Get Into Teaching: How Do I Become A UK Certified Teacher?

Get Into Teaching: How to Become A UK Certified Teacher

Learn about undergraduate teacher training in the UK, and how you can gain qualified teacher status (QTS).

It’s no secret that teaching can be a rewarding career. Shaping young minds and helping them grow in a subject you’re passionate about has obvious merits. If you’re interested in working with children or young adults and have a knack for helping others develop understanding, then a career in teaching might just be what you’re looking for.

A career in teaching also allows you to delve deeper into your specialist subject, as they say: “those who teach learn twice.”

If you’re looking forward to a career in teaching, it’s important to understand the different routes available and plan ahead.  In this article we outline how to get qualified, the different teacher-training routes available, entry requirements, and the application process.

Getting Qualified

There are various ways of becoming a UK certified teacher that make it accessible for people coming from different academic and working backgrounds. Whichever route you go down, there are two important steps you will need to take:

  1. Obtain a relevant undergraduate degree
  1. Partake in teacher training that leads to QTS (Qualified Teachers Status)

Whether you have already gained your undergraduate degree, or are still undecided as to which degree you will take, it’s important to ensure you complete a relevant undergraduate degree if you’re aiming to get into teaching. Read on to learn more about what this might mean for you.

The PGCE Route

One of the most common routes into secondary school teaching is to first obtain a degree in a relevant subject. For example, if you are planning on becoming an English teacher, you will need to have a degree in English Literature or an English related subject. Your degree doesn’t have to be teacher or education related if you are going down this route. An added benefit of this route means that you can also have options for multiple career paths. For example, a degree in English Literature with Creative Writing can lead you into English teaching but also Creative Writing related fields. 

Most primary school teachers will opt for an education-related degree, such as in Early Years Education or Primary School Education. This will allow primary school teachers to gain a broad understanding of child development, the field of education, and their subjects of instruction. 

As secondary school teachers in the UK usually only teach one subject, it is acceptable to gain a subject only related degree.

Once you have obtained your degree, you can then move on to complete a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education course at a university, or via a school, you are currently working in.

On your PGCE

You will usually have a minimum of two school placements while completing your PGCE, however, most courses include three. The course placements are designed to allow you to gain hands-on teaching experience in different schools. 

Most course providers offer the opportunity to gain both state and private school teaching experience, in order to offer a broad look at what it’s like teaching in different types of schools. 

Some PGCE’s also offer post-16 teaching experience in a sixth form or college; an added bonus if you’re looking to teach A-Levels or older students.

Once you have completed your PGCE, you will be recommended by your course provider (university) to gain QTS from the Department of Education. If you have completed all the required training expectations, you will shortly after receive your QTS certificate and be eligible to teach in the UK and abroad.

In the UK a newly qualified teacher is referred to as an NQT. The first year of teaching in a school after your PGCE graduation is known as your NQT year and is part of your induction year. After your induction year, you will be known as an RQT – Recently Qualified Teacher.

The ITT or ITE Degree Route

Another route to get into teaching is to choose an undergraduate degree that includes initial teacher training or education (ITT or ITE), which would eventually lead to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

There are a range of degree awards you could consider if this is the route you would like to go down:

  •   Bachelor of Education (BEd) degrees
  •   BA (Hons) or BSc (Hons) degrees that include a teaching qualification

Note, a degree that includes ‘education’ doesn’t always lead to a teaching qualification; be sure to check this with your course provider before enrolling.

On either route, upon graduation, you will also provisionally register with a teaching council – the Education Workforce Council (EWC) in Wales, or the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), or the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), giving you opportunities to teach in other parts of the UK

Bachelor or Master of Education (BEd/MEd)

A Bachelor of Education (BEd) is a general education course that leads to an undergraduate honors degree. Similar degrees in Scotland lead to a Master of Education degree (MA Education).

BA (Hons) Education courses are also available in the UK but don’t always include a teaching qualification.

In the UK, full-time degrees generally take three years to complete, or four in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It can take somewhere between 4-6 years to graduate a part-time honors degree.

These courses typically take a broad approach to education and are popular with those who want to be primary school teachers. Many providers run secondary level-specific BEd courses – or ‘post primary’ in Northern Ireland for those looking to qualify in secondary education.

