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PGCE and QTS difference United Teaching

PGCE and QTS - What's the Difference?


Researching teacher training can feel like navigating a minefield of acronyms. SCITT, DfE, NQT, SKE, DBST – it can be a lot to take in!

You don’t need to know what they all mean before applying, but it’s a good idea to understand the main ones so you can decide which route and qualification is best for you.

We’ve written this article to explore two of the most common acronyms: PGCE and QTS. They’re both types of qualification, but what exactly do they mean and how do they differ?

Let’s find out.


What does it stand for?

QTS stands for Qualified Teacher Status.

Why should you get it?

QTS is a required qualification to work as a teacher in a maintained or special school in England (or Wales, if you qualify in Wales).

You don’t need your QTS to work in academies or independent schools, which is why you can be teaching from day one as part of our training programme. However, as an unqualified teacher, you may get stuck on the first rung of the pay scale if you choose not to qualify.

How do you get it?

To gain your Qualified Teacher Status, you need to demonstrate that you meet the Teachers’ Standards, as set out by the government. This is assessed through observations and written evidence.

With most training providers, you’ll complete a nine-month or year-long course in order to gain QTS at the end of it.

Are there any eligibility requirements?

You need an undergraduate degree and GCSEs of grade C or above in maths and English. If you want to teach primary, you’ll also need at least a C in science.

How is it different to PGCE?

When you’re awarded QTS, it means you’re technically qualified to teach, but it doesn’t necessarily prove that you’ve studied the theory of teaching. It’s not always perceived as an academic qualification when compared to the PGCE, which involves the submission of written assessments and attendance at university sessions.

It also only qualifies you to teach in England (or Wales, if that’s where you complete the qualification). So, if you’re thinking of teaching in Scotland, Ireland or another country, you may need another qualification.

Can you study for QTS without PGCE?

Yes, you can! But make sure you check with your training provider – the PGCE is optional at United Teaching, but the vast majority of trainees opt to complete it alongside gaining QTS. However, it is more of a time commitment to complete the PGCE along with QTS, so if time is an issue for you, QTS-only could be a better route for you.

Additionally, if you have already studied the research behind teaching in another context (e.g. a degree in Childhood Studies), you may feel that you have a good enough grasp on the material without having to study for another qualification.

If you need any advice on this, please do get in touch.

What does it cost?

Studying for QTS without PGCE costs £7,250, or around two-thirds of the fees for QTS and PGCE combined. There are bursaries available to fund your teacher training.

You can also take the salaried route, which means that your fees are paid for, and you receive an annual salary. 


What does it stand for?

PGCE stands for Postgraduate Certificate in Education.

Why should you get it?

A PGCE isn’t required to teach in England, but the extra academic study may give you a more thorough understanding of educational research and teaching practices. It’s also internationally recognised, so if you ever wanted the option to teach outside England or Wales, it’s a good qualification to have alongside the QTS.

Additionally, once you’ve completed your PGCE, you’ll gain credits which can be put towards a Master’s degree. If you complete your PGCE through United Teaching, you’ll get 60 credits to put towards your Master’s in Education, if you choose to do it (a full Master’s degree is usually made up of 180 credits).

How do you get it?

There are many different routes to gaining your PGCE. If you’re a graduate training to teach directly through a university, this will usually be the qualification you gain at the end of a nine-month course, along with QTS. You’ll be evaluated through written assessments and observations.

Many school-led courses (like United Teaching) also offer the option of gaining your PGCE alongside QTS. We have a university partner which provides a PGCE course with the required academic rigour, but your time is still spent primarily in a school. You’ll be teaching from day one and learning through experience - mostly based in the same school all year.

Are there any eligibility requirements?

It depends on the course provider, but in general you’ll need:

  • A 2:2 degree or above. If you’re teaching secondary, your degree should be in the subject you want to teach.
  • GCSEs of grade C or above in maths and English. If you want to teach primary, you’ll also need at least a C in science.

However, universities and other training providers may have their own requirements. 

How is it different to QTS?

The PGCE doesn’t qualify you to teach on its own, so you’ll normally complete it with QTS if you want to work as a qualified teacher. The PGCE is an extra qualification, but one that really grounds you in the theory of education and allows you to engage with the latest research. It’s proof that you have a solid academic foundation of knowledge upon which to base your teaching practice.

In terms of a time commitment, it does require more work than the QTS-only route. At United Teaching, pursuing the PGCE involves the submission of two Master’s-level assignments (4,000 words each), and attending all of the university sessions (eight throughout the year).

Can you study for a PGCE without QTS?

You can if you just want to teach adult learners – this is called a Further Education PGCE. However, if you want to teach as a qualified teacher, you will need to choose a PGCE course that awards QTS as part of it – which the vast majority do, including United Teaching.

What does it cost?

The PGCE and QTS combined cost £9,250. At United Teaching, you can choose the salaried route (where your fees are paid by us), or the self-funded route (where you can apply for a bursary or scholarship). 

On the salaried route, you’ll also earn an unqualified teacher’s salary in your training year. Find out more about teacher pay scales.



It’s also worth understanding what a PGDE is so you can fully weigh up your options and preferences.

What does it stand for?

PGDE stands for Postgraduate Diploma in Education.

Why should you get it?

A PGDE is very similar to a PGCE, the main difference being the number of academic credits awarded at the end of your course. PGCE courses can contain up to 60 credits at Master’s degree level, whereas PGDE courses can include up to 120. This usually means a PGDE will involve more assignments.

It’s an internationally recognised qualification which means you’ll be able to teach throughout the UK and internationally, so long as you meet the individual requirements of the country you want to work in.

How do you get it?

Although it’s more common for teacher training providers to offer a PGCE, there are some that provide the option of studying towards a PGDE. We recommend doing your research to find out which provider and qualification would suit you best.


Further resources

Got any questions? We’re here to help. Contact us.



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