Careers and Employability Service
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Once you've decided that teaching if for you, there's a lot to consider and make decisions about including: who you want to teach, which route into teaching is right for you, how to gain relevant work experience and how to make a successful teaching application.

We've got it all covered here and with links to key resources.

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Getting into teaching webinar

Our Getting into Teaching recording will help you to understand more about teaching as a career option, explore different routes into teaching, identify skills you have, or may want to develop, that are necessary to a role in teaching and consider the kinds of experience schools are looking for. 

Through our alumni guests you will hear some real insights into the realities of the job, opportunities and career routes: 

  • Matt Turton - Director of Performance and Standards & Headteacher, St Thérèse of Lisieux Catholic Multi Academy Trust
  • Anna Malengou - Physics Teacher, Queensferry High School

Login to SharePoint to watch a recording of this event 

  • Alumni: Email us to gain access to the webinar

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Primary or secondary school teaching 

Would you prefer to teach students of 11 years and upwards, concentrating on a subject or subjects at which you excel, or teaching younger children several different subjects, and where you will be their main classroom teacher?

  • Primary schools cover Key Stage 1 for children aged five to seven years and KS2 for children seven to 11 years. Explore the subjects you would teach at KS1 and KS2
  • Secondary schools cover Key stage 3 (11-14 year-olds) and KS4 (14 -16 year-olds). Check out the subjects taught at this age group and other compulsory subjects. Once you have qualified you are legally qualified to teach any subject, but headteachers will need relevant experience and knowledge.

Four routes into primary and secondary school teaching

Teacher training programmes leading to qualified teacher status (QTS) involve learning the principles of teaching and gaining practical experience in schools. However there are differences in the way in which they are delivered. Which route do you think would be best for you?

If you're not sure which route will be best for you, you can chat it though with a careers adviser.

1. Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

PGCE programmes are run by higher education institutions (HEIs) throughout the UK. Full-time courses usually last one academic year and part-time courses are available. Lectures take place at the university and you will spend a minimum of 24 weeks on placement in schools. If you undertake your placement in two schools, this offers you a contrast of environments.

This route will suit aspiring teachers who value peer contact and support. Some institutions will offer credits towards a masters qualification.


2. School Direct

School Direct is a school-led training programme lead by a school in partnership with a university or consortium. The schools select their trainees because there is an expectation that if all goes well, you will be employed within the consortium of schools.

Most lead to a PGCE as well as QTS, but always check. This can appeal to those who wish to be fully integrated into the school environment. They may be unpaid or paid:

  • Unpaid programmes are funded in the same way as a PGCE or SCITT. Trainees pay tuition fees and may be eligible for a bursary and or loan.
  • Paid programmes are salaried with applicants requiring at least three years' experience after graduation.

3. Teach First

The Teach First Leadership Programme is employment based. Teach First seek to make a difference in challenging primary or secondary schools. While working in a school, you would complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) that integrates teacher training with leadership and includes credits towards a masters qualification. During the summer you could complete a work placement in another sector outside of teaching.

Teach First require 300 UCAS points and a 2:1 degree. This route appeals to confident resilient applicants seeking early leadership. 


Gaining work experience

Most training providers request evidence of your motivation to teach, and this is also important to confirm that teaching is a potentially worth considering. Training providers prefer  classroom-based work experience in a state school OR a deep understanding of teaching in the classroom, which maybe gained through other relevant experiences.

Please be aware that study abroad, compulsory year abroad, optional placements/internships and integrated year in industry opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities or placement/industry hosts, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university's control. Every effort will be made to update this information as quickly as possible should a change occur.

Exclusive to Nottingham students

At the University of Nottingham, we have a range of teaching related initiatives that you can get involved with as a volunteer or on a paid basis. 

  • IntoUniversity
  • Mature Students Mentoring
  • Learning Leaders
  • Student Ambassadors
  • Students in Classrooms
  • Mature Students Ambassadors
  • Summer Schools Ambassadors
  • Nottingham Advantage Award

Find out more about all these programmes

Working with young people


UK-wide opportunities

School Experience Programme (SEP)

This paid scheme is classroom based and is designed for those wanting to teach shortage subjects including maths, science, and modern languages at secondary level. 


How do I apply?

I just wanted to say thank you for all of your help! I’ve been successful in my interview and have accepted my place on the PGCE course.
Lucia Holmes, English student (2022)

Application timelines 

For PGCEs and Schools Direct programmes, you will apply through UCAS Teacher Training.  However for Teach First and Researchers in School, you will apply direct.

For UCAS applications:

  • Apply 1 opens towards the end of September for courses commencing the following autumn. Start applying by mid-October. You can make up to three choices all at the same time and you will have to attend at least one interview.
  • Apply 2 opens in November, and is for those who have not received any offers from Apply 1. Thereafter, you can make one application at a time. For further details please see the UCAS Teach site.
  • If you decide to apply later in the spring term, you will still apply for Apply 1.

