What you’ll learn
How does the human brain learn and retain information? How can education policy help bring about equality and social justice for children and young people? How can a teacher get a room of 30 pupils to be quiet and pay attention? An education degree will teach you about the theories underpinning how we learn, and give you the practical skills and knowledge needed to work in education.
There are different degree types: bachelor of education (BEd) degrees, or bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BSc) degrees with QTS (qualified teacher status). Whichever you pick, if you want to work as a teacher in most schools, the degree must confer QTS. Courses tend to last three or four years, during which time you’ll develop the specialist subject knowledge you need to teach, learn about the national curriculum for that subject, get up to speed with the latest government education initiatives, and learn about the legal and ethical responsibilities.
You will learn a huge range of strategies and practical teaching techniques, such as how to plan lessons, assess learning, manage behaviour, and teach in a way that best enables children to learn. It is worth remembering you don’t need a degree in education to become a teacher: many teachers take a more general degree course, then obtain QTS status later through a PGCE or School Direct programme, for example.
If you want to learn about education because you find it interesting but don’t plan to teach, an education studies course can be more appropriate. These courses will look at how education is delivered and focus on how this fits into a cultural, political or historical context. You will probably look at other education models and their impact on society in other countries, and perhaps even develop a few ideas of your own.
How you’ll learn
You’ll have lectures, seminars, presentations and plenty of essay assignments, but you’ll also spend a chunk of your time in schools, or even studying overseas. On placements, you’ll observe expert teachers and, in time, stand in front of a class yourself. Throughout placements, you’ll be supported by a mentor from the school. When looking at courses, it’s worth asking about a university’s partner schools – some will have a focus on urban schools, while others might encourage you to spend time in specific settings, such as special schools.
Assessment will take place through coursework and formal exams, while students may be required to prepare portfolios of experiences and activities, which should boost your employability.
These vary. If you’re planning to be a teacher, you’ll likely need an A-level (or equivalent) in the subject you wish to specialise in. You are also likely to need a 4 (or C) or above in GCSE maths and English.
The more selective universities require at least one of the following: art, biology, chemistry, computing, design and technology, drama (theatre studies), English, French, geography, German, history, ICT, Italian, mathematics, music, physics, physical education, religious studies (theology), Spanish or Cache qualifications (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education).
What job can you get?
Teaching is the obvious direction for many education graduates, but if you don’t feel like that once you’ve completed your degree, there are other possibilities inside and outside education. An education degree will give you skills in working with people, organising and planning, and coping with stressful situations: these are valuable in many careers.
You may wish to consider a job in the social care, health, or leisure and tourism sectors, or in education policy for government, industry or a charity. Most graduates with QTS do enter the teaching profession and some of those with education studies may choose to study for a postgraduate teaching qualification, though many of the latter follow other careers working with children and young people.