Teacher training and qualifications – PCGE

PGCE - teacher training and qualifications

The most common route into teaching is the postgraduate (or professional) certificate of education (PGCE). In Scotland, it’s the professional graduate diploma in education (PGDE).

Applicants need to have a good understanding of their subject because the PGCE focuses on teaching skills rather than subject knowledge. This makes the PGCE very popular with graduates who already have a degree in the specialism they’d like to teach.

To teach a different subject you’ll need to look into topping up with a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course.

PGCE course options

In England, a PGCE can be taken as a course split between university and school, or through school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT), Teach First or the School Direct training programme.

PGCE courses in Wales and Scottish PGDE courses are taught in universities (or higher education colleges). In Northern Ireland, training is offered by Queen’s University, Ulster University, St Mary's University College and Stranmillis University College.

University courses are available full time, part time and in some cases via distance learning.

Qualification requirements

  • A UK degree (or recognised equivalent)
  • GCSEs at grade C or above in English and maths (or recognised equivalents)
  • GCSE at grade C or above in science to teach 7–14 year olds.

Check equivalent qualifications at www.naric.org.uk

In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales these requirements are very similar, although there are some slight differences.

Professional skills tests

Applicants for initial teacher training courses will need to pass professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy before beginning training. These are the tests introduced by the government to ensure a standard level of numeracy and literacy for teachers.

Fees and funding

Full-time course fees are generally around £9,250 in England, but this can be much less in other areas of the UK depending on the higher education institution (HEI).

Funding you have to pay back

  • Tuition fee loans

    Tuition fee loans are available for home and EU students taking part time and full time PGCE courses. The loan repayments are linked to monthly income. For example, in England, payments are only made when your income is over £21,000 and each monthly payment is 9% of your monthly income over £21,000.

    Tuition fee loans are taken out with Student Finance England (SFE), Student Finance Wales/Northern Ireland/SAAS.

  • Maintenance loan

    Full-time English students aged under 60 can also apply for a maintenance loan to cover living costs. How much you can borrow is measured against your household income. Visit www.gov.uk for more on maintenance loan.

    Full-time students in Scotland can apply for living-cost grants with the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

    In Northern Ireland, students can apply for a maintenance loan with Student Finance NI.

Funding you don’t have to pay back

  • Department of Education training bursary

    In England, depending on the subject you’d like to teach, the age group, and your degree class, you could be eligible for a teaching bursary. Bursaries range from £3,000–£30,000. Find out more about training bursaries.

    In Wales, bursaries run from £2,000–£20,000 and subjects include Welsh, modern languages and computer sciences. Find out more about training bursaries at www.wales.gov.uk

    Welsh students can also apply for a tuition fee grant if studying full time. Find out more at Student Finance Wales.

    In Scotland, eligible subjects include Gaelic, modern languages and home economics. Students should visit http://teachinscotland.scot/

  • Subject association group scholarships IOP, BCS scholarship

    The Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the British Computer Society and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications are three of the organisations offering a number of scholarships worth between £27,500-£30,000 each for trainee teachers.

    These scholarships have other benefits attached and are offered instead of the Department for Education training bursaries in England. If you apply, but aren’t awarded one of these scholarships, you are still eligible for the DforE bursary.

  • University scholarships and bursaries

    Institutions often offer their own bursaries, scholarships and tuition fee discounts. Search for funding on our funding database.

    Depending on your circumstances, you may also be eligible for extra financial help in the form of income support, childcare grant, parents’ learning allowance, adult dependants’ grant, child tax credits, or the disabled students’ allowance. You might also be able to apply to the access to learning fund, or the national scholarship programme. Visit www.gov.uk to find out more.


The traditional PGCE course format combines university lectures and school-based training. Both primary and secondary specialists will train in the classroom for around 24 weeks, with placements in two schools. The course leads to a university qualification, the PGCE, as well as qualified teacher status.

A full-time PGCE course usually takes a year, but could last longer if additional subject knowledge is included as part of the syllabus. Most full-time courses begin in September and end in the summer.

Other options include more flexible part-time courses (which run for two years), and distance learning courses.

How to apply

Most applications are made through the UCAS Teacher Training system , although a few are made directly with the provider. The UCAS system covers most initial teacher training (initial teacher education in Scotland) courses at;

– Universities, colleges, School Direct and SCITT consortia in England
– Universities and higher education colleges in Wales
– Higher education institutions in Scotland.

The UCAS Teacher Training system does not process applications for teacher training in Northern Ireland. Applications are made directly to the university. Visit www.deni.gov.uk for more information.

PGCE – professional or postgraduate?

Both the professional graduate certificate in education and the postgraduate certificate in education lead to qualified teacher status on completion.

The professional graduate certificate in education is pitched academically at honours degree level. The postgraduate certificate in education includes credits at masters degree level.

The amount of masters level credits varies course to course, but there is sometimes the opportunity to continue studying after the PGCE to complete a full masters qualification.