Everything you need to know about becoming a teacher

There are now many ways to become a teacher in the UK, from university study to on-the-job training. Here’s everything you need to get you started

Grainne Hallahan

How to become a teacher

To become a teacher in the UK, you need to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and a recognised initial teacher training qualification. 

But there are a number of training options, which can involve university study or purely classroom-based learning.

Training will take between one and four years depending on your current qualifications and experience.

Tes InstituteWhat qualifications do I need?

  • A degree. 
  • A teaching qualification.
  • A pass in professional skills tests in numeracy and literacy (note: these will be discontinued on 1 April 2020. Find out what's replacing the skills tests).
  • GCSEs at grade C/4  or above in English and maths for secondary,  and English, maths and science for primary

Find out more about what qualifications you need to become a teacher.

  • If you have a degree, you can choose between a university-led postgraduate course (PGCE) or a school-led training option.
  • If you don’t have a degree, you will need to complete one, either via a teaching-specific qualification or a degree followed by a PGCE.

What if I have a degree but not in the subject I want to teach?

If you want to teach a subject outside of your subject specialism, you can take a subject knowledge enhancement course in your chosen subject.


Do I need any classroom experience?

Unless you are planning to take an assessment-only qualification, you do not need any classroom experience to begin teacher training.

However, if you don’t have any experience, your teacher training institution may put you with a school before you begin on the course.

What if I’m already working in a school?

If you’re already employed by a school in a support role, you may be able to train at the school through a school-led route.

What kinds of courses are available?



A postgraduate course takes one year to complete. In order to qualify for a postgraduate course, you must hold a degree. Many PGCEs also allow you to complete extra essays to earn credits towards a master’s.

Find out more about Postgraduate teacher training

BEd (Bachelor of Education) or BA (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc (Bachelor of Science) with QTS

If you have not already obtained a degree, or wish to study for an additional one, there is the option of studying for a degree where qualified teacher status (QTS)  is awarded at the end of the course. These courses typically last three or four years. 

BAs and BSc degrees with QTS are popular with secondary school teachers, as they give trainees subject knowledge while also incorporating classroom training in the course. 

BEd degrees are generally popular with prospective primary teachers. However, some training providers do offer secondary-level courses.  Providers also allow for study for specific specialisms (for example, primary or special educational needs).

Find out more about Undergraduate Initial Teacher Training


School Direct (tuition fee)

This programme is based in a school, and you will be training on the job. However, the school will not be employing you and you will be paying to complete this qualification.

You will be working towards qualified teacher status (QTS), and there may be the option of also completing a PGCE.

Find out more about School Direct teacher training

School Direct (salaried)

This route is for graduates with at least three years’ employment experience. You will be employed by the school and earn a salary as you train.

Your training will last one year and at the end you will have QTS, and possibly a PGCE, depending on the training provider. Some training providers also offer the opportunity to study for master’s-level credits.

Find out more about School Direct salaried teacher training

School-centred initial teacher training (SCITT)

This school-based route will take one year and is open to graduates who wish to train based in a school but also covers the same content as university-based routes.

As well as being awarded QTS at the end of the course, many institutions also offer PGCE status for their trainees.

Find out more about SCITT

Straight to Teaching

For people already working in schools, such as teaching assistants, higher level teaching assistants and other unqualified teachers, Straight to Teaching provides them with training for those who want to move to the next level and become a qualified teacher.

This is a three- to five-term programme (depending on experience) from Tes Institute, and is specifically designed to work with existing school staff to further develop the skills and knowledge they already have, and help them to realise their ambition of becoming a teacher. It mixes on-the-job training and tutorials.

Find out more about Straight to Teaching

Postgraduate teaching apprenticeship programmes

Unlike typical apprenticeships, this apprenticeship still requires trainees to  hold a degree, and has exactly the same requirements as any other teacher training option.

Find options for postgraduate teaching apprenticeships

Teach First leadership development programme

This is a two-year salaried programme for those with who have aspirations to take on a leadership role. The programme begins with an intensive five-week training period, after which you go straight into a school and learn on the job while working towards QTS.

At the end of the programme, you will gain a PGDE. You will obtain QTS at the end of year one, and then continue to be mentored and trained as part of the course until the end of year two. In your first year, you will be paid as an unqualified teacher and then, in your second year, as a newly qualified teacher.

The Teach First programme is for graduates with a 2:1 degree or above, although 2:2 degrees will be considered.

Find out more about Teach First

Assessment-only route

For teachers who have an international teaching qualification that is not recognised in the UK, or have been teaching as an unqualified teacher for a long period of time, there is an option to gain QTS via an assessment-only route, where the teacher receives no training, and compiles evidence to meet the teaching standards over a period of 12 weeks.

Find out more about completing the Assessment Only route with Tes Institute

Researchers in Schools

If you are studying for your PhD and interested in going into teaching, the Researchers in Schools route may suit you. It is a three-year programme, with trainees obtaining QTS at the end of the first year and then, by the end of the third year, trainees will be awarded a Research Leader in Education qualification.

Find out more about Researchers in Schools

Postgraduate Early Years ITT

This one-year course can be completed with a university or a school. At the end of the year, you will be awarded early years teacher status (EYTS). Alternatively, you can be awarded EYTS via an assessment-only route over 12 weeks, without any training. With this qualification you will be able to teach children from age 0-5.

Find out more about Postgraduate Early Years ITT

Tes Institute become a teacher

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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