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How to become a teacher in the UK

From taking a PGCE to becoming a teaching apprentice, discover the different options available to you if you're considering becoming a teacher in the UK.

Teacher explores routes into teaching

Teaching is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do, as you’ll play a pivotal role in a child’s early development and help inspire them to achieve their full potential and success.

In 2021/22 there were over 636,799 full-time equivalent teachers working in the UK. However, in the same year, there were 1,600 teacher vacancies recorded. While the amount of unfulfilled positions is concerning, it’s good news if you want to train to become a teacher, as teachers are always in high demand.

Knowing where to get started on your journey to becoming a teacher can be challenging. So, if you want to learn how to become a teacher but are unsure about the possible pathways available, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we will guide you through the 10 routes into teaching and the qualifications you’ll need to succeed.

What qualifications do I need to be a teacher?

In order to become a teacher in the UK and get into teaching, you’ll need to take Initial Teacher Training (ITT) or Initial Teacher Education (ITE). Depending on the subject you want to teach, entry can be very competitive based on demand. For example, if you want to teach subjects like maths and languages, then you’re more likely to be accepted.

For most routes into teaching, you’ll need the below qualifications to teach in primary and secondary schools (requirements for each route will be listed in detail later in this article):

  • GCSEs in English and maths (plus science if you want to teach in primary schools)
  • A bachelor’s degree or equivalent (this does not have to be in teaching) 

If you don’t have a degree, then you can apply for an undergraduate teacher training course or one of the other non-university routes we have listed below. Similarly, if you haven’t achieved the GCSE results you need, there are options to study the qualifications through local colleges or at home.

Once you’ve completed your ITT, you’ll achieve Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) if you’re teaching in England and Wales, and the Teaching Qualification (TQ) in Scotland. You may find that some independent schools and academies might not include QTS or registration with a teaching council as a needed entry requirement. 

Like with many professions, some experience volunteering in schools is always well-regarded. You should try contacting schools in your local area to see if you can observe in a classroom setting and gain some hands-on experience. Always try to tailor your voluntary work towards the subject you want to teach as well.

While teaching can be rewarding, it can also be quite stressful and challenging, so speaking to current teachers is always valuable.

How to become a teacher: 10 routes into teaching

In this section, we have tried to simplify the different routes into teaching, so you can become a teacher using the method that is most suited to you.

1. Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

When you research how to start a career in teaching, this will likely be the route you go down, as it’s the most common pathway. A PGCE can be studied at a university or as part of a school-based training programme.

Once you choose your PGCE course and begin studying, you’ll cover teaching, learning theory, managing classroom behaviour, and also be expected to spend two-thirds of your time on placements in schools. In total, this course should take a year if you study full-time.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths (a B in Wales), plus science if you want to teach primary pupils
  • Experience working with children in a school (preferably for the age group you want to teach)
  • A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

>> Explore our collection of online PGCE degrees

2. Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE)

The PGDE is the most popular route in Scotland, which allows you to gain a QTS with additional Masters’ credits. Across the year it takes to complete the course, you’ll spend roughly half your time at university and the other half on teaching placements.

An added bonus is that with the Teacher Induction Scheme (TIS), all Scottish students will be guaranteed a job in a Scottish school after graduation for one year.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree (containing 80 SCQF credit points for secondary teaching)
  • Qualifications in English (SCQF Level 6) and maths (Level 5)
  • Experience in a classroom environment
  • Membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups scheme.

3. Salaried PGCE

This two-year course is available in Wales and allows you to work in a school while you qualify towards PGCE qualification. Thanks to the Open University ITE partnership, this means that you can start gaining paid experience in a school environment without yet being a qualified teacher.

To get a place, you need to either be working in a school already or have a school that is willing to sponsor you. During your course, you’ll be required to work full-time hours in school, as well as dedicate time on top of this for your studies.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE B/5 in English or Welsh language and maths, plus a GCSE C/4 in a science subject for teaching primary students
  • A large chunk of your degree must be relevant to the subject you want to teach.

4. Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship

If you wish to get into teaching but don’t want to go down the university route, then the Postgraduate Training Apprenticeship could be the one for you. You won’t be expected to pay any tuition fees, plus you’ll also be earning a salary as you learn how to become a teacher.

This means that the majority of your time will be spent in a classroom environment gaining practical experience, while a small portion will be put towards training sessions. Another additional element for this option is that you’ll need to document your progress in a journal and you will be regularly observed while in the classroom.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths, and a GCSE C/4 in science to teach primary pupils
  • DBS check.

5. Teach First

This two-year training programme leads to a fully-funded Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Leadership, where you’ll get the opportunity to work in schools located in lower-income areas. 

Teach First starts with a five-week course before term time to ensure you’re prepared for the classroom. At this stage, you’ll also be given a mentor in the school you’re working at and a university tutor. 

During the first year of your course, you’ll gain hands-on teaching experience in the classroom and attend training days. In the second year, you’ll be teaching a full timetable as a newly qualified teacher.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths (a B in Wales), and a GCSE C/4 in science to teach primary students
  • Degree or A-level qualifications
  • Availability in the summer before you start work
  • DBS check.