The personal statement and interview

Personal statement

Getting started

  • You are writing a persuasive, confident statement – not an essay. Choose your words carefully to maximise the impact of your statement to secure an interview.
  • You are given 47 lines (4,000 characters) to write your personal statement.
  • Draft your personal statement in Word so you can check spelling and grammar. You can then copy and paste this into your online application.
  • You need two referees; one academic tutor and another person who knows you well. This could be an employer or a teacher from a school at which you volunteered. Ask your referees well in advance of the deadline and give them a copy of your statement so they can write their reference in context

What should your statement include?

  • Be specific about why you want to teach. Your opening sentence should avoid platitudes like “I’ve always wanted to teach...”
  • Demonstrate convincingly that you have the necessary motivation, commitment, realism, personal qualities and values for a career in teaching
  • Focus on what has influenced your decision to teach, and how this aspiration matured. 
  • Consider your personal qualities, values and skills (with supporting evidence) that demonstrate you have the potential to be a good teacher
  • Communicate enthusiastically why you want to teach. Where did your ideas start? What has influenced you? Show that you have become better informed about teaching. What evidence demonstrates your desire to work with young people?

Relevance of your work experience

  • School-based experience – what did you do, with which key stage? What did you achieve? What did you learn from observing teachers? How did the experience develop you? What did you learn about yourself? What is effective and why?
  • Other work with young people – paid or voluntary, for example mentoring and after-school clubs
  • For other types of work experience, consider how it can provide evidence of relevant skills and qualities. For example, customer service experience can demonstrate your communication skills, patience and diplomacy. Remember, teachers work with other professionals and parents

Explain your choice of age group and/or subject area

  • Match your work experience, skills and preferences to the age group you want to teach
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of changes to the curriculum
  • Explain why you are you applying for this route into teaching (flexibility and key stage)?
  • Is your subject a national curriculum one? If it is a joint honours degree, indicate what percentage of the subject you want to teach, you have actually studied

Additional factors

Talk about your national curriculum A level subjects; any additional courses, for example IT or languages; and any other skills you have developed in areas such as sport, music, art, drama and language. Also outline any further work experience you have planned.

Concluding paragraph

Provide a strong ending summarising your commitment and suitability to the course.


  • aim to be enthusiastic, persuasive and interesting
  • mention young people – it is as much about enabling them to learn as you wanting to teach
  • be reflective, not just descriptive when writing about your classroom experience


  • overuse short sentences, all beginning with “I...”
  • use general statements and narrative such as “I feel” or “I believe”. Try to use a range of positive action words, such as planned, managed, implemented and organised
  • make a statement without qualifying it with evidence of how it affected you, for example, “It was rewarding”


You will have at least one interview and some assessment type tasks.

UCAS - preparing for an interview 

Help and advice - appointments and events

Book an appointment to have your personal statement reviewed or for interview practice

Check out our teaching events: Skills workshops and Spotlight On

Read our blog: “It’s so rewarding”. Could teaching be the job for you?


What funding is available?

What are my funding options?

Tuition fee loans are available from Student Finance England (criteria permitting) for PGCE programmes accredited by a HEI.

Bursaries are available for shortage subjects, and these can be generous for those with a good class of degree.

Funding policy changes yearly, so you'll need to check what's on offer in mid-September


Teaching in other settings: early years, further education and higher education

Early year teaching

If you would like to teach children aged 0-5 years, you can pursue an Early Years Teaching Scheme (EYTS) course specialising in early childhood development. You may be employed in private nurseries, nursery schools (state and private) and academies. Only the state sector will guarantee the national teaching wage.

Early years programmes deemed equivalent to QTS may not be transferable if applying to primary school vacancies later on in your career. . EYTS programmes include:

  • Graduate entry is a 12-month academic course including placements.
  • Employment-based graduate entry programme for those employed in an early years setting.
  • Schools Direct with either a school or nursery.

Funding is currently available.


Further education (FE)

Within further education will be teaching teach students over the age of 16+. You may be involved in vocational training, academic training and basic skills training.

There are several teaching qualifications available. The Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training or the PGCE Post Compulsory Education courses  are offered by HEIs. You will need a degree in the subject you wish to teach for the PGCE route.

It is possible to teach in FE without a qualification, but your prospects will be enhanced with one. 

Pathways to FE teaching

Provides third-year students placements within local colleges or independent training providers. Placements available country-wide.


Higher education (HE)

To become a university lecturer, you will usually need to study for a masters and then a PhD qualification in the specialist subject area you want to teach.

We can offer specialist advice for students considering this option.



Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
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telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
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