Training and progression

Teaching in Northern Ireland

20 Sept 2023, 14:20

Discover what it takes to become a teacher in Northern Ireland. Find out what qualifications you need, where to find teacher training courses and how to get a teaching job once you are qualified.

Teacher training in Northern Ireland

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There are two main routes into teaching in Northern Ireland:

  • Completion of a four-year Bachelor of Education (BEd).
  • Completion of a first degree and then a one-year postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE).

It is compulsory to have a recognised teacher training qualification in order to gain a permanent teaching post in a primary or post-primary (secondary) school in Northern Ireland (NI). Teachers and teaching students are subject to a police criminal record check by Access NI .

Teachers wishing to take up a post in a grant-aided school in NI must have eligibility to teach and be registered with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). Those who trained outside Northern Ireland must apply to the GTCNI to have their qualifications approved prior to registration.

Teachers qualified in Northern Ireland should be able to apply for registration as a teacher in other parts of the UK. Contact the Teaching Regulation Agency (England), The General Teaching Council for Scotland or the Education Workforce Council (Wales) for further information.

What qualifications do you need to train as a teacher in Northern Ireland?

For admission to an initial teacher education (ITE) course, you must have an acceptable level of competence in English language and mathematics (and also in a science subject or subjects for primary-level courses) - defined as a GCSE-level pass at grade C or higher, or an equivalent qualification.

Applicants to a PGCE programme will require a relevant degree, usually in a Northern Ireland curriculum subject. You will also need experience (paid or voluntary) of working with young people in an educational setting, particularly school classroom experience. Involvement with extracurricular activities, such as music or sport, can be an advantage for primary-level courses.

It is essential to contact ITE course providers for further advice and guidance on their entry requirements, including equivalent qualifications.

The Northern Ireland institutions that offer initial teacher education

The following institutions provide ITE in Northern Ireland:

Queen's University Belfast (QUB) offers:

  • One-year PGCE post-primary courses (with eligibility to teach across the 11-18 age range) in English, mathematics, science, modern languages, religious education, social sciences and information technology or computing.

Ulster University (Coleraine) offers:

  • A one-year PGCE primary course.
  • A one-year PGCE post-primary course. Subject specialisms include art and design, English with drama and media studies, geography, history, home economics, music, physical education, and technology and design, with engineering and manufacturing.

St Mary’s University College Belfast offers:

  • A one-year PGCE primary course for teaching in an Irish Medium setting.
  • PGCE post-primary courses – QUB and Ulster University have partnered with St Mary’s University College to allocate some Irish Medium Education places for students wishing to teach in Irish Medium post-primary settings. Students who complete this enhancement option receive a Certificate in Bilingual Education (from St Mary’s University College) along with their PGCE from either QUB or Ulster University. Competence in Irish is required. Applicants apply for this option through either QUB or Ulster University.
  • Four-year BEd courses in both primary and post-primary teaching, with opportunities in Irish Medium Education. Post-primary subject specialisms are business studies, mathematics, religious studies or technology and design, with an additional subsidiary subject undertaken in years 1 and 2. Apply through UCAS for these courses.

Stranmillis University College offers:

  • A one-year PGCE in early years education (ages 3–8).
  • Four-year BEd courses in both primary and post-primary teaching. Post-primary subject specialisms are business and enterprise, mathematics, religious studies and technology and design, with an additional subsidiary subject undertaken. Apply through UCAS for these courses.

How and when do you apply for teacher training in Northern Ireland?

Candidates apply directly to individual institutions, and you should contact institutions for application and course details. Application deadlines range from early November to early January; see course providers' websites for specific details. Competition for places is high and there are no shortage or priority subjects reported in Northern Ireland. Some institutions may operate a waiting list.

Knowledge of the Northern Ireland curriculum will help you prepare for your application and interview, with information available at Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

Funding for teacher training in Northern Ireland

For information on fees and funding check with the relevant ITE provider. The Student Finance Northern Ireland website provides details about financial support, or you can call their helpline on 0300 100 0077. If you are ordinarily resident in other parts of the UK, you should contact your home funding body.

Early Career Teachers

Early Career Teachers is a new term for those who have just started their teaching career in Northern Ireland. After completing Initial Teacher Training a period of induction is undertaken, usually lasting one academic year. This is followed by competence-based Early Professional Development that usually lasts for two years. Early Career Teachers (ECT) are supported by a Teacher Tutor and usually start out on a supply basis. After completing Initial Teacher Training, teachers register with the Education Authority in Northern Ireland, the GTCNI and the Northern Ireland Supply Teacher Register .

Applying for teaching posts

The Northern Ireland education system is made up of grant aided and some independent schools.

You can find teaching vacancies online at:

If you are applying for a primary or nursery post in a catholic maintained school, you should have a recognised religious education certificate by the time you start the post. The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools maintains a list of recognised courses.

Supply teachers must be registered with the Northern Ireland Supply Teacher Register.

Qualifying to teach in further education in Northern Ireland

The two main routes to becoming a further education college lecturer in Northern Ireland are:

With an existing teaching qualification

You can become an FE lecturer if you hold a recognised existing teaching qualification at the time of application. For full details, see the Department for the Economy's list of qualifications required to teach in institutions of further education .

Qualifying while in service

Alternatively, you can take an 'in-service' PGCE (FE) qualification. If you meet the minimum subject and experience requirements, you can be appointed by a further education college - on the understanding that you complete a part-time PGCE (FE) teaching qualification within three years of appointment. The minimum requirements are:

  • A university degree obtained in the UK or the Republic of Ireland (or one deemed by the department to be equivalent to this) or a qualification in the specialist area in which you wish to teach; with at least three years of relevant industrial, professional or business experience.
  • An English GCSE (grade A–C) or essential skills level 2 (or higher) in communication.
  • A maths GCSE (grade A–C), essential skills level 2 (or higher) in numeracy, or Access maths modules.

When you have passed the PGCE (FE), you can apply for registration with the GTCNI.

Colleges occasionally appoint part-time hourly paid lecturers, often for specialist courses of short duration. Currently, there is no requirement for those teaching fewer than eight hours per week to have gained, or be gaining, the PGCE (FE), unless they are teaching Essential Skills. Colleges in Northern Ireland often hold a 'register' of part-time hourly paid lecturers, so it may be worth contacting the college directly to request your name be added to the register.

If you are looking for employment as a further education lecturer in Northern Ireland, you should initially get in touch with the individual further education college or look on their website. For details, see Northern Ireland Further Education Colleges .

Written by Cathy Taylor, University of West London, July 2023.


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Occasionally targetjobs will work with another organisation to provide impartial careers content. This is to provide you with the most relevant information to make the best decisions about your future. As such, ‘in partnership’ content has been written or sourced by the partner organisation and edited by targetjobs as part of a content partnership.

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