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Is TEFL or a PGCE better?


If you are considering getting into teaching, especially primary-aged students in a different country, you might be wondering which path to choose to get you to your end goal – TEFL courses or a PGCE.

While the decision will always differ based on your personal circumstances, it can be helpful to consider the benefits and considerations in comparison.

So, is TEFL or PGCE better?

Why do a PGCE?

A PGCE, Postgraduate Certificate in Education, is a one-year academic course that gives you a teaching qualification at the end.

But what are the essentials you need to know?


  • You will develop your understanding of teaching pedagogy

This theoretical background is designed to give you an understanding of why teaching in certain ways is important.

  • Teaching placements are included

Which gives you practical, on-the-job experience and a chance to practice essentials like planning, classroom management, parent interactions, marking, etc.

  • Partial master’s accreditation

On an average PGCE, up to 60 credits are awarded upon qualification – which starts you on the journey to a master’s qualification. It is important to note, however, that a full master’s qualification is 180 credits.

  • Internationally recognised qualification

In some cases, gaining QTS (qualified teacher status) from your PGCE will be what you need to teach abroad. This may not apply to all countries and positions, however.


  • Online qualifications with QTS are fewer in number

Because of this, you will have to commit to a full academic year attending university or placements across the UK – with some being as far away as the Isle of Man.

  • You don’t need one to teach in England

You only need QTS, so can gain this from other, less intensive, routes.

  • PGCEs are more expensive

As they tend to be run through universities, you can expect to pay £9,000 per year in tuition fees, plus your day-to-day payments, which can include rent, bills, food, transportation, and more. You may be eligible for a loan from Student Finance but you will need to pay this back.

  • It is a busy year

Despite being a postgraduate course, the workload and professional expectations are very high in some cases, which can be hard for trainee teachers to balance and achieve.

  • May only focus on core academic subjects

As the PGCE is primarily designed to improve the teaching of core subjects, the majority of the focus will be on teaching English, maths, and science. If you are less confident with say geography or PE, you may have limited focus and support – but check with your chosen provider to be sure.

  • Focus on the theory of teaching may not translate into practical realities

Some PGCE graduates have reported feeling that while the theory of teaching was important, it didn’t help them as much as they expected when actually teaching.

  • The placement schools, course break-down, and assignment schedules differ widely

If you don’t do your research thoroughly, you may find that your chosen provider’s placement schools, course break-down (how much teaching time you have), and the assignment schedule doesn’t suit you – leading to stress, upset, and, in the worst cases, course failure.

Why do a TEFL course?

A TEFL course, on the other hand, gives you the skills and qualifications you need to Teach English as a Foreign Language across the world.

What else do you need to know?


  • Study and work

Do your personal circumstances mean that you need to continue working while you learn? No worries!

Study online in your own time to gain your qualification and keep the money coming in with your day job. You may just need to use your holiday entitlement for a teaching placement or two to boost your experience.

  • Cost-effective

The cost of even a year at university can be staggering – with tuition fees alone being over £9,000!

Comparatively, a 120-hour TEFL course can cost as little as £99…

  • Internationally recognised

A TEFL course is, for the most part, recognised across the globe, from Austria to Australia, Yemen to Zimbabwe.

Just be sure to double-check while applying.

  • Level 5 Ofqual-recognised qualifications available

If you are interested in academics and want to set yourself apart from other candidates, why not consider the Level 5 TEFL?

With the same qualification level as a foundation degree or Diploma of Higher Education and the quality mark that accompanies Ofqual recognition, employers will snap you up. And it still only costs just over £200!

  • Gives you the theory of teaching

Just like a PGCE, TEFL courses also give you an understanding of teaching pedagogy – an essential ingredient that helps you make teaching English more engaging, effective, and enjoyable.

  • Includes teaching placements

As with PGCE courses, most TEFL courses either come with included placements or can be added on with a 20-hour teaching practicum.

These placements cover a range of circumstances, from in-person groups to online teaching, which gives you an excellent range of experiences.


  • You may need a university qualification to teach in some locations

While in most cases, a TEFL qualification is all you need, some worldwide placements do prefer candidates to have a university qualification under their belts.

If you don’t have a degree of any kind, don’t worry, there are plenty of teaching placements that would love to have you.

  • No QTS

Qualified teacher status is not necessary for teachers who teach English as a foreign language, as QTS is only a necessity for those based in England.

In some overseas British schools, they may ask for teachers with QTS, but this will be a minority of placements or schools.

Want to teach abroad? The choice is clear

If you want to teach English as a foreign language without going to university, it is perfectly possible and even easier than you might think!

All that’s left to do now is choose your ideal TEFL course!

If you’d like some help choosing or you have questions about a specific course, don’t hesitate to email us today at [email protected] or open the webchat at the bottom of your screen - our friendly and experienced team are ready to help.