The Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) is a very popular graduate route into teaching

In Scotland it's the Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE). Offered at a range of higher education institutions (HEIs) across the UK, a PGCE/PGDE takes one academic year to complete full time and two years part time.

What is a PGCE?

A PGCE combines substantial school placements with studying the theory behind teaching and learning. You may also gain credits towards a Masters degree, graduate with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales, and be able to teach in state maintained schools. There are shortages of teachers in some subjects while other courses are very competitive to get onto. You should research this with the provider you're interested in and be prepared to look in other areas of the UK for places.

Scottish PGDE courses and Welsh and Northern Irish PGCEs are similar university-based courses.

Most courses run early September to July and take nine months to complete if studied full time. Some longer part time and distance learning options are available. If your degree subject doesn't link closely to the subject you intend to teach you may be offered a subject knowledge enhancement course as part of your application, this is taken before the PGCE so would also be a longer route.

Do I need a PGCE to teach in the UK?

Qualified Teaching Status (QTS) is required to teach in the UK and some teacher training routes such as School Direct may not include a PGCE. It’s advisable to gain a PGCE for example if you want to teach in Scotland and other countries such as the USA. It's possible to gain a qualification such as PG Cert with PGCE if you have QTS and want to gain Masters credits and gain a university qualification. Find out more about the routes into teaching.

Types of PGCEs

In England a PGCE may be led by a:

  • Higher Education Institution (HEI)
  • school/charity/multi-academy trust (MAT)
  • consortium of schools in partnership with the HEI, as in School Direct, school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) or Teach First.

Different types of PGCEs include:

  • primary, with or without a specialism such as maths, early years or special educational needs
  • secondary
  • further/adult education with Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS)
  • international, PGCEi.

All types include placements for a minimum of 24 weeks in at least two key stages.

To see what's available, search for a PGCE.

What does a PGCE involve?

It can be a very intense nine months, at times balancing lesson planning, teaching, marking and your own assignment deadlines. Up to two thirds of your time will be spent on placement in schools, teaching in two different key stages. Your placements will help you to explore theory in practice.

Often starting with an academic focus, the PGCE includes three large elements of university study, one a term. This leads on to a gradual immersion in school with an emphasis on research informed and evidence-based teaching.

You will also work towards meeting the professional standards which determine recommendation for QTS. Assessment is ongoing and progressive, developing the academic standards required for the Masters-level PGCE and QTS. At the same time you will work through personalised development plans to ensure that you're able to target individual strengths and improvements.

In this way, your academic performance and teacher development are closely linked. So you will reflect, get feedback from others and be assessed against the teacher standards as you progress through the PGCE.

What will I learn?

You will study modules such as the:

  • Professional teacher - Looking at key issues in teaching and learning, tailored to the context in which you're working. Sessions will often be a lecture and seminar, or workshops.
  • Subject specialist - Building on your knowledge of the subject range, this would be led by a specialist tutor with expertise in your subject/s, both in university and, in your placement, supported by a mentor. You may study and evaluate key theories and policies, analyse and model best practice, and develop the skills required for teaching the subject. This will be further developed in your placement with your school mentor.
  • Reflective teacher - You would look at what you're teaching in the classroom, think about why you do it, and reflect on what works. This would include tutorials, group work and peer support to develop your experience in practice.
  • Research informed teacher - You will be able to learn from and participate in research linked to your specialism and teaching.

What's the difference between school-led and university-led PGCEs?

As a university-led PGCE/PGDE trainee you will have more opportunity for studying and reflecting on your progress as well as spending valuable time with other trainee teachers. You will need to pay fees but some bursaries are available. You also have the possibility to move from a placement if it's really not suited to you but School Direct trainees are committed unless you leave the programme.

School Direct trainees are often paid as trainee teaches and may have to pay fees. School-led trainees can be chosen by the school, participating as a team member from the beginning. The School Direct salaried route requires three years' paid work experience which can deter recent graduates or career changers who may be faced with a pay cut. Discover how you can build your experience by volunteering in schools.

Both routes may include a Masters-level qualification such as a PGCE and QTS leading to the NQT/induction year.

