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How to become a teacher

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Date published 27 June 2023

Teaching is a gratifying vocation. By becoming an expert teacher, you can help shape the lives of the next generation of learners. Let's find your route into the profession.

I started teaching back in 2011. What first interested me was being in the room where it all happens.

For six years before that, I had a whole host of roles working with children – whether it was on playschemes, widening participation projects at university, as a parent support worker or working in the disability sector.

Being in the classroom was a constant draw throughout that time, because of the many lives transformed by teachers.

But how do you start your journey? There are many ways of getting started with teacher training, and the route you take is often dependent on the stage you are at in your education or career.

Wherever you are in your journey, if you want to begin teaching and start making a difference in the classroom, there is a route in for you. Before we get started, here are two key terms I’ll be referring to:

  • Qualified Teacher Status (QTS): This the main qualification that you will work towards when you enter an initial teacher training programme in England. Most state schools will require teachers to have QTS to teach at their school.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE): This is an additional academic qualification which is often completed as part of your initial training year. Completing a PGCE whilst training to teach will allow you to expand and demonstrate your understanding of the theory underpinning great teaching and help you learn more about the specific subject and phase you have chosen to teach.

With that in mind, let’s work through a few scenarios.

  • Scenario 1: I have a degree, and I want to be a teacher.
  • Scenario 2: I haven’t got a degree yet, but I want to be a teacher in the future.
  • Scenario 3: I have a degree and I’ve worked in schools. Now I want to get qualified.


I have a degree and I want to be a teacher

If you have a degree and you want to become a teacher, your main route to the classroom is a one-year postgraduate teacher training programme. This a great route whether you’ve recently graduated, or you are currently working and looking to try something new.

You can apply for postgraduate training via a provider like Ambition, or through a university.

You will gain QTS through this route, with some providers also offering a PGCE. These programmes typically last between 9 and 12 months.

Postgraduate teacher training covers:

  • Professional studies, which give you the knowledge, skills and confidence you need to become a teacher, and
  • Subject studies, where you develop and deepen your subject expertise from the outset, whatever subject you choose to teach.

You may wish to teach your degree subject, or you can also train to teach in any subject, giving you an opportunity to explore your passion for other fields. Some subjects currently have particularly high demand for teachers, so there’s never been a better time to consider studying a new or related field.

Ambition’s Teacher Training programme, running from September 2024, offers you this route and the opportunity to gain both QTS and a PGCE. If you train with Ambition, a 50% of your training will focus on professional studies and 50% on subject studies.

A further option is a postgraduate apprenticeship. This work-based route into teaching provides an alternative to a traditional full-time university course. These programmes typically last 12 to 15 months and are available through universities and providers across the UK.

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I haven't got a degree yet, and I want to be a teacher

This may best describe you if you’ve just finished your A-levels and are considering your next steps. Or perhaps you’ve got some teaching or other work experience but haven’t been to university and are looking at ways to become a teacher.

To train as a teacher in England there are two key entry requirements.

  1. You will need to have graduated with a degree.
  2. If you want to teach in secondary schools, you will need at least a C grade or level 4 in GCSE maths and English. If you want to teach in primary schools, you will need a C grade or level 4 in maths, English and science.

If practising as a teacher as soon as you graduate is your goal, the best route for you is undergraduate initial teacher training. This is where you study teaching at a university and come out the other side as a qualified teacher.

These programmes typically last three or four years and are provided by many universities across the UK. It is important to check that your chosen undergraduate initial teacher training incorporates or includes QTS. Not all providers include this as part of their course, and most state schools in England will require teachers to have QTS to teach at their school.

The alternative is to undertake an undergraduate degree in another subject, and then follow up with postgraduate initial teacher training (see scenario 1).

I have a degree and I’ve worked in schools. Now I want to get qualified.

There are many reasons you might have taught in the past and now wish to undertake teacher training.

Perhaps you’ve been working in international schools or private schools throughout your career, and now you would like to gain your QTS, allowing you to teach in state schools in England.

An assessment-only route allows you to demonstrate that you already meet all the standards required to be awarded QTS. Rather than taking a full postgraduate teacher training course, you instead demonstrate your educational qualifications and experience through a series of assessments, such as lesson observations or providing a portfolio.

These programmes typically last around three months and can be used as a route in for those who already have several years’ classroom experience in at least two schools. You will need a degree to undertake an assessment only route. You can access assessment-only programmes through education providers and universities.

Join a network of teachers and school leaders already developing with Ambition. Apply now.

Neil Gilbride
Associate Dean, Ambition Institute

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