What are the different routes to becoming a teacher?

So you are considering a career in teaching in a primary or secondary school and you’re not sure about the different routes to becoming a teacher.

There are several routes to gaining QTS or QTLS and becoming qualified to teach in local authority schools in the UK, choosing the right one can be confusing.

This article explains the different routes to becoming a teacher and discusses the pros and cons of each one to help you decide which one would be the best route for you. If you are looking to get into teaching this is a must read!

Do you need a degree to become a qualified teacher? No, you don’t! – since 2012 through the QTLS route, you can now train to become a qualified teacher without a degree. We will have a look at this route and what stages you need to take to gain QTLS recognition, in the ‘Gaining QTLS by completing professional formation’ section.

But first, how to become a teacher as a University graduate:


The Post Graduate Certificate of Education is a university-led professional qualification, usually a 1 year full-time course but can be completed part-time over 2 years. This is the traditional route for graduates looking to get into teaching.

The course is a combination of university lectures, where students learn the theories behind teaching and at least two school placements where students are given the opportunity to put their learning into practice in the classroom. This part of the course gives students the opportunity to see whether teaching is well suited to them. PGCE courses tend to offer two placements lasting up to two-thirds of the course between them.


  • The PGCE is an internationally recognised qualification and many courses carry Master’s-level credits
  • Trainees can gain increased confidence from a combination of university and school based learning.
  • You have the opportunity to move from a school placement if it is not entirely suited to you.
  • The time at University can help you to reflect on progress from the school placements
  • An opportunity to mix with colleagues on your course to share the learning experience


  • Unable to influence which schools you do your school placements in.
  • Only a relatively small part of the school year is spent on each placement, which doesn’t give a complete picture of the teaching profession
  • Can be expensive route to becoming a teacher with university fees and living costs for the year.

SCITT/School Direct

School Centred Initial Teacher Training through the School Direct programme lasts for 1 year based at the school that accepts you on the training. The school partners up with an accredited provider, usually a University or SCITT consortium. The School Direct training programme was introduced in 2012 with a view to moving teacher training towards a more school-based approach 

Trainees are introduced to the full teacher role gradually, starting off with a small timetable of teaching alongside lesson observations, with teaching time increasing as you develop in the role. You will also be required to do a second placement at a different school that can last up to 6 weeks.


  • Remain at the school for the whole academic year so able to build strong relationships with staff and students alike
  • Get a good insight into life as a teacher over the whole year
  • Often trainees are offered a job at the school they train at
  • Opportunity to get a salary whilst becoming a teacher
  • Able to influence which school you train at.


  • Immediately in front of students in the classroom with little training – can be a big shock for trainees with lower confidence levels
  • No opportunity for University group work to reflect on practice
  • You have to find your own placement, which can be competitive – please see how we can help
  • If you choose a school that is the wrong match for you the only way out is leaving the programme.

If you are a graduate see how we can help you to get a place on the school direct training programme 

Teach First

Teach First is a two year teacher training program that places top graduates into schools in disadvantaged areas, the so-called challenging schools.  Trainees undergo a rapidly accelerated six week training program during the summer, after which participants are expected to take on a full time teaching role. Additionally Teach First participants are trained to become leaders in education through regular workshops. Many Teach First trainees go on into other professions after a couple of years of teaching.


  • Opportunity to take on genuine responsibility immediately, becoming a teacher early on in the teacher training.
  • Fast track to school management – one third of participants are in a leadership position by the end of their second year.
  • Salary from first day of term.
  • Provided with additional leadership development training and can gain additional skills through workshops.


  • Teach First only places trainees into schools in areas of high social-economic deprivation which can be a challenging introduction into teaching.
  • Trainees have no influence over where you do training and which school you are placed in afterwards – this could involve relocation.
  • Only for top graduates – applicants must have a 2.1 degree or above and 300 UCAS points.
  • A tough course to complete.

Teacher Walking Children - Different Routes to Becoming a Teacher

Assessment Only Route to Becoming a Teacher

When considering the different routes to becoming a teacher, the Assessment Only Route to QTS is often forgotten. This is for applicants who already have considerable experience teaching in schools or educational settings. The route is suitable for teachers who have been teaching unqualified or for overseas trained teachers who have already been teaching in the UK. Applicants register with an approved Assessment Only provider and present a portfolio of evidence, drawn from their teaching, which is assessed against the QTS standards. They are also observed teaching in their placement to confirm their practice meets the standards.


  • The quickest route to becoming a teacher – achieving QTS by the Assessment Only Route takes no longer than one term.
  • There is no need for further teacher training, just an assessment process.
  • You can be paid a salary from the supporting school whilst doing the assessment


  • This way of achieving QTS is only available to unqualified teachers who have taught in at least two schools.
  • There is no opportunity for further teacher training if the portfolio of evidence is deemed to be weak.
  • Applicants must find a school that will support them to gain QTS via this route – get in contact to see how we can help
  • There is no funding available for Assessment Only route, applicants or the supporting school must pay the fee.

QTLS – The Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status

QTLS is the badge of professionalism for post-16 education and training. It is a professional status that can be gained through the process of professional formation but it is not a qualification.

Since April 2012, government legislation has recognised that teachers and trainers holding QTLS who are also members of SET are equivalent in status to teachers with QTS in schools.

Therefore if you hold QTLS you are able to teach across all subjects and all ages on equal pay and conditions, giving non-graduates the opportunity of becoming a teacher.

What are the entry requirements?

You are not eligible for the different routes to becoming a teacher if you don’t have a degree. But to apply for QTLS you don’t need  a degree, just a Level 5 initial teacher training qualification (ITE). The most common Level 5 qualifications are the Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS), Diploma in Education and Training (DET) or Certificate in Further Education Training.

Applicants will also require at least Level 2 in Maths and English, although if you wish to teach English you will need a Level 3 and the same if you wish to teach Maths.

I meet the requirements so how do I go about obtaining QTLS?

In order to obtain QTLS, the first stage is to be registered as a member of the Society for Education and Training (SET).

Once you are a member of SET you can gain QTLS by successfully completing the process of professional formation.

You complete an e-portfolio online that involves writing narrative and linking supporting evidence, drawn from the date of registering for professional formation.

The process takes 4-6 months to complete and on completion, you will be awarded QTLS.


  • Applicants don’t need a university degree to become a qualified teacher via this route.
  • You can be paid a salary from your supporting school whilst doing the assessment.
  • The process is relatively short, you can be qualified in 4 months.
  • The cost is less than other routes, just £485 that can be spread over a number of months.


  • There are only 3 registration windows through the year if you miss one you have to wait till the next one.
  • You will need to find a “supporter” for your application; It can be difficult to find a school to support you as initially, they need to recruit you as an unqualified teacher – if you would like help with this please contact us at the office.

Which of the Different Routes to Becoming a Teacher is right for me?

So we hope you are now aware of the different routes to becoming a teacher in the UK. Please be aware that for undergraduates there is also the BA (Hons) route with QTS that is a very popular choice for primary school teacher training.

If you are a graduate we would advise getting some experience within a school as a teaching assistant. This may help you to decide whether you would prefer school based training or a University course and you would gain valuable experience on the way.

If you are thinking of training to be a teacher and looking for experience, please see what teaching assistant job vacancies we are currently recruiting for.

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