What are the entry requirements?

  • A minimum of a 2:2 degree or equivalent. For primary teaching a degree in a national curriculum subject is useful. For secondary you must have a degree, or at least 50% of the degree in the subject you're applying to teach.
  • GCSE grade C/4 or above in English and maths (a B in Wales).
  • GCSE grade C/4 or above in a science subject to teach pupils aged 3-11.
  • A pass mark for the professional skills test in numeracy and literacy prior to entry.
  • An IELTS with an average score of 6.0 if English is not your first language and you don't have a GCSE grade C in English.

Plus non-academic requirements of:

  • some recent experience of working with children in a mainstream UK school in the phase for which you're applying
  • medical fitness
  • a declaration of convictions through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

There are some variations and exceptions to these entry criteria so you should check with the admissions department of each individual institution you're applying to.

Applicants with a degree in a subject not included in the national curriculum, such as marketing or education are able to apply for primary, post compulsory and early years teaching. Sometimes for shortage secondary subjects, if you have A-levels in the subject, such as maths, and your degree included a large element of maths you may be able to do a subject enhancement course and go on to train as a maths teacher.

Some courses are very competitive so you need to get plenty of work experience and apply early. If you aren't sure whether you meet the criteria, or if your degree is from overseas, you should the admissions department of the institution you're considering or attend an open day.

How much does it cost?

The standard tuition fee in 2017 for UK and European Union (EU) students is £9,250 and approximately between £11,000 and £16,000 for international students. Universities may offer special reductions for alumni, and you should check with individual providers.

You will also need to consider living costs. You're likely to have additional costs for travelling to school placements, broadly estimated to be around £600 during the course but this will vary. Some providers may offer support towards travel expenses, them to find out.

The majority of trainees find that they have limited time for part-time work, especially while on placement. International students are advised to check their visa restrictions on working.

Postgraduate tuition fee and maintenance loans are available to pay tuition fees for unsalaried teacher training routes. You may also be eligible for a non-repayable bursary of up to £26,000. See funding teacher training for more information.

Will a PGCE/PGDE guarantee me a teaching job?

The Teacher Induction Scheme in Scotland offers a guaranteed one-year training post to every eligible student graduating with a teaching qualification from one of Scotland's universities. This is not the case across all of the UK.

A PGCE is a well-recognised and valued qualification and normally includes QTS, but this doesn't mean you will automatically be employed when you graduate. If your School Direct/school placements go well and the school has a vacancy when you graduate then you will be in a strong position to apply.

Traditionally graduates quickly find their first teaching job and many are offered a job at the school where they did a placement. Pupil numbers are rising which increases demand for more teachers and shortage subject teachers are still in demand.

How do I find a PGCE?

You should attend open days and meet the tutors to make sure you get answers to all your questions. Ask yourself:

  • How much does it cost?
  • Does the course include a PGCE, for many overseas teaching roles you will need a university or college teaching qualification (BEd or PGCE)?
  • Are there grants/loans/bursaries available?
  • What is the Ofsted rating?
  • What is the employment record after graduation?
  • What is the institution's reputation and department ranking?
  • How much access do students have to tutors?
  • How many lectures and tutorials are there a week? How many days a week do you need to be on campus?

To find out what's on offer and which institutions match your requirements, search PGCEs.

When do applications open?

Scottish applications to PGDEs are made through the UCAS undergraduate system in the autumn for courses starting in the September the following year. Applications to PGCEs in England and Wales are normally made through the UTT when it opens in late October.

Applications can be made throughout the academic year, however providers are able to close the applications after a minimum of two weeks if they have enough quality applicants. They may open again later in the year but it is strongly recommended to apply early for the more popular courses.

For more information, see applying for teacher training.

Where can I get more advice?

  • Alumni - ask them what it was like to study at a particular university.
  • Careers service - advisers can explore your options, help you decide which course is best for you, and assist your application.
  • Current students - they'll tell you how much work is involved, and recommend books and other sources.
  • Open days and fairs - you can meet representatives from numerous universities, meet tutors and take a look at the campus.
  • Tutors - find out more about the course content and how your career goals match up.