Training to teach in Northern Ireland

You apply directly to institutions for postgraduate teacher training in Northern Ireland. Cathy Taylor from the University of West London helps you to explore your options with an overview of qualification requirements and a list of course providers and PGCEs.


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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.

There are two main routes into teaching in Northern Ireland:

  • Completion of a Bachelors of Education (BEd).
  • Completion of a first degree and then a 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). Candidates must satisfy 'fitness to teach' requirements and be criminal record checked 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.

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 national curriculum or primary education subject. You’ll 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.

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 offers:

  • One-year PGCE post-primary courses 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 for university graduates holding relevant degrees. Subject specialisms include art and design, English with drama and media studies, geography, history, home economics, music, physical education, and technology and design.

St Mary’s University College Belfast offers:

  • A one-year PGCE primary course for teaching in Irish-medium schools.
  • PGCE post-primary courses – Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University have partnered with St Mary’s University College to offer an Irish medium (IME) option for students wanting to become teachers in Irish medium in post-primary schools. This option is available for all their post-primary PGCE courses, and on completion of the PGCE students also receive a Certificate in Bilingual Education.
  • Four-year BEd courses in both primary and post-primary teaching.

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. (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 forms and course details. Application deadlines for NI institutions are generally in November and December; 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.

Funding for teacher training in Northern Ireland

For information on fees and funding check with the relevant ITE provider. The Student Finance NI 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.

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 . A PGCE (FE) gained elsewhere in the UK is not currently recognised by FE colleges in Northern Ireland.

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 NICATS 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.

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