Routes into teaching

There are several pathways into early years, primary and secondary teaching in the UK.

If you’re a qualified teacher from outside the UK, you can work as a teacher in England for up to 4 years without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

After that, you’ll need QTS to teach in many schools in England. Although it’s not a legal requirement in all types of schools (for example, academies, free schools, and private schools), you’ll find it easier to get a teaching job in England if you have QTS.

This guidance explains how to apply for QTS if you qualified to teach or have gained teaching experience outside the UK.

To become a qualified teacher in state-maintained schools across the UK, you need to undertake Initial Teacher Training (ITT)  Entry is generally competitive, but less so for shortage subjects such as maths, physics, and languages. Completion of an ITT course leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in England and Wales. This qualifies you to teach.

If you are thinking of training to teach, start by examining the different routes into teaching and decide which is right for you. Think about which age range and subject you would like to teach, and research which route is best suited to your skills, personal circumstances, and career ambition.

There are several routes to qualified teacher status for teachers.

Apply for teacher training for using the DfE’s online service here.

All the following routes lead to QTS:

  • Fee-paying undergraduate degree which includes QTS
  • Fee-paying postgraduate route
  • Employment-based routes, which include salaried and teacher apprenticeship routes
  • Assessment-only route - this is for those colleagues who already have significant teaching experience

Some providers will also offer further academic awards such as PGCE or master’s credits.

There are also qualifications for non-UK applicants who wish to apply for international qualified teacher status (iQTS).

What is an employment-based route?

  • There are some teacher training courses that come with a salary.
  • This means you will not have to pay tuition fees and will receive a salary while you train to get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). This is what you need to teach in many primary, secondary, and special schools in England.
  • The main salaried courses include salaried and postgraduate teaching apprenticeships.
  • This is a competitive route and you may need prior teaching experience and a school willing to employ you.

Your eligibility for each route will depend on:

  • Where you qualified
  • Your subject specialism
  • Whether you already have teaching experience
  • Your personal circumstances

For more information about the different routes into teaching, expand the headings below.

Routes to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

For most postgraduate teacher training courses, you will need a minimum of a 2:2 degree, normally GCSE English and Maths, plus other requirements such as a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, so allow plenty of time to prepare your application.

Teacher training programmes vary slightly from provider to provider, but most will offer:

  • 120 days of practical classroom experience in two schools
  • Academic study, giving you the knowledge and understanding that you need to teach successfully
  • Experienced professional mentoring and tutoring in classroom management
  • Ongoing assessment of your teaching skills towards a final assessment against a set of teacher standards, which will lead to QTS

Some courses have an integrated PGCE element - but a QTS alone can be gained through different routes.

Not all ITT providers will offer all routes, so researching your providers is key.

  • Fee-paying undergraduate routes including QTS: this is where you would combine your degree studies with school experience to ultimately gain QTS.
  • Fee-paying postgraduate routes: this is where you would be supernumerary to the timetable and would gradually take on teaching experience as your confidence grows, under the direction and support of an experienced teacher. Typically, on this route you would have two placement schools, one from September to December and one from January to June.
  • Employment based route: this is where a school directly employs you to teach some classes from day one on a part timetable and then you do your ITT course learning around this teaching commitment. You will receive a salary as an unqualified teacher while you train. Typically, on this route you spend most of your training at your employing school with a six-week placement in a contrasting school.
  • Part time/flexible routes: some providers offer a part-time training route in some courses. Typically this spreads the one-year training over two years, allowing you to spend less time in school per week.
  • Teaching Apprenticeship route: A teaching apprenticeship is a nationally recognised, work-based route into teaching. It offers participants a postgraduate-level qualification without having to pay tuition fees, and the ability to earn while they learn.

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

A popular postgraduate academic qualification leading to QTS, the PGCE is a one-year course focused on developing your teaching skills and underpinning your knowledge. Available for primary and secondary, this complements the in-school experience that leads to Qualified Teacher Status and is a separate academic award, often integrated into the course.

In England and Wales, PGCEs are offered on all university-led courses and most school-led courses. To teach as a qualified teacher in England, you only need QTS, but you might find gaining a PGCE advantageous if you are considering teaching in Scotland or overseas. You will need to consult each Initial Teacher Training provider to see which routes offer the PGCE option and consider what is required if you opt into a PGCE and QTS based route.

Often the PGCE is an integral part of the Initial Teacher Training course, woven into your training which is happening at both school and provider level. At the end of this route, you would be awarded both QTS and a PGCE if you successfully passed both aspects of the course.

Undergraduate teaching degree

Make sure your qualification will allow you to teach in schools by choosing an undergraduate course that includes qualified teacher status (QTS). There are full-time programmes, which take three to four years, or part-time courses, which will take longer to complete. This links your degree course, buts ends up with a QTS qualification too. This is a popular route into primary school teaching and can include the option of a subject specialism, such as maths. Some Secondary teacher training courses would have a specialism such as PE with QTS.

Degrees with opt-in QTS are available in certain subjects such as modern foreign languages, computing, and physics. Applications are generally made through UCAS for this route, as you would for a normal university place.

What if my degree specialism is not in the subject I want to teach?

If your degree subject does not link closely to the subject you intend to teach at secondary level, you can take a subject knowledge enhancement course in preparation for the start of your ITT course for some subjects. Local providers can help you with this process, once you have decided who to train with and been successful in gaining a place with them.


Find teacher training courses and providers

To find out more about what is on offer, search for teacher training courses available in your area through the DfE website here: Find postgraduate teacher training courses.

If you are looking to work within the Saffron Teaching School Hub area, find out more about local providers and see what routes they offer here.