Diploma in Education & Training (DET) vs. The Postgraduate Certificate In Education (PGCE)

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Retaining to become a teacher in 2021 needn’t be about compromising your family and work communities or breaking the bank.

In this post I’m going to personally review two popular routes into teaching: The Level 5 Diploma in Education & Training leading to Qualified Teacher Learning & Skills Status (QTLS) and the Postgraduate Certificate in Education leading to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Each of these pathways qualify eligible candidates to become fully qualified teachers. But what are the key components that could help candidates decide which path might be the right for them?


Let’s get right down to brass tacks. Cost is a huge denominator in any decision-making process. And definitely no more so than in trying to pursue a qualification in order to fulfil your ambitions, dreams or goals.

Whether you’re looking to simply retrain, become self-employed or work overseas, a career in teaching is your passport to a better quality of life all round.

The Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training is the non-university route into teaching and as such offers more financial flexibility and freedom than its traditional counterpart. The approximate cost of doing the DET in the 2021-2022 academic year is £7,499 compared to £9,250 to complete the PGCE year.

And although funding is available for PGCE students, this is not true for all specialisms and the amount you’re entitled to does indeed fluctuate. It’s all about demand. For instance, a PGCE in music funding may only include a £9,000 bursary, whereas PGCE funding for Biology would be substantially higher with a £26,000 bursary.

On the contrary, the DET does not discriminate on these grounds. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria set out by the college and the Student Loans Company (SLC), you can choose which subject to specialise in and which area you want to practice, including Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

Course Structure

The DET can be taken either full-time or part-time. The full-time course only requires a commitment of 2 full days a week (evening and weekend classes are also available). The academic component takes 1 year to fulfil before many students decide to begin the teaching practice (TP) element. Even the part-time academic DET course can be completed in a year (though it’s far more intensive). The teaching practice element requires 100 hours of TP (70 of which must be set within a secondary school placement, but can be assessed by a senior colleague as acting supervisor).

The PGCE is a mix of university study and teaching practice.

The core difference is that the PGCE requires students to gain entry to university for the programme and that they must complete a minimum of 24 weeks in a school (and find their own placement) in order to successfully apply for their Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) once they have completed the 1 year academic component. Another thing, is that were you to take the academic course part-time, it would take you 2 years. That means it could take a full 3 years to get your teaching licence!

The DET on the other hand, allows students to complete their 100 hours TP in their own time and the colleges will assist with sourcing placements if there is no access to one. For candidates already working within a school setting in unqualified or non-teaching posts, this is an ideal opportunity to potentially complete some of their mandatory TP before finishing the academic course. Not something you can currently do with the PGCE.


In order to qualify for the DET, you must be 19 years of age or above, hold a Higher National Diploma (HND) or undergraduate degree (for international students these must be translated by NARIC) and/or have substantial, relevant work experience as an unqualified teacher, as well as be proficient in English and Maths to the desired level. However, there is no requirement to hold a GCSE or equivalent in either subject. The college will give candidates an internal test to assess whether they qualify or not.

To qualify for the PGCE, students must hold an undergraduate degree awarded by a UK higher education provider, or a recognised equivalent qualification (meaning they are at least 21 years of age). Prospective students also need to have obtained a Grade C in English and Maths at GCSE. If you intend to train to teach pupils aged 3 to 11 (early years and primary) , you must also have obtained a GCSE in a science based examination. If you are a non-native English speaker, you must have an internationally accredited certificate (for example in IELTS or TEOFL), proving you have the requisite English level to teach in England.


So this is where things get a little complicated. Basically, the DET leads to the QTLS, and the PGCE route leads to the QTS.

Both qualifications allow you to teach in primary, secondary or SEND schools in England (allowing for the same salaried roles). Government links and information provided by The Society for Education & Training (SET) website does clarify this.

The DET is recognised in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. However, the PGCE is internationally accredited and could be taken anywhere in the world. That’s not to say the DET wouldn’t be, but it’s presently a less established route and therefore doesn’t have the publicity and traditionalism associated with it yet to give it the reputation it deserves.

In any case, conferring with an international school, should you wish to go down the route of teaching overseas, and being in receipt of the DET, is far less in question than never having worked as a qualified teacher in your home country.


On the balance of probability, unless you have no commitments or financial ties – the PGCE offers limited options. The DET can get you a qualified teaching licence without the need to go back to university and find yourself a teaching placement. Most people that choose to retrain in a career, are set to do so in their home country, so it’s all about weighing up the pros and cons for the future. For me, it’s a no brainer

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