There are a number of pathways into primary and secondary teaching in the UK. Discover which is best suited to your skills and career ambitions

To become a qualified teacher in state-maintained schools across the UK, you need to undertake Initial Teacher Training (ITT) or Initial Teacher Education (ITE). Entry is generally competitive, but less so for shortage subjects such as maths, physics and languages. Register and find out more about Initial Teacher Training with Get Into Teaching.

Completion of ITT leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales, and the Teaching Qualification (TQ) in Scotland. Some independent schools, academies and free schools might not specify QTS or registration with a teaching council as an entry requirement.

To help you decide if teaching is right for you, and to support your application, you should do some work or volunteering in schools. If you're not sure which age or subject would suit you, contact schools in your area and ask to observe in a classroom. You should also speak to teaching staff about the challenges and rewards of teaching. For more information, see how to become a teacher.

Once you've decided which age range and subject you'd like to teach, look for a route that gives you the relevant experience. If you haven't already, access the careers and employability service where you're studying or have graduated from. Attend universities, schools and training provider open days before you apply.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

The most common route into teaching is the PGCE, which can be studied at university or as part of a school-based training programme.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths (a B in Wales)
  • GCSE C/4 in a science subject to teach primary pupils
  • some experience of working with children in a mainstream UK school in the age group for which you're applying
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

PGCE courses start with an academic focus and usually cover teaching, learning theory and managing classroom behaviour. After the first few weeks you'll spend up to two-thirds of your time on placement in schools, teaching in two different key stages.

The PGCE takes one year if studied full time and two years part time. You'll study modules including professional teacher, subject specialist, reflective teacher and research-informed teacher. Check whether your preferred course leads to QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), as you won’t be able to teach without it.

There are a couple of universities in England that offer the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) and the main difference is the number of academic credits you'll get. The PGDE carries 120 university credits, while the PGCE carries 60.

Search all PGCEs.


Most popular in Scotland, this one-year route allows you to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) with additional Masters credits.

You'll need:

  •  an undergraduate degree (containing 80 SCQF credit points for secondary teaching)
  • national qualifications in English (SCQF Level 6) and mathematics (Level 5)
  • classroom experience
  • to become a member of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

On the PGDE you'll spend around half your time at university learning subject-specific theory and general teaching techniques. This will be assessed through written assignments and presentations. The other half of your time is spent on teaching placements where you will be regularly observed and need to keep a portfolio of your progress. The majority of courses are full time, but it is possible to study part time. Speak to specific institutions to find out what they offer.

Thanks to the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS) all Scottish students are guaranteed a job in a Scottish school for one year after graduation.

Salaried PGCE

Available in Wales, this new two-year course allows you to work in a school as an unqualified teacher while working towards your PGCE qualification.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE B/5 in English or Welsh Language and maths
  • GCSE C/4 in a science subject for teaching primary
  • a significant portion of your degree to be in the subject you wish to teach (secondary applicants).

Delivered by the Open University ITE partnership, the course includes 60 Masters level credits and meets QTS standards. There is a pathway for teaching in primary schools and one for secondary school teaching that focuses on science, maths and Welsh.

To get a place on a salaried PGCE you need to be working in a school already or have a school willing to sponsor you. If you don’t have a school lined up then The Open University may be able to get one. You’ll work in a school five days a week and will need to study on top of this, as well as attend sessions with mentors and tutors.

Postgraduate teaching apprenticeship

With no tuition fees to pay and a salary from the outset, this is a great option for those who don't want to follow the traditional university route.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths
  • GCSE C/4 in a science subject to teach primary pupils
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

You'll spend 80% (around 120 days) of your time in the classroom gaining practical experience through observation and hands-on teaching across two key stages. Some apprenticeships require this to be in two contrasting schools, so it's worth checking before applying. The remaining 20% will be studying the theory through training sessions and conferences.

Throughout the apprenticeship you'll need to keep a portfolio demonstrating your progress and a journal to reflect on your experiences. You'll also regularly be observed teaching lessons - all of this will combine to help you pass the apprenticeship. You'll need to undertake an End-Point Assessment, which is an external assessment consisting of a lesson observation and an interview.

Check with the individual institution what qualification you’ll receive at the end of the apprenticeship, as this can be a mix of PGCE, PGCert or a Level 6 Teacher Apprenticeship.

It's worth noting that these apprenticeships are still quite new and as a result there are a limited number of vacancies. If it's something you're interested in speak to the school you're working in or a local school.

Search postgraduate teacher training courses.

School Direct

You could do all your training at a school or you could split it between university study and school training, so you'll need to weigh up the best option for you.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths
  • GCSE C/4 in a science subject to teach primary pupils
  • at least three years' work experience (salaried route)
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

If you choose the salaried route you will be employed as an unqualified teacher while you learn on the job.

