Training to teach in further and higher education

Paul Barnes from the University of Portsmouth shows you the range of qualifications available to train to teach in further education and how to become a higher education lecturer.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

The further education and skills sector includes further education (FE) colleges, independent training providers, the third sector (charities and social enterprises), adult and community learning and offender learning. There are several teaching qualifications available if you wish to teach students beyond the age of compulsory education; your choice will depend on the type of teaching role you wish to pursue.

Look at teacher training in Northern Ireland , Scotland and Wales for information on the FE sector in the rest of the UK.

What qualifications do you need to teach in FE?

It is possible to gain a lecturing job without a teaching qualification, but your prospects of gaining a position and of progression once in the sector are likely to be greatly enhanced by possessing an appropriate qualification.

You can take qualifications at various levels, including:

  • Level 3 Award in Education and Training: a short introductory course including peer-to-peer teaching practice, which you can take without the need to have a placement or be employed as a teacher.
  • Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training: develops practical teaching skills and includes a minimum of 30 hours of teaching practice.
  • Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training: training for a full teaching role which includes educational theory and a minimum of 100 hours of teaching practice. It's possible to include specialist training at this level in literacy, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL), mathematics or special educational needs (SEN).

These qualifications may be undertaken in FE colleges, often on a part-time basis. For level 4 and 5 qualifications you'll usually need to be employed in a teaching role or be able to organise your own placement for teaching practice.

PGCEs in post-compulsory education are offered by higher education institutions either directly or through associated colleges. This is the most usual route into the profession for new graduates. The PGCE incorporates the requirements of the level 5 diploma but offers additional units at a higher level. The PGCE can be undertaken as a full-time one-year course, incorporating teaching practice, or part time. You might need a degree in the subject you wish to teach.

There are no nationally specified entry requirements for these qualifications, though you need to show you have level 3 skills in English or mathematics to pursue specialist qualifications in these areas. Training providers, however, may have their own entry requirements.

If you achieve a qualification at level 5 you can apply for qualified teacher learning and skills (QTLS) status with the Society for Education and Training (SET). You also need to have SET membership and level 2 or higher literacy and numeracy qualifications.

QTLS status can enable you to teach in schools allowing you to be recruited to a permanent position with no further training.

It's also possible to train in secondary teaching and then apply for work in the further education sector.

Where do you find FE teacher training courses?

For many training courses, applications can be made directly to the provider. Check the websites of individual institutions for details and additional information. It is also possible to contact the Education and Training Foundation for details. Some PGCE courses can be found on the Department for Education’s search tool for postgraduate teacher training courses .

How do you become a higher education lecturer?

To become a university lecturer, you normally need to study for a masters or PhD qualification in the specialist subject area you want to teach. You're not always expected to have a teaching qualification before you begin but can study for teaching qualifications once in post. The Higher Education Academy, now known as Advance HE, accredits university teaching and learning CPD (continuing professional development) courses.

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