionals
  • Undertaking pastoral and supervisory duties.

Work conditions

Travel – not a major feature of the job.
Working hours – full-time teachers have class contact hours of around 22 hours a week.
Location – mostly in towns or cities throughout the country.
Opportunities for self-employment – unlikely, although teachers can supplement income through private tuition, national examination invigilation and marking, evening classes and writing textbooks.

Typical employers

Republic of Ireland: the three main categories of post-primary schools are secondary schools, vocational schools/community colleges and community/comprehensive schools. All schools follow the same state prescribed curriculum and take the same state public examinations.

Northern Ireland: The education system consists of different types of schools under the control of management committees who are also the employers of teachers.

Career development

Promotion to positions such as special duties teachers and assistant principals can normally be achieved at an early stage although there is currently a moratorium on promotion.


An incremental salary scale operates with additional allowances payable depending on qualifications and additional responsibilities.

Republic of Ireland: A second-level teacher with an honours degree and a PGDE can expect to earn around €39,000.

Northern Ireland: The starting salary for second-level teachers is in excess of £21,000.

Allowances for additional qualifications also apply.

Entry requirements

Republic of Ireland: From September 2014, the Prof. Masters in Education, now a two-year course, will replace the one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PDE). Your primary degree must be recognised by the teaching council for the purposes of registration as a secondary school teacher. The list of degrees acceptable is listed by the Teaching Council.

Concurrent four-year degree programmes which combine the study of education with the study of an academic specialist area(s) mainly in the sciences, technological education, physical education, music, mathematics, religious education and home economics also provide eligibility of registration.

Northern Ireland: A recognised teacher training qualification, ie a secondary school Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), is required in order to gain a permanent teaching post. As in the rest of the UK, all candidates must, by law, satisfy 'fitness to teach' requirements and be checked by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Specific degree subjects required

Detailed information on the suitability of current and future qualifications for teaching in the Republic is available from the Teaching Council. Anyone considering teaching as a career is strongly advised to contact the Council to establish whether their chosen course is recognised for registration purposes.

Other relevant degree subjects

As part of the process of registering teachers for the first time, the Teaching Council requires all applicants to undergo Garda vetting. Before taking up a first teaching post, teachers will also be required to complete a pre-employment medical screening questionnaire which may require attending a pre-employment assessment in person for those with underlying health problems. For more information visit Medmark4teachers.

Postgraduate study

From 2013, all those registering for the first time as post-primary teachers in the Republic will be required to hold the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE/PDE – formerly the Higher Diploma in Education) or the Graduate Diploma in Education (GDEd), except for those holding concurrent qualifications.


Further training is provided through in-service courses. Specialised courses for experienced teachers are provided mainly by universities and colleges of education.

Tips for application

You will need to be determined and flexible when looking for your first teaching post. Permanent posts for newly qualified teachers within the secondary sector are becoming increasingly difficult to find, so most newly qualified teachers take up temporary posts before securing a permanent position (which could take several years). Job applications need to be really well prepared and error free.

Experience of working with teenagers and involvement in sports and extra-curricular activities are valued by employers.

Skills and qualities

  • Highly conscientious and committed to the highest standards of professional service Excellent communication and organisational skills
  • Caring and motivated by the best interests of your students
  • Enthusiasm for the subject material that will foster a love of learning by students
  • Willing to engage in ongoing professional development
  • Ability to relate well to different groups of students of different ages and ability levels
  • Self-belief and the ability to maintain discipline
  • Team player who can collaborate with colleagues.

Labour market information

A current shortfall exists in the Republic of Ireland for teachers qualified in particular subjects, especially in Mathematics; however this does not necessarily translate into job opportunities. Despite the government’s objectives to promote the smart economy, subjects such as physics, chemistry, design and engineering remain comparatively under resourced. A significant rise in the number of students in second-level schools over the coming years is predicted which should lead to an increase in teaching posts provided that no further cuts in the teacher/pupil ratio are made.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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