Is it actually necessary to have a PGCE in order to teach? Let's find out — please sit in your assigned seat, no chatting with your neighbour and eyes facing the front, please.
If you’ve got aspirations to go into teaching, you may be wondering how best to get into the profession and which route is right for you. The abbreviation “PGCE” is synonymous with teachers but what does it stand for? What is it, how do you get one, and do you need one?
What is a PGCE?
A Postgraduate Certificate in Education, more often referred to as a PGCE, is an academic qualification obtained through teacher training.
Outside of the education sector, PGCEs are often confused with QTS which stands for Qualified Teacher Status. You can obtain both simultaneously, or you can gain each individually. A crucial difference between the two is that most schools in England and Wales will employ individuals who only hold QTS whereas having only a PGCE means you won’t be qualified to teach in the majority of primary, secondary and special schools.
What is the Purpose of a PGCE?
PGCE courses approach the academic side of the teaching profession, covering academic and educational theories, teaching practices and behaviour management strategies. It offers a more in depth understanding of pedagogy and, as such, can elevate your CV to prospective employers, demonstrating you have researched-informed knowledge to underpin your teaching practice.
Completing a PGCE means you will have banked up to 60 credits which you can then put towards a Masters. A Masters in Education would be a great benefit if you have ambitions of rising up the ranks to the senior leadership team of a school.
PGCEs are recognised internationally which, if you have plans to teach abroad or anticipate that you may have in future, will ensure you have the option of continuing your teaching career wherever you decide to relocate.
Another perk of a PGCE is that, should you want to teach in secondary schools and specialise in a subject for which teachers are in demand you may be eligible for a scholarship or bursary. Currently (as of 2023) these subjects include:
Art and Design
Biology, Chemistry or Physics
Languages (Modern and Ancient)
How Do I Get a PGCE?
There are several routes to gaining a PGCE and a range of courses out there for you to explore. PGCEs can be studied at universities or within a school-based training programme such as with School Direct or Teach First. While school-based training programmes lead to QTS, not all pathways include the option of studying for a PGCE alongside, so take some time to decide what you will be able to take on during such an intensive course - and if you require a PGCE for the teaching career you envision. When studying for a PGCE without QTS, keep in mind that this will not only limit what schools can employ you, but with QTS you receive higher pay than those without it. A QTS pathway also has advantages over a PGCE-only route including the course being regulated by the Department for Education - and a support package in place at the start of your teaching career, including a 10% reduced time table for your first year and 5% for the next, allowing valuable professional development time.
What are the Requirements for Getting on a PGCE Course?
Firstly, the entry requirements will usually require at least a second-class (2:2) undergraduate degree. If you intend on teaching at secondary level, your degree should be in the subject or one closely related to what you want to teach. You’ll require at least a grade C or 4 in GCSEs Maths and English, irrespective of what you intend to teach and, if you would like to teach at primary level, you will also need at least a C or 4 in Science too. You will need to have acquired some experience working with children at the relevant age group in mainstream schools and you will need to undertake an Enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check.
What are Other (Non-PGCE) Options When Getting into Teaching?
There are a range of different courses out there and we’ve only just scratched the surface. There are salaried and non-salaried routes, full-time and part-time, uni based or school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT). There are also different options available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so do check what’s out there.
If you don’t yet have a degree but you’re sure that teaching is the path you want to take, you might like to study a Bachelor of Education (BEd), or Bachelors of Art/Science (BA/BSc) with QTS.
Independent schools, free schools and some colleges don’t always require a QTS, particularly if you are a specialist with at least an undergraduate degree in your field, e.g. a trained actor, musician or artist. Keep in mind that not having QTS will usually be reflected in your salary compared to your qualified colleagues.
And, of course, this blog wouldn't be complete without pointing out that teacher training is not a compulsory requirement of becoming a private tutor (although it can be a good selling point). For more details, see our blog Do I Need A Tutor With a PGCE or QTS?
Whatever route you decide to take into teaching, the best advice is to get some classroom experience and talk to a range of different teachers if possible. It is a vocational job which can demand much from you but can also be one of the most rewarding careers. We wish you the best of luck!
Blog Post Crafted by Jenny
Jenny is our Deputy Company Manager, co-managing our Admin Team.
She studied Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford College and got a First Class BA Hons from University of Manchester, before going on to teach Drama in schools.
She loves chilli con carne and a cup of tea, but not together, and is quite confident she could beat you at scrabble.