PGCE‏‎ or TEFL for Teaching English Abroad

One frequently asked question is this: should I take a PGCE and/or a TEFL Certificate to teach English abroad?

This article answers that question and offers the best advice on what you should do when you’re given that choice. It looks at what the PGCE is, how they are seen by schools abroad, and what you can do with it if you want to teach outside the UK.

If you are thinking of teaching English abroad and have a PGCE, this will help you decide if you need to take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate as well.

If you are thinking of teaching English abroad and are trying to decide what qualifications are best for you, this will help you decide on whether to go for the PGCE of the TEFL certificate… or both!

The PGCE and the TEFL Certificate Explained


Essentially, a PGCE or Post Graduate Certificate in Education is a British qualification for university graduates (with a BA or BSc) who want to specialize in teaching at a state school in the UK.

It is normally a 1 year course (or 2 years part time) which will include around 150 hours teaching practice in school. There are different flavors of PGCE for Primary or Secondary education; in the latter case they are geared towards subject areas, e.g. history, science, math, etc. Note, however, that there is not specifically a TEFL flavor here although it may be included as a subsidiary subject.

The course costs around £9000 ($14144 USD, €11191) which can be taken as a student loan and it is offered at many different universities and colleges in the UK.

A PGCE also counts as a credit towards a masters should the teacher want to study further.

TEFL Certificate

The TEFL certificate (also known as the TESOL Certificate) is a short course which looks into how specifically to teach the English language to people who speak another language as a mother-tongue.

It costs around £900 ($1414 USD, €1119) for a good in-house course but you can also get an 120hr online TEFL Certificate for £155 ($244 USD, €193).

I want to Teach in an International School

Looking at the international job section of the Times Educational Supplement you will see that jobs teaching abroad in international schools will require similar qualifications to those you might find in the state sector in the UK, that is QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) plus experience. Thus, for these kinds of jobs, a PGCE is fine, usually with several years’ experience as well.

However, if you are looking at teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), most jobs are in private schools abroad with a few more in state schools. Although international schools may have classes in TEFL, many will not as their students tend to be English mother tongue or bilingual. See below for these options.

I want to Teach in a State School in an English Speaking Country

If you want to teach in a state school in an English speaking country – generally the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – then you will most likely need a PGCE. Your qualifications will need to be assessed and converted to their local equivalent, This can vary by state so if you want to teach in California or Delaware you may need different qualifications; likewise your PGCE may be acceptable to teach in certain schools in Western Australia but not the same kinds of schools in New South Wales.

In most countries the PGCE is well regarded and accepted and there is usually little problem in having it recognized.

I want to Teach English in a non-English Speaking Country

As said above, most jobs teaching English to non-English speakers abroad are with private schools. These schools, along with the state, will determine what qualifications their teachers must have.

The usual requirements for a teacher are a degree and a TEFL certificate. (Although you can sometimes find work without a degree‏‎.) In addition, experience teaching can help a lot when it comes to being offered a job.

Do I need a PGCE?

No, you don’t.

If you have the degree and TEFL cert then you can find work in the majority of countries around the world and there is no need to have a PGCE to teach in them.

I have a PGCE – do I need a TEFL Cert as well?

This will depend on the school. Some schools will simply not know about the PGCE and by default ask for a degree and a TEFL certificate. If you apply to a school like this they may well get back to you asking what the PGCE is or, in some cases, simply ignore your CV because it doesn’t contain the TEFL cert they asked for.

In cases like this it might be worth mentioning on your CV a little about what a PGCE is all about, especially if it contains a TEFL element. Stress the practical component of the course as well and, of course, any experience teaching you have had.

However, it can do no harm to take a TEFL certificate as well.

By taking one you will not only cover aspects of teaching specific to TEFL which your PGCE did not cover but it will also help you find work. Schools and education departments abroad know about the TEFL certificate but don’t always know about the PGCE.

Having a TEFL Certificate and PGCE will make you more marketable and you will find work more easily than with just a PGCE where you could miss out on good jobs purely because of the ignorance of your potential employer.


To sum up then:

  1. You don’t need a PGCE to teach English abroad.
  2. If you have a PGCE make sure you explain (briefly) what it is on your application CV.
  3. Stress your teaching experience.
  4. If you don’t have a PGCE then get a TEFL Certificate; it will be very useful.
  5. If you do have a PGCE, then if you can, get a TEFL Certificate as it may well swing the job in your favor.

Useful Links

TEFL Certificates to Teach English – an initial qualification to teach English

Essential Qualifications to Teach English – what you need in general to teach English

Masters Degrees for Teachers of English – an alternative to the PGCE


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Posted in Finding TEFL Jobs, Qualifications For TEFL Teachers.

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