The Road to Teaching: How Long Does a PGCE Take?

If you are considering a career in teaching, then one big question that you might have about the process is the time it takes to become fully trained. Many highly regarded professions requiring specific qualifications can take some time to complete and the same can be true of teaching too, but this really depends on where you are in life and what educational qualifications you already have.

This guide aims to break down how long it takes to become a teacher via the most popular route in the UK – the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education).


So, How Long Does It Take to Become a Teacher?

Although a PGCE course itself can be completed in a year, we need to take a step back and consider the requirements first. The first thing you will need to apply for a PGCE is a higher education qualification, specifically a bachelor’s degree. The teaching profession aims to recruit the best candidates, and it’s also a highly academic pursuit. As such, higher education is fundamental to acquiring the core academic skills and practices needed for teaching, as well as providing at least a foundation of subject knowledge.


Batchelor’s Degree

Studying for a degree typically takes three to four years to complete, depending on the course. This can take longer if only studying part-time. The exact length of part-time study can vary depending on the course, or the institution you are studying at, but it typically takes around four to six years to complete.

Since many of those considering a move into teaching have already been to university the good news is that this requirement is probably already fulfilled. It doesn’t matter if your degree subject only loosely links to the subject you want to teach, as there is a simple way to top up your knowledge via a Subject Knowledge Enhancement course.


Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses

As mentioned above, if your existing higher education degree doesn’t link closely to your chosen subject then you probably don’t need to worry about having to start from scratch. Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) courses are available for most subjects and are designed to top up your knowledge prior to embarking on a PGCE course.

SKE courses are offered, and fully funded, by your teacher training provider so you will be able to get full details of these courses by speaking to the institutions you plan to apply for a PGCE program with. The courses can take anywhere from 2 to 36 weeks, so it’s important to be prepared to have time set aside for this. There may also be an additional tax-free bursary to cover the time so, again, it’s worth getting in touch with your chosen institution(s) to find out what financial support is available.


PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education)

So, you have your degree and have completed any SKE course requirements set by the institution you have applied for teacher training with. It’s now time to start the PGCE itself. The PGCE course is designed for you to learn how to teach and is constructed of lectures and self-learning, much like your university degree, but also includes school placements to build up practical skills and help you apply your knowledge too.

The PGCE, as a full-time commitment, will take 1 year to complete. Alternately it can often be studied part-time for two years, or occasionally completed in modules online (although the practical skills would still need to be done in person), but this can take much longer than via the traditional routes.

It’s also worth noting at this point that entry into a PGCE programme will also normally require a minimum of grade C/4 or above in Maths, English and – if going down a primary education route – Science too. If you did not achieve the minimum requirements, then this will add some extra study time onto your route to teaching. However, there are plenty of options for retaking in part-time courses via collages or online, so this should not be considered a major barrier to a career in teaching.


Beyond PGCE

Upon successfully completing a PGCE you will achieve your Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). You will also enter a Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) assessment period. The NQT lasts one year and is effectively a probationary period as you start your life as a paid, working teacher. You will receive support from your school during this period and have an assigned induction tutor, and undergo assessments and feedback on your performance over the year.

Beyond this, you will have the rest of your career to look forward to as you develop, grow and become an expert in your field.

If you are considering a career in teaching at the University of Exeter, find out more about our routes into teaching or contact our PGCE Admissions Office for more information and support. The University of Exeter also offers its trainees dedicated support during their NQT year and beyond. Learn more here.

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