On BEd/MEd courses you will typically learn about your subject and teaching practice in more depth while gaining experience in schools. You’ll study subjects associated with your strand of teaching and some professional studies. You’ll also take part in extended placements while conducting education-related research.

BA/BSc with Initial Teacher Training

BA/BSc degrees are popular for students looking to become secondary school teachers, but some courses are designed for primary school teaching.

On a BA/BSc course, you will gain specialist subject knowledge and strategies for teaching across a variety of age ranges. You’ll also likely cover the same basics as other teacher training routes, such as learning about curriculum, assessment methods, planning and delivering lessons.

Other Route Options

In England, some universities may also offer a degree with opt-in QTS. Commonly they’re offered in shortage subjects such as Maths, Physics, Computing or Modern Languages, and are eligible for the bursary funding currently offered by the government.

‘Top up’ degrees that include teacher training are an option if you’ve already got a foundation degree or HND in a relevant area, whether in education or a STEM subject such as Maths or Physics.

How will I fund my course?

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Funding

If you’re taking your first degree and are a UK national, you will be eligible for undergraduate student finance. Usually, this means a student loan, but bursaries or grants may also be available.

England also offers bursaries to encourage the take-up of secondary education shortage subjects. Students enrolling on a BA or BSc Maths or Physics course with QTS may qualify for a bursary (paid in their third year). Trainees taking an opt-in QTS in Secondary Maths, Physics, Computing or language course are also eligible. Some opt-in courses lead to an integrated master’s: if that’s the case, you could benefit from this funding in your third and final year of study. Bursaries may change from year to year.

Check which subjects have bursaries and scholarships

Teaching bursaries and scholarships are only available for the subjects listed below. You cannot receive both a teaching bursary and a scholarship.

Design and technology£15,000
(including ancient languages)




If you’re a recent veteran of the UK’s Armed Forces, you could be eligible for a Troops to Teachers bursary for teacher training in secondary Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Computing, Maths or languages leading to QTS.

Future Teaching Scholars Program

Talented Maths or Physics A-Level students in England can also consider the six-year Future Teaching Scholars program. The program offers a grant for each year of a Maths or Physics-related undergraduate degree, plus paid postgraduate employment-based training for a year, and two years paid as a teacher. In order to qualify, you must take an eligible undergraduate degree.

What are the entry requirements?

To get into teaching secondary, you will typically need GCSEs grade 4/C or higher in English and Maths (5/B or above in Wales).

If you want to teach at the primary level you must also have at least one GCSE grade 4/C or above in Science (5/B or above in Wales)

Most providers also want to see “Good” A-Level grades, if you want to teach secondary education, in relevant subjects. Many course providers will also accept any overseas or school-based teaching experience as part of your application.

In Scotland, you will need to obtain Highers (SCQF level 6) in at least four areas including English, plus National 5 Maths. For primary education, you’ll need to have studied two of the following:

  •   Science
  •   Social Studies
  •   Expressive Arts
  •   Religious & Moral Education
  •   Technology
  •   Modern Foreign Languages.

You will also need to complete a Maths and English skills test before receiving an unconditional offer.

Be sure to check with your training providers for their specific entry requirements.

How to apply

Having prior teaching experience is helpful but not essential when applying for a teacher training course. The benefits of having prior experience are more useful for you, as coming to the teaching industry with some knowledge and understanding of the expectations and challenges will make things slightly easier. Many applicants have often worked as teaching assistants in schools or taught English abroad, prior to enrollment. 

To apply, you will need to submit your application via UCAS and you may also need to attend an interview that may include subject knowledge checks, more popular in post-graduate teacher training.

All students will need to apply for a Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) check as part of the admissions process (or the PVG scheme in Scotland). 


Natalie Hayes

SEO & Content Marketing Manager

Natalie studied English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Salford and completed her Post-Graduate Teaching Certificate at The University of Manchester. She is a UK certified secondary English teacher with Qualified Teachers Status and has been working in education since 2009. Natalie is currently writing her dissertation for her MA in Creative Writing with the University of Manchester. She is a passionate writer and is currently in the process of completing several writing projects including a young adult novel, a memoir and a poetic bilingual biography. Natalie is equally passionate about education and preparing young people for an unpredictable future through through student-led learning practices and bringing creativity into the 21st century classroom.