Training to teach in Northern Ireland

Training to teach in Northern Ireland

There are two main routes into teaching in Northern Ireland:

  • The 'concurrent' route, which involves completion of a BEd.
  • The 'consecutive' route, which consists of a first degree and PGCE.

It is compulsory to have a recognised teacher training qualification in order to gain a permanent teaching post in primary or post-primary (secondary) schools in Northern Ireland (NI). Candidates must satisfy 'fitness to teach' requirements and be checked by Access NI before entering schools, similar to the Disclosure and Barring Service checks in England and Wales.

There are no shortage or priority subjects reported in Northern Ireland.

Teachers wishing to take up a post must have eligibility to teach and be registered with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). Those who trained outside Northern Ireland must apply to the GTCNI to have their qualifications approved prior to registration.

Candidates apply directly to individual institutions and should contact institutions for application forms and course details. Application deadlines for NI institutions are generally in November and December; see course providers' websites for specific details. Competition for places is high.

PGCE courses in Northern Ireland

The following institutions provide initial teacher education in Northern Ireland:

Queen's University Belfast offers:

  • One year PGCE post-primary courses in English, mathematics, computing/IT, science, modern languages, religious education, politics, sociology, Irish medium education (in association with St Mary's University College).

Ulster University (Coleraine) offers:

  • A one-year PGCE primary course.
  • A one-year PGCE post-primary (for university graduates holding relevant degrees) course. Subject specialisms include art and design, English with drama and media studies, geography, history, home economics, Irish medium education (in association with St Mary's University College), music and physical education.

St Mary’s University College Belfast offers:

  • A one-year PGCE primary course for teaching in Irish-speaking schools.

Stranmillis University College offers:

  • A one-year PGCE primary course for teaching early years.

St Mary's University College and Stranmillis University College (colleges of Queen's University, Belfast) also offer four-year Bachelor of Education (BEd) courses in both primary and post-primary teaching.

Teaching in further education

There are two main routes to becoming a further education college lecturer in Northern Ireland.

With an existing teaching qualification

You can become an FE lecturer if you hold a recognised existing teaching qualification at the time of application:

  • Bachelor of Education Degree (BEd) obtained in the UK or Ireland.
  • Postgraduate or Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) obtained in the UK or Ireland.
  • Ulster University Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma in Further and Higher Education (PGC/DFHE).
  • Ulster University Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Further Education) (PGCE (FE)).

Qualifying while in service

Alternatively, you can take an 'in-service' qualification – PGCE (FE). If you meet the minimum subject and experience requirements, you can be appointed by a further education college on the understanding that you complete the PGCE (FE) teaching qualification (part time) within three years of appointment. The minimum requirements are:

  • either a university degree obtained in the UK or the Republic of Ireland (or one deemed by the department to be equivalent to this);
  • or a qualification in the specialist area in which you wish to teach, with at least three years' relevant industrial, professional or business experience;
  • GCSE English (grade A-C)/Essential Skills Level 2 (or higher) in communication;
  • GCSE maths (grade A-C)/Essential Skills Level 2 (or higher) in numeracy, or NICATS Access maths modules.

When you have passed the PGCE (FE) you can apply for registration with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland.

Colleges occasionally appoint part-time hourly paid lecturers, often for specialist courses of short duration. Currently, there is no requirement for those teaching less than eight hours per week to have gained, or be gaining, the PGCE (FE). Colleges in Northern Ireland often hold a 'register' of part-time hourly paid lecturers so it may be worth contacting the college directly to request your name is added to the register.

See the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy website for more information on the qualifications required by further education colleges.

Funding for teacher training in Northern Ireland

Funding for students from Northern Ireland is similar to that for students from England although there are some small differences. See the Student Finance Northern Ireland website for more information or call their helpline on 0300 100 0077.

The Education Authority (EA) will calculate how much support you can get when you apply. Contact details of the regional offices of the Education Authority are available using the EA Finder on the Student Finance NI website. 

Written by Margaret Evans, Northumbria University