There are a number of pathways into primary and secondary teaching in the UK…
To become a qualified teacher in state maintained schools across the UK you need to undertake Initial Teacher Training (ITT) or Initial Teacher Education. Entry is generally competitive but less so for shortage subjects. This leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales and the Teaching Qualification (TQ) in Scotland. You may not require QTS to work in some independent schools, academies and free schools.
How to get into teaching
UK programmes to teach in mainstream schools are 50% university led and 50% school led. You need a minimum of a 2:2 plus other requirements including a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check so allow some time to get this.
Graduate teacher programmes always include:
- 120 days of practical classroom experience in two schools or more
- academic study to give you the knowledge and understanding to teach successfully
- experienced professional mentoring and tutoring in classroom management
- ongoing assessment of your teaching skills.
To help you decide if teaching is right for you and to support your application you should do as much work or volunteering in schools as you can. If you’re not sure which age or subject would suit you best, contact schools in your area and ask to observe in a classroom. You should also speak to the teaching staff about the challenges and rewards of teaching.
Consider a job in a school as a graduate teaching assistant, cover supervisor or other support role. If you have experience, school-based teacher training providers are opening up two year teacher training routes beginning with a role as a teaching assistant or apprentice teacher.
It’s sometimes possible to teach in academies, free schools, independent schools and further education colleges without QTS, however it’s preferable to have QTS and your career prospects will be greatly improved
When you’ve decided, look for a route which gives you experience with the age range and/or subject you want to teach. Then check which regions offer that route. Alternatively, you may want to look at what training's available in the area you want to live. Either way, think about what would work best for you, and fits best with your experience. To find out more about what’s on offer search teacher training courses.
If you haven't already, access the careers and employability service where you’re studying or have graduated from. Visit open days of university and training providers or the school before applying to a school-led teacher training route.
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
A popular university-led route leading to QTS, the PGCE is a one year course focused on developing your teaching skills and underpinning your knowledge. Available for primary and secondary teaching and some post compulsory routes you’re therefore expected to have a good understanding of your age range and/or chosen subject before you start training. A degree in a national curriculum subject is preferred but not essential.
If your degree subject doesn’t link closely to the subject you intend to teach at secondary level you may be offered a subject knowledge enhancement course as a part of your application, for some secondary level subjects.
Some PGCE’s are very competitive so get your application prepared early. To find out what’s available search for a PGCE.
Undergraduate teaching degree
Make sure your qualification is transferable by choosing an undergraduate course that includes qualified teacher status (QTS) so you can teach in schools. There are full-time programmes which take three and four years but it’s also possible to study part time although this would obviously take longer.
This is a particularly popular route into primary school teaching and can include the option of a specialism such as maths. Secondary level teacher training courses would have a specialism such as PE with QTS.
Degrees with opt in QTS are available in certain subjects such as modern foreign languages, computing and physics. Applications are generally through UCAS but others such as Future Teaching Scholars take direct applications.
Postgraduate teacher training can be useful later if you’re unsure that teaching is the role for you and want to do a more general BA or BSc now. Relevant degrees might be education for primary or a national curriculum subject.
Schools recruit and train teachers on the job, in partnership with other schools or a university. School Direct courses lead to QTS, possibly a PGCE and/or Masters-level credits. There is an expectation, but not a guarantee, of employment within the training school at the end.
The programme takes one year if studied full time and has two routes:
- Unsalaried - available for graduates with a 2:2 or above, you may be eligible for a scholarship/bursary of up to £30,000 to support you during your training.
- Salaried - employment based, for graduates with at least three years’ work experience. However, some schools may accept applicants with less work experience, especially in maths, physics, chemistry, languages and computing. You will receive an unqualified teacher's salary from your school, and the cost of your training will be covered but you may be charged for your PGCE fees if awarded. Always check with the school you’re applying to for more details. Trainees in physics could gain up to £30,000.
To find out more, search for a School Direct course.
School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)
Leading to QTS, SCITT courses are delivered across England by groups of schools. Most of the training is delivered in the classroom by experienced teachers. If your training includes a PGCE you may need to attend a partner university so check with individual providers.
This school-led course particularly suits applicants wanting to gain teaching qualifications who already have a lot of school experience, as you will be based in schools from the beginning. Many SCITT courses also include a PGCE or Masters credits but you’ll need to check with individual providers for more information, search for a PGCE (SCITT) course to see what’s available.
Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP)
Offering primary and secondary teacher training, the GTP is an employment-based teacher training route based in Wales. GTP trainees gain QTS from one of three different centres in Wales. Take a look at Teacher Training and Education in Wales - GTP to find out more.
Future Teaching Scholars
Exceptional maths or physics A-level students who are starting university in 2017 have the option of this new six-year route. School experience, support and a £15,000 grant are all available through the Future Teaching Scholars programme.
Teach First is a charity (England and Wales) who aim to address educational disadvantages by training exceptional teachers to teach in challenging schools. Applicants need to have 300 UCAS points and a 2:1 or above, but there is some flexibility with this. The two-year scheme offers a Leadership Development Programme and management skills training for well-qualified graduates. Both primary and secondary trainees gain a Postgraduate Diploma in Education PGDE, (double the credits of a PGCE) with 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, and early application is recommended especially for popular subjects such as history.
For more information, see TeachFirst - Graduates.
A paid two-year programme, Premier Pathways is school-based teacher training for graduates with a 2:1 or above. In the first year trainees work as support staff becoming unqualified teachers in year two. Participants complete the course at a school of their choice, graduating with QTS and a PGCE.
A school-based route, initially in London, Now Teach is specifically for career changers. Trainees are able to study for a PGCE and gain Masters credits but they don’t need to attend university.
Researchers in Schools (RiS)
A school-centred, salaried teacher training programme, RiS, is available in non-selective state schools. Researchers who are nearing completion, or who have completed a Doctorate apply as trainees and gain QTS and NQT status by the end of two years. RiS graduates can then return to work in a higher education institution or continue to teach in schools. Most national curriculum subjects are available on the programme.
You can apply throughout the year, but the first deadline for autumn assessment centres is in September. Find out more about school-led teacher training.
Teaching without a degree
A degree of a 2:2 or above, qualified teacher status (QTS) and relevant school experience are required to teach in state schools in the UK. Some schools, such as private schools and academies are able to recruit teachers without a degree but it’s then difficult to progress or move school.
If you’re concerned about the cost of teacher training you could work and earn, spreading the cost over a longer time. Aim to get relevant experience such as a cover supervisor or teaching assistant. There are some bursaries, grants and scholarships available depending on the route you choose, eventual degree classification you may gain as well as the age phase and subject you choose to specialise in. Some of the non-teaching roles in education, such as play work allow you to work and train, look out for routes where the training is covered by the employer.
Although not a direct route into school teaching, further education teachers in some subjects such as carpentry are employed to teach based on experience but you would still be expected to gain a teaching qualification.
Another option is teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL/TESOL), which can be useful if you’re interested in teaching abroad but employers often look for a degree and a teaching qualification.
Early years initial teacher training (EYITT)
Early years teacher status (EYTS) is equivalent to QTS working with 0-5 year olds only. Graduates can apply for university-led early years programmes on either a 12-month full-time course with school placements or a part-time 12-month programme while working in the sector. Some early years School Direct places may also be offered.
There is an assessment only route for experienced graduates who can already demonstrate all of the teaching standards. Applications are made directly to the training provider. Some PGCE Early Years or Primary/Early Years with QTS courses are available, apply though UTT. Experienced teachers who have a degree can gain QTS without studying for a PGCE. You will need to have taught in at least two schools, pass the skills tests, present evidence that you meet the teaching standards and complete teaching assessments.
Teaching in the further education sector
If you have a degree you can apply for a PGCE/Diploma in Education and Training in the post compulsory sector, also known as the further education (FE) or adult teaching and learning sector.
You may not need a degree or to pass skills tests, depending on your skills and experience, the subject you plan to teach and the route you are taking. A variety of courses are taught so some FE institutions will appoint teachers with no teaching qualification provided you are prepared to begin one once employed. Trainees have a reduced timetable and are supported financially.
Applications are usually made directly to the institution that you wish to work or study at. Qualified teachers in the FE sector can achieve qualified teacher learning and skills (QTLS) status. This is separate from the qualification and is attained through the Society for Education and Training. QTLS is equivalent to QTS so it can be possible to go on to teach in maintained schools.
Read more about being a further education teacher and search for a teaching qualification in further education.