Looking for a career in teaching but not quite sure what path to take? This article explores the difference between Teach First and PGCE. We will look at the qualities on offer when undertaking two of the most popular routes into teaching. Why not use this to create your own pros and cons list to cherry-pick the course perfect for you?

teaching careers
Source: Schools Week

What is Teach First and a PGCSE, and how do their programmes differ?

Teach First is a charity partnering with schools facing the biggest challenges with an aim to provide equal quality education for all. So, if you are someone who wants to make a real difference and align with Teach First’s morals of not leaving any child behind, then this programme is for you.

The programme lasts for a duration of two years which once completed, you will acquire a Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Leadership equivalent to double the credits of a PGCSE. Participants will study a number of masters units in their first year and will have the option of completing a full masters qualification in their second year. What’s more, whilst studying you will be gaining the best hands-on experience by working full time in the classroom. To make sure that you are getting on okay in the classroom, you will be assigned a mentor with whom you will have regular contact during the two years to support you effectively.

what is a PGCE
Source: University of Hull

On the other hand, you have the PGCE. PGCE stands for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, and as its name suggests, it is a traditional one-year postgraduate degree delivered by many universities and their partner schools. So, if you are not quite ready to let go of your student days or fancy getting qualified quicker, why not have a look into PGCE. The degree is also great for those that are not as keen on being thrown into the deep end. You will not be working full time but build up the number of school classes you take on overtime whilst studying. Just like with Teach First, the various universities offer their own support systems to guide you through the process smoothly.

What would my financial situation be like?

If you decide to take a PGCE, in effect, your situation will be the same as when you did your undergraduate degree. Although you will conduct some teaching in schools, you will not be employed until you complete your PGCE and will have to pay the university fees for the year. However, most students will be eligible for a loan, and it would be valuable to check whether you are qualified to receive a bursary or scholarship to cover the costs. It is also worth noting that as many universities offer the PGCE, you can have control over your living expenses by choosing which university to enrol in.

Teach First
Source: Schools Week

On the contrary, Teach First’s programme is free, and you will be guaranteed a full-time salary for the entire two years of the programme. Yet, this does not mean that you escape from finances as due to Teach First working with the most challenged schools, you may be required to relocate to a different area of the UK before your programme commences – which of course, your salary can help with.

What will my work-life balance be like?

teach first vs pgce workload
Source: Pure Wow

There is no doubt that both programmes will have a demanding workload. In both circumstances, you will be juggling real work in the classroom with educational assignments. Despite this, there is a consensus amongst alumni that under Teach First’s programme, commencing full-term employment whilst studying from the get-go has proven to initially be harder than those being eased into the classroom under the PGCE. Although, this does not necessarily have to be a downside if you like to learn whilst on the job and as the work experience is likely to make sure that you will adapt to the classroom environment quicker.

Despite the differences between Teach First and PGCE, they have their own advantages and will be rewarding in unique ways. What’s most important to remember is that taking either programme will qualify you to become a teacher and so it is important to choose whichever one best appeals and suits you.