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A PGCE is just one of the qualifications that can help you become a TEFL teacher, but is by no means a pre-requisite. Find out about what it'll give you and where you'll stand if you get one
Teaching is a complicated thing, and the qualifications you need to become a teacher are unfortunately no less complicated. The level of qualification you need really does depend on what sort of teaching you want to do. If you want to teach English for a year or so overseas then in most countries all you’ll need is a TEFL certificate; but if you’re planning on making a career out if it, it'd be an idea to look into doing a CELTA course or a PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education).
If your teaching ambitions abroad extend to a few years, a CELTA course will qualify you to teach English as a second language in most schools overseas and in your home country. If you’d like to teach English at home or overseas in further education then a PGCE will be your best option.
Essentially, it’s a course that can convert your degree into a teaching qualification that’s recognised by the Nation Qualifications Framework (NQF) in the UK. It's a professional qualification so you’ll be a fully-certified teacher in your chosen subject but it does take a full year (or two years part time) to complete. As it’s a postgraduate certificate you do need to have a degree first.
Your degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same as the subject you wish to teach, but it must be relevant, so if you would like to go abroad to teach English, it would be best to study a language-based degree: so English Literature or Linguistics will do just as well as actually studying another language. You can also do an additional pre-training course to build your knowledge of the specifics before starting the certificate course.
Most universities will offer some variation on the PGCE ESOL course, whether you want to study part-time, full-time or through the Open University. The certificate is roughly equivalent to a Diploma such as DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) but it does depend on where you want to teach. Most medium-sized language schools will accept teachers with a TEFL or TESOL certificate, but in higher education a PGCE will often be required, especially for a long term career.
Although a PGCE is a recognised teaching qualification, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the certificate alone will be enough to teach overseas. Requirements vary from country to country so it does depend where you want to work and what you want to teach.
If you want to work in further education, then teaching a subject other than English will require a higher level understanding of the language of the country, so you will need a certain degree of fluency. Even teaching English can be a little tricky without a full understanding of the language. Teaching students at degree level or to the equivalent of A' Levels involves a lot more depth so it will be better for both you and the students if you can give them some extra help in their own language!
Be careful to check that the country you wish to teach in recognises your qualification. Most, but not all, overseas schools will require teachers to have a BA with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status), a PGCE in ESOL (English to speakers of Other Languages) or equivalent and usually a minimum of 2/3 years teaching experience in order to teach at higher levels. The first year will be your NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year, which enables you to prove that you can put everything you’ve learnt into practice and at the end of it you’ll have your QTS.
Schools and universities overseas who ask for teachers with QTS do so as it’s a guarantee that not only will you know what you’re talking about, but that you’ll also have a passion for the subject that will really come across in your teaching! It sounds like a lot but this will qualify you to teach in further education or even to take up a managerial position in an overseas language school. It’s also generally a good idea to do your NQT year at home as you’ll then be able to come back and teach after your adventures abroad!