Discover the qualifications you'll need and see what funding is available to you as you embark on your teaching career in Northern Ireland

There are two university-based routes to completing your Initial Teacher Education (ITE) and becoming a teacher in Northern Ireland:

  • a full-time, four-year undergraduate Bachelor of Education degree (BEd)
  • a one-year postgraduate qualification such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

You'll be able to choose between qualifying in early years, primary or post-primary (secondary) education and pick from a range of subject specialisms, from maths to technology and the arts.

The most common route into teaching in Northern Ireland is through the BEd. Courses are delivered through a combination of school-based placements and university tuition.

Opportunities to qualify in Irish exist for candidates who can demonstrate a proficiency in the language, typically at A-level standard or equivalent. While not an essential pre-requisite of teaching in Ireland, having a grasp of Irish will broaden the scope of your career prospects.

What qualifications do I need to teach in Northern Ireland?

To teach in Northern Ireland you'll need an acceptable level of competence in English and maths, to GCSE grade C or above (or equivalent qualifications). That being said, five passes at GCSE (or equivalent) are generally what's required to gain entry onto any BEd teaching course.

For postgraduate study, you'll also need to hold a suitable undergraduate degree, assessed by the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), before you can register.

Generally, to begin teacher training you'll need to demonstrate some previous experience of volunteering in schools.

You'll also have to undergo a full police and criminal background check from AccessNI to secure a permanent teaching job.

To teach in a Catholic primary school or nursery, you'll need to earn a Certificate in Religious Education. In Northern Ireland, you can obtain this from St Mary's University or Ulster University. It's also offered at several centres across England, Scotland and Wales.

Where can I get a teaching qualification from?

You can train to become a teacher at one of four institutions in Northern Ireland. These are:

  • Queen's University Belfast
  • St Mary's University College
  • Stranmillis University College
  • Ulster University, School of Education

While PGCE courses are offered by all of these institutions, you'll find BEd programmes at St Mary's University College and Stranmillis University College.

How do I apply?

Applications to St Mary's University College and Ulster University are made directly through their websites, while applications to Stranmillis University College are made through UCAS. 

For postgraduate courses, you'll need to apply directly through institutions. Some may have online portals, such as the Queen's University Belfast Direct Applications Portal, while others will have application forms to download, fill out and send off.

Your application should include a CV and teaching personal statement, as well as proof of your credentials through copies of your certificates or your academic transcripts.

When do I apply?

The same application dates and deadlines apply as those set for institutions in England, Wales and Scotland if you're applying for a BEd through UCAS. This is usually around January each year.

Applications to St Mary’s University College open on the 1 October each year and close mid-January for BEd programmes and the end of February for the PGCE.

Postgraduate course application opening dates and deadlines are displayed on individual websites. You should aim to apply as early as possible, from nine months to a year before the start date of your course, as some universities prioritise early applications. Teaching is also a popular subject.

Late applications are generally accepted, but this is at each university's discretion and there's no guarantee that a late application will be considered.

How much will it cost?

In 2023/24, full-time undergraduate students from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and European Union (EU) countries (excluding England, Scotland and Wales) are required to pay £4,710 per year of academic study.

If you're from England, Scotland, Wales or the Channel Islands, your tuition will be charged at up to £9,250 per year. International students will be charged considerably more.

Contact your chosen institution for more information about part-time tuition fees, as there are no legal requirements for the amount universities should charge for part-time courses.

Don't forget to factor cost of living into your budget. As well as tuition fees, you'll need to cover the costs of accommodation, transport, food and course materials.

Is there any funding available?

You're entitled to £4,710 in undergraduate tuition fee loan support from Student Finance NI, or up to £6,500 if you're doing postgraduate study - providing you meet the following criteria:

  • you're an EU national
  • you've lived in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland for at least three years before the start of your course
  • you'll be living in Northern Ireland on or before the first day of the first year of your course
  • you'll be studying at a university or college in Northern Ireland.

To apply for a loan you'll need to create a Student Finance NI account and then complete the form providing all the required evidence. Once your application has been processed, you'll discover how much funding you're entitled to.

The deadline for submitting a funding application is nine months after the first day of the academic year. This is:

  • 1 September, for courses beginning between 1 August and 31 December
  • 1 January, for courses beginning between 1 January and 31 March
  • 1 April, for courses beginning between 1 April and 30 June
  • 1 July, for courses beginning between 1 July and 31 July.

You'll need to apply for every year of study. You won't be able to receive Student Finance funding if you already hold a qualification of equal level or higher to the one you're studying for. Contact your individual institution for guidance on any other funding you may be entitled to.

Find out more about postgraduate loans in Northern Ireland.

Where do I find out about teaching jobs?

You can find teaching jobs advertised on the following sites:

If you'd like to teach in a Catholic school you can search for vacancies with the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS). Bear in mind that you'll need to have obtained the Certificate in Religious Education prior to applying for a Catholic teaching post.

Try searching local and national press, or contacting the schools you'd like to work in directly, to discover opportunities.

Alternatively, search teaching and education jobs in Northern Ireland.

Find out more

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