How to choose the best postgraduate teaching courses for primary and secondary school trainee teachers

How to choose the best postgraduate teaching courses for primary and secondary school trainee teachers

The PGCE is the most popular postgraduate route for secondary teachers, and for many primary teachers. This course may be university or school-based (known as a SCITT: school-centred initial teacher training). If you undertake a PGCE with a SCITT, you're likely to be based in school but you'll have a good balance of training sessions outside the classroom, whereas a traditional PGCE will divide your time between university and school. Some distance learning PGCEs are also available. Full-time PGCEs take one, or, in special cases where extra subject knowledge is built into the programme, two years.

Employment-based routes include the School Direct Training Programme (salaried) and Teach First.

The questions to consider if you're thinking about postgraduate routes into teaching

  • What support and guidance will be available? No course provider will launch you into the classroom at the beginning of your course without preparation and guidance, but even with several weeks of study behind you that first step into the classroom will test your nerves. Find out in advance what support you'll receive from tutors and school staff.
  • Where do you want to study and eventually work? Many NQTs find their first post in the area where they complete their ITT course, particularly because teaching practice often brings up opportunities for permanent jobs.
  • Do you want to work towards a masters level qualification? Technically a professional certificate of education isn't a postgraduate level qualification, but a number of universities now offer masters level modules as part of their PGCE course.
  • Have you planned ahead? The UCAS Teacher Training applications system opens in October for courses starting in the following year. You can apply for three different courses at the same time during Apply 1, the first phase of the system. Only one application can be made at a time during Apply 2, but there isn't a cap on the number of applications.  
  • What work experience do you have? You'll struggle to get a place on a PGCE if you don't have at least two weeks' work experience in a school – and the more commitment you can show to a career in teaching, the better. Consider voluntary work or university-backed tutoring schemes if you're still studying.

Postgraduate research in education

As mentioned above, it's also possible to take a research-based course in education – typically an MPhil, postgraduate certificate in research, MRes or EdD.

Next steps: choosing the right postgraduate course in teaching and education

Use our course search facility to find the courses that are right for you: search by location and study mode.