The path to becoming a Further Education (FE) teacher can be a confusing one, yet the routes into the profession can also be tailored to suit a candidate’s experience and qualifications.
The Government removed the requirement to gain teaching qualifications for the FE sector in 2013. However, most employers continue to expect that you have recognised qualifications, or a commitment to get them.
There are lots of different ways you can become an FE teacher and here we set out some practical steps to help you choose the right route.
Before you apply
Before you start applying for either jobs or courses in FE, there are a few things to consider:
1. Your basic eligibility
If you want to teach or assess in FE, for most roles you’ll need a minimum of a level 3 qualification in the subject you want to teach. Some of the more common level 3 qualifications are A levels, Advanced Certificates of Education, Advanced GCEs, Advanced GNVQs, BTECs (including Nationals), the International Baccalaureate, Key Skills level 3, NVQs level 3 and OCR Nationals.
If there is a particular demand for your knowledge and skills, some employers will consider you if you have substantial professional experience, or a level 2 qualification for more vocational subjects, such as construction.
2. Qualified or Unqualified?
If you have looked at some current job advertisements for FE teachers, you have probably come across two types of person specification on the ‘essentials’ list:
- Jobs which require you to already hold a full teaching qualification - usually a Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET) or PGCE and to have prior experience as a teacher.
- Job advertisements for ‘unqualified’ teachers, where you would be expected to gain the qualifications while teaching (in-service).
With in-service roles, it is therefore possible to apply for FE teaching jobs before doing the training. Whether you can apply depends on the skills and knowledge you have gained through previous roles and also on potential employers' willingness to accept applications from unqualified teachers.
If you take this route you need to be aware that unqualified teachers receive a lower rate of pay and are usually employed on hourly contracts.
If the job advertisement indicates the employer is open to applicants with the right skills and who are willing to work towards a teaching qualification - it is definitely worth applying. Training on the job and possibly receiving help with funding from your employer can make this route appealing, especially for career-changers. However, if holding a full teaching qualification such as a PGCE or DET (see below) is an essential qualification, there would be little point in applying and you should look into gaining some qualifications pre-service.
3. Teaching Hours
Having some teaching experience is a requirement for teacher training courses specific to FE (apart from the Level 3 introductory course – see below). The hours required are between 30 and 100 for the full FE Diploma.
Those already employed or ‘in service’ as an unqualified teacher will find meeting this requirement quite straightforward. For aspiring FE teachers who have not yet gained employment, meeting the required teaching hours can be more difficult.
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to start a training course before securing teaching hours. Therefore, if you are not already employed in the sector you will need to see if you can find a voluntary teaching placement for a couple of hours a week before applying for training. It is worth contacting FE colleges in your area to see if they can help you to meet the hours required before applying, or if they would be willing to take you on as an unqualified teacher.
You can find a list of colleges at the Association of Colleges website. Alternatively, contact the training providers you are considering – they may also be able to offer advice and help with finding an appropriate placement.