A Practical Guide To FE Teaching: Part Two

A Practical Guide To FE Teaching: Part Two

Which qualification is right for me?

What are the qualifications, how and where do you gain them and how much do they cost? Here we look at the practical elements of each course. For a more general overview of the course content and financial support, see our article Getting into FE Teaching.

FE-specific qualifications

These are standalone qualifications which are specific to the FE and Skills sector. They are not designed to follow each other - you can apply to do the full Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET) – without having completed Levels 3 and 4. Before you apply, be aware that these awards do not qualify you to teach in schools.

Level 3 Award in Education and Training

A short introductory course to teaching for those who are considering a career in FE.

Course requirements: Level 3 qualifications (A Level or equivalent)

Duration: 10 weeks, usually part time (course lengths vary according to provider)

Cost: £300 to £500 (depending on provider)

Pros: Shows employers that you are on track to gaining the full suite of qualifications (below). Short qualification with no minimum requirement of teaching hours or practice.

Cons: On its own, this award does not qualify you to teach.   

Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training

A training course for those who are already teaching or can fulfil the minimum teaching hours. This qualification is usually taken ‘in-service’ i.e. once you have already gained employment as an FE teacher.   

Course requirements: Minimum 30 hours teaching experience/practice. Prior assessment of English, Maths and ICT skills (usually undertaken by course provider). Minimum level 3 qualification (A level or equivalent).  

Duration: 6-9 months (part-time)

Cost: £1,000 to £1,400, depending on provider

Pros: Can enable to you gain employment as an unqualified or associate teacher. Prepares you for the Full Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET), below.

Cons: May not be enough as a standalone qualification to gain employment. Generally done ‘in-service’ so you need to find a college or FE provider who will employ you to meet the minimum teaching hours required.

Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET)

The full FE teaching qualification which allows you to apply for full or part time qualified roles in the sector. This is a standalone qualification which can be either undertaken ‘in-service’ (more usual) or before commencing a job (providing you can meet the teaching hours required). The DET course structure encompasses both Levels 3 and 4 above.  You can also choose to take this course with a combined specialist pathway in numeracy, literacy and/or ESOL or teaching disabled learners.

Course requirements: Minimum 100 hours teaching experience. Assessment of English, Maths and ICT skills (usually undertaken by course provider).  Minimum level 3 qualification (A level or equivalent).  

Duration: 1-2 years (full or part time)

Cost: £2,500 to £4,000, depending on provider

Pros: Gives you a full teaching qualification for FE, thereby widening job opportunities across the sector and increasing earning potential. Allows you to gain your qualification while employed as a teacher.  

Cons: If you are not already teaching you will need to organise 100 hours of teaching practice. Additionally, this is a degree-level course which involves a heavy workload.

You may also come across qualifications named DTLLS, CTLLS, PTLLS. These are older versions of the above qualifications and although still valid, are gradually being phased out.

General teaching qualifications


The Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) Secondary is a qualification which allows you to teach in both secondary schools and the Further Education sector, although you may have to undertake extra training if you move from schools to FE.  You can also do PGCE in Education which is specifically for the Further Education sector, but this is not normally accepted by schools.

You can do a PGCE at a university or through school-led training. For more information about PGCEs consult the Get Into Teaching website.

Course requirements: Minimum 2:2 Degree in a relevant subject; A Levels or equivalent; GCSE in Maths and English - C grade and above; a pass mark in a professional skills test; minimum 10 days’ teaching practice/observation in a school before applying.

Duration: 9 months (one academic year)

Cost: £9,000 (Home and EU students), £11,000 to £16,000 (non-EU students). There are loans and bursaries available for some students.

Pros: Qualifies you to teach in secondary schools and the Further Education sector, widening the field for job opportunities (apart from the PGCE in Education which is only for FE).

Cons: It is expensive if you do not receive a bursary and, as the course is generally full-time you will not be able to work elsewhere for the nine month’s duration.

Finding a course provider  

FE-specific qualification courses are offered either:

  • In service – on a part-time basis for employed teachers (usually a couple of hours per week)
  • Pre-service – on a full or part time basis for those not already employed in a teaching role.

The Levels 3 to 5 qualifications are offered by both further education colleges and higher education institutions, private training companies and sometimes in-house by employers. There is no generic list of course providers online but you can ask for one to be sent to you by contacting feadvice.org.uk. It is also worth contacting your local FE colleges, who will be able to advise you on course providers in your area.

PGCE courses are provided on a full-time basis by universities, colleges and schools. You can find a list of providers at Get Into Teaching.

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