6. School Direct

School Direct offers a flexible route to teaching, as it offers you the choice of doing all your training at a school or splitting your time between a university and a school. 

The first option is salaried, while the second option isn’t. If you choose to do all your training in a school and earn a salary, then you’ll be doing so as an unqualified teacher. 

With the second option, as well as gaining school classroom experience, you’ll also learn about lesson planning and the theory behind it at a university.

Which option you go for is entirely up to you and depends on the learning method that works best for you. 

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in English and maths, and a GCSE C/4 in science for primary pupils
  • Three years of work experience (salaried route only)
  • DBS check.

7. Undergraduate teaching degree

For prospective teachers that don’t have a degree, an undergraduate teaching degree is an excellent option. Overall, the degree takes three years if you want to study full-time or four if you opt for the part-time option. 

With this degree, you’ll cover an array of subjects that’ll help prepare you for life as a teacher to ensure you earn qualified teacher status. As well as the study element of the course, you’ll also have school placements where you’ll be expected to take on some teaching roles. This increases as you move through each year.

Requirements include:

  • GCSE grade C/4 or above in English language, maths, and science
  • A-levels or equivalent
  • DBS check.

Looking to gain a teaching degree around existing commitments? Explore our range of online teaching degrees from world-class universities and get qualified at your own pace.

8. Future Teaching Scholars

One of the longest routes into teaching, this six-year option offers you ongoing support, financial benefits, a degree, and added assistance when you start applying for your first teaching job.

With this course, you’ll study either maths or physics at an undergraduate level, while also learning about teaching with both academic learning and school placements.

Future Teaching Scholars ensures you get a spot on a salaried ITT course, which then leads to QTS.

Requirements include:

  • GCSE C/4 or above in English language
  • GCSE B/5 or above in maths and science, plus a B or higher in A-level maths and physics (for those wishing to teach physics)
  • An accepted offer at an English university to study full-time
  • DBS check.

9. Now Teach

Now Teach is a recruitment and support programme for professionals that want a career change and plan to retrain as a teacher. You can apply to teach any subject you’re passionate about, although those subjects that have teacher shortages will obviously be easier to secure a place for.

A programme manager will assist you through the application process and will also be available to support you in the early stages of your career as a teacher.

Now Teach claims to “support career changers and connect them with a strong professional network to amplify impact and accelerate progress”.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • GCSE C/4 or above in maths and English
  • A-level related to the subject you wish to teach
  • DBS check.

10. Transition to Teach

Offering an alternative method to getting into teaching, Transition to Teach is not a training provider and instead is a programme that offers advice and support for people that want to change their careers to learn how to become a teacher.

While Transition to Teach won’t actively secure you a teaching role, it’s an excellent service to help you make the transition across to teaching, tailoring its offering depending on your needs. 

It covers everything from advising you when to start applying for courses, right through to interview techniques to land your perfect role. The two-year programme is facilitated by their Guidance and Development Advisers.

Requirements include:

  • Undergraduate degree or equivalent
  • Qualifications for the age range and subject you want to teach
  • DBS check.

>> Discover our collection of online teaching degrees

How to become a teacher in the UK: FAQs

How long does it take to become a teacher?

It depends on the route you take, but we will focus on the most popular pathway. An ITT programme typically takes about one year to complete if you study full-time. For part-time students, you can expect it to take 18 to 24 months. 

In England and Wales, once you have completed and passed the course, you will be awarded a QTS and become a fully-qualified teacher. You can then undertake your induction year.

In Scotland, you will need a degree and an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualification before embarking on a probationary teaching year. All things considered, you can expect it to take between one and two years to become a teacher.

Which teaching jobs are most in demand in the UK?

There is currently a shortage of teachers in the UK, so most teachers are in demand and you’re unlikely to struggle to find a job. However, teachers with knowledge of maths, technology, languages, and science (especially physics) are likely to find it easier than most to get into teaching.

How do I switch to teaching?

Switching your career to become a teacher is a relatively easy process, as you should be able to use the skills you’ve already learnt to teach successfully and meet the criteria. 

You’ll need a QTS to work in primary and secondary schools in England and Wales, using services like Now Teach to help guide you through the career change process. 

For those who already have an undergraduate degree, you’ll be able to apply for postgraduate teacher training courses in order to get QTS.

Furthermore, if you’re worried about not knowing enough about the subject you want to teach, you could do a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course.

Does the UK hire foreign teachers?

Yes, but you will need to get the appropriate visa first. Non-UK teachers looking for work can apply using the skilled worker visa. Simply search for a teaching job in the UK using the UK government’s teaching vacancies service to get the ball rolling.

How to become a teacher: further learning

Hopefully, you’re now much clearer on the possible routes into teaching and which method applies best to you. However, if you want to learn more about how to become a teacher and ensure you’re as prepared as possible for your career in teaching, then we have an excellent selection of teaching courses to improve your understanding.

You can also take a look at our other blog post to help you decide what kind of teaching career is right for you. If you’re not sure whether you want to teach primary or secondary students, adult learners, or students with specialised needs, this article will tell you everything you need to know.

Take a look at the courses we offer at FutureLearn below, so you can move one step closer to fulfilling your dream of becoming a teacher and inspiring a generation of children.

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