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Guide to the PGCE

A PGCE, short for Postgraduate Certificate in Education, is a higher-level postgraduate certificate designed to prepare students for a career in teaching through further academic and professional training. Here you can learn everything you’ll need to know about PGCEs and work out if it’s the right type of course for you. 


What is a PGCE and why study for one? 

A PGCE is a postgraduate level study option and is one of the most common ways for graduates to qualify for teaching professions. Completing a postgraduate certificate in education will allow you to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which lets you to apply for teaching roles in the UK and internationally. 

A PGCE is a higher-level qualification than a bachelor’s degree. It’s worth 60 credits, like a PGCert, compared to 180 credits for a master’s degree. However, a PGCE is different to other PGCert qualifications as it offers students significant professional experience in teaching environments, along with theoretical training in education. Another difference between the PGCE and the PGCert is that a PGCE typically takes three terms (one academic year) compared to a PGCert’s one term. 

The PGCE isn’t the same as a master’s degree, but once you get your qualification you could choose to use it as a foundation for further study towards a master’s degree in education. PGCEs are available at a wide range of higher education institutions across the UK.  

The PGCE is a popular choice of qualification for aspiring teachers, as it allows them to teach around the world while only getting a QTS certificate will limit teaching opportunities to England. 

What PGCE courses are there? 

There are a number of different PGCE courses, and your choice of programme will depend on the subject and age range you want to work with in your teaching career. The types of PGCE available are: 

  • Lower Primary Education PGCE, which focuses on knowledge and skills for educating children aged 3 to 7 
  • Primary Education PGCE, focusing on training students to educate children between the ages of 5 and 11 across the core primary curriculum 
  • Secondary Education PGCE, which equips aspiring teachers with the skills to educate 11- to 16-year-olds in a certain subject 
  • Post-16 and Further Education PGCE, which will allow you to get the separate Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QLTS) accreditation and teach a certain subject in further education 

Within this range of courses, you’ll also need to choose a school-led or university-led PGCE course. 

University-led PGCE courses will involve learning and training on a university campus in addition to practical teacher training. You’ll need to complete at least 24 weeks of placements in schools, complete theoretical learning around education, as well as obtain a QTS and postgraduate certificate. 

School-led PGCEs will involve practical work experience in a school environment from the very start of your course, and offer more peer-based learning from other teachers in your host school. 

How long is a PGCE and when do they start? 

A full time PGCE course typically takes one academic year, which is the same length as a master’s degree. Doing a part-time PGCE will normally take two academic years. 

Start times for PGCEs are generally the same as master’s degrees, with the most common starting time for PGCEs being in the autumn, generally September or October and ending in the summer. 

What are the entry requirements for a PGCE? 

Though some PGCE courses will have additional requirements for admission, the criteria for entry are typically: 

  • An undergraduate degree, usually in one of the subjects taught in the national curriculum if teaching at primary level, or in the subject you wish to teach if working at secondary level or above 
  • Grade C or above in maths and English at GCSE level 
  • Grade C or above in a science subject at GCSE if teaching at a primary level 
  • Grade C or above in English or IELTS score averaging 6.0 or more if English is your second language 

Other requirements for getting onto a PGCE course include: 

  • Professional or voluntary experience working with children in a school or college environment in the UK, at a level corresponding to the PGCE you’re applying for 
  • Medically fit 
  • Declaration of any convictions 

In some cases, these are minimum criteria and may not guarantee entry on to the more competitive PGCE courses. 

As a result, you could choose to pursue a PGCE with a bachelor’s degree in nearly any subject. 

How much does a PGCE cost? 

PGCEs are usually more consistent in price compared to master’s degrees, which have tuition fees that can vary widely. 

You can typically expect to pay £9,250 as a UK or EU student for the 2021/22 academic year, and between £11,000 and £16,000 as an international applicant.  

Additional costs relating to living, as well as travelling to different placements, should also be considered. 

You won’t be paid for your placement work during your PGCE. 

What funding is there for PGCEs? 

There are a number of different options available to you when it comes to funding your PGCE. They include: 

  • Scholarships and bursaries available from your university, charitable organisations or professional institutions. Amounts can vary, and specific eligibility criteria related to previous qualifications, financial need or country of origin may apply. 
  • Government-backed loans for postgraduate students can be applied for, which are available to cover both tuition and maintenance costs. Further loans are available.
  • Private loans or self-funding through savings.

Go to: Read more about How To Fund a PGCE

What jobs can you do with a PGCE? 

The PGCE is one of the most popular routes into teaching roles in the UK and enables you to apply for teaching roles around the world. 

Your PGCE will qualify you to teach a particular age range. For secondary teachers and above, you will usually only be able to apply for roles in which you have an academic background and a suitable PGCE qualification for. 

You’ll complete several placements in most cases during your PGCE, and graduates can often find employment at one of their placement institutions after they complete their studies. 

Which PGCEs are in most demand? 

Demand for teachers across the UK is generally high, so graduates of PGCE courses will often find employment quite quickly. 

Some subjects are experiencing particular shortages of qualified teachers, such as biology, chemistry, physics, maths, languages, I.T. and geography. As a result, qualifying as a teacher in these subjects will further improve your employment prospects. 

PGCE qualifications from prestigious institutions, while often the most competitive to get a place on, are also highly valued by employers. 

When to apply for a PGCE 

Most PGCE courses accept applications through the year, prior to the admission of students for PGCE courses starting the following September. In Wales and Scotland, applications are accepted in the autumn. 

In some cases, applications for a PGCE course will be closed when the course administrators are satisfied with the number of applicants – though it will be a minimum of two weeks after applications open. As a result, submitting your application as early as possible is always recommended. This will also give you time to make other applications if you don’t get your first choice of course.  

Checking the application schedule for your chosen PGCE to get specific details is always advised. 

How is a PGCE graded? 

You’ll typically be observed and assessed throughout your PGCE training programme. You won’t sit exams, but you’ll often be asked to complete assignments as well as being marked on your placement performance. 

Different courses and institutions may have their own marking criteria and grade boundaries, but overall PGCE courses are usually graded on a pass or fail basis. 

If you decide to extend your PGCE into a full master’s degree in education, you’ll typically be graded against the following boundaries: 

  • Distinction - 70% or higher 
  • Merit – 60% to 69% 
  • Pass – 50% to 59% 
  • Borderline pass or fail – 40% to 49% 

Your university or course may use slightly different grading boundaries to these, so it’s always worth checking with your course administrators. 

Next: Search for PGCE course


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