Career progression


Career progression

Where will your teaching career take you?

You can keep on learning as a teacher, and you’ll have opportunities to add to your professional skills and expertise.

As well as building on your experience, over time you’ll not just develop as a teacher – you may also be able to realise your professional and personal goals and ambitions.

You’ll find there are clear pathways for promotion open to you, allowing you to progress with your career, and also increase your salary. Teaching can provide opportunities to enhance your roles and responsibilities, pursue leadership opportunities, and gain a real sense of achievement.

"It was really important to me to continue my learning – it shouldn’t just be pupils and students within schools that learn, teachers should also engage and be involved in continuous learning, and this course allowed me to do just that"Shelley McLaren – Headteacher at Craigroyston Community High School, Edinburgh

A salary to match your skills

Whatever career path you decide is right for you, you can be sure that your talents and skills are valued. It’s what makes teaching a rewarding career, and why it appeals to such a wide range of people – including goal-driven, high achievers.

Scotland has an ambitious education system, and the goal is to provide a career structure which fully supports you as a teacher, as well as providing the best education for pupils.


"I did not anticipate how many changes and opportunities would take place in my career. Headteachers and senior leadership members are always keen to hand over responsibility on initiatives in schools to allow teachers to develop."Mark Pitblado – Primary School Teacher at Aberhill Primary School

Clear pathways for progression

Everyone is different, and your route to the top in teaching can be highly individual.

You may see your personal career pathway as a structured, linear route – aiming for principal teacher, depute headteacher, headteacher, then perhaps local authority, Education Scotland.

Or, your vision for your future could encompass different roles within your school – such as taking charge of a year group, being a champion for high standards and continuous improvement throughout your school, while ultimately aiming to become a depute headteacher or a headteacher.

Heading a department

There are lots of ways you can have a big influence in your school. If you’re passionate about your subject and leading others, you could pursue a career as a principal teacher.

The great thing about this role is that it allows you to spend time in the classroom, doing what you love – with the chance to take on additional responsibilities.

Principal teacher

You could also take the opportunity to become a team leader for your teaching colleagues, as well as your pupils. As a principal teacher, you could be responsible for staffing levels, financial resources and materials. As well as an excellent knowledge of your subject, you’ll need good leadership and management skills.

Deputy headteacher

These roles form part of the Senior Leadership Team in schools, supporting the head teacher in their school planning and delivery. There are often opportunities to lead on particular aspects of the school, from curriculum to school improvement planning.

Becoming a headteacher

The highest responsibility in any school belongs to the headteacher. Headteachers are leaders not just in their school, but in the wider community. Their vision and actions inspire staff and pupils. They are experienced classroom teachers and have built their leadership and management skills through professional learning. Headteachers in Scotland must have completed the Into Headship programme. Find out more about the benefits of becoming a head teacher.

Pastoral care

Many teachers are interested in protecting the welfare and wellbeing of their pupils throughout their education. A pastoral role within your school might be an ideal way for you to provide this valuable support.

Your role could range from guiding a tutor group through school, to becoming a head of year. You could also become a mentor for young people with different educational needs.

Two routes to the top

See more case studies.

Laura MacKey

Laura MacKey

Headteacher at Banff Primary School

Laura has been teaching for just over 8 years, and for the past 2 years has been headteacher at Banff Primary School.

Before teaching, Laura worked in the hospitality industry but was keen to move into the teaching profession as it’s a passion she has always had. Laura decided to take the Into Headship course when she was a principal teacher at a previous school.

She was keen to explore how her wide range of skills could be transferred into a leadership role, and the course allowed her to achieve this.

The Into Headship course has been exceptionally valuable. I discovered that my leadership skills could be extended. The course helped to refresh my vision for the school and reaffirmed my reason for becoming a headteacher.

Into Headship course

Maxine McNeill

Chemistry Teacher at Bell Baxter High School, Fife

Maxine McNeill has been teaching Chemistry for five years. She has a degree in Forensic Science and a PDGE.

Before she decided on teaching, Maxine had been considering a career with the Police.

She thrives on the challenge that working with a diverse range of pupils of different ages, backgrounds and abilities brings. And while a career as a Police Officer could have offered her similar challenges, Maxine says she loves being a teacher and the opportunity it brings to change people’s lives.

A highlight of my career so far has been changing pupil’s perception and enjoyment of science. Many will start off saying they don’t like science then a few weeks into my class, I always get great feedback about how much they love it. It’s a good feeling.

Into Headship course

Maxine McNeill

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