On the unsalaried route you’ll be based in a school, but will also be taught by the university, college, or school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) that the school partners with.

You will spend time in one or two schools and as well as hands on teaching, you'll learn about lesson planning and the theory behind teaching. You will be assigned a mentor and be assessed through lesson observations and gathering evidence of your skills.

Not all courses include a PGCE/PGDE element so it's worth checking with the institution what qualifications you’ll receive.

View all School Direct courses.

Teach First

You'll work in schools in low-income communities as part of a two-year training programme leading to a fully-funded Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Leadership.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths (a B in Wales)
  • GCSE C/4 in a science subject to teach primary pupils
  • your degree or A-levels to meet some curriculum requirements
  • to commit to training in June and July and to start work in September
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

There is a five-week course (37.5 hours a week) over the summer to get you ready for the classroom and then you'll be given a mentor in school and a university tutor to oversee your progress. There is also a part-time option that takes nine weeks and a weekly commitment of 12.5 hours.

In year one you'll teach 80% of a fully qualified teacher's timetable, as well as attend training days and conferences. In your second year you'll be a newly qualified teacher teaching a full timetable.

Both primary and secondary trainees gain a fully funded Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Leadership (PGDE), worth double the credits of a PGCE. You'll gain QTS during this two-year period, while working in the classroom and earning a salary.

Applications open in June of the year before you want to start. Early application is recommended, especially for popular subjects such as history.

Find out more about Teach First.

Undergraduate teaching degree

Ideal for those who don't already have a degree, you could study a Bachelor of Education (BEd), Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) with QTS.

You'll need:

  •  GCSE grade C/4 or above in English language, mathematics and science
  • A-levels or equivalent (check with the institution for required UCAS points)
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Taking three years if studied full time and four if done part time, completion of the course will give you qualified teacher status. You’ll cover subjects such as becoming an effective teacher, inclusive practices, marking, assessments and how children learn, as well as carrying out projects and school placements.

In your first year placement you will take on some of the teacher's role working with small groups of children. In years two and three this will increase and you’ll get involved in planning, teaching and assessing.

View all undergraduate teaching courses.

Future Teaching Scholars

During this six-year route you'll receive continual support, a degree, financial benefits and even help finding your first job.

You'll need:

  • GCSE C/4 or above in English language
  • GCSE B/5 or above in maths and science (for those wishing to teach physics)
  • B or higher in A-level maths and physics (for those wishing to teach physics)
  • to accept an offer from an English university to study an approved course full time
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

On this full-time course you’ll study maths or physics at undergraduate level while also learning about teaching through training sessions, online modules and practical in-school experiences.

The programme ensures a place on a salaried Initial Teacher Training (ITT) course leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and then helps you with finding a job.

Find out more about Future Teaching Scholars.

Now Teach

This is a bespoke recruitment and support programme for experienced professionals to retrain as teachers via a number of routes.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in maths and English
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check
  • an A-level related to the subject you want to teach.

Aimed at career changers who want to teach a subject that they love, those who want to teach maths, computer science, languages (French and Spanish), geography and all sciences are particularly encouraged to apply, as these subjects are facing shortages.

You'll receive a dedicated programme manager that will help you choose the best course, guide you through the application process and be with you in the first few years of your career as a teacher.

There are also monthly face-to-face and online events where you get to meet other trainees, share tips and listen to top industry speakers.

Find out more about Now Teach.

Transition to teach

While not a training provider, Transition to Teach offers a free bespoke package of support and advice for career changers who want to become teachers.

You'll need:

  • an undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • the required qualifications for the age range and subject you want to teach. For more details, see the Transition to Teach FAQs
  • a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Aimed at those who have left or are in the process of leaving their job due to redundancy or early retirement. You'll get help to identify the best route for you, application advice, support with student finance and the chance to attend networking events. The support continues to help you find your first teaching job and throughout your first year of work.

Teaching without a degree

When choosing an undergraduate course, make sure your qualification allows you to teach in schools. If you're in England or Wales, choose a degree that includes qualified teacher status (QTS). If you're in Northern Ireland or Scotland, check your course leads to provisional registration with a teaching council. 

It's also possible to teach without a degree as academies, free schools, independent schools and further education (FE) colleges don't always require QTS. However, having a degree can improve your career prospects and help you move between schools.

Another option is teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL/TESOL), which can be useful if you're interested in teaching abroad. Be aware that TEFL employers often look for a degree and a teaching qualification, and these may be requirements for your visa.

Working as a teaching assistant is undoubtedly great preparation for becoming a teacher, but it is not a direct route to qualification. You will still need to study for a degree and obtain QTS.

Visit jobs in education to discover alternative careers within the sector.

Find out more

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