TSR Wiki > University > Choosing a Subject > University Courses > Education Degree

Why Study Education?

There are many reasons why someone would like to study Education. For one, there are those who want to become teachers. Others have a general interest in education and want to broaden their knowledge about educational theories, learning theories, etc.

Education can be useful in many fields: schools, social work, but also management, the media and similar areas.

Course Overview

The different available Education courses all differ immensely. Please refer to the details below.

Teaching Courses

There are many different routes into teaching, but one of them is a straight teaching course. This is mainly offered for Primary Education/Teaching and takes around 3 years, although some universities offer 4 year courses. A few universities also offer secondary teaching degrees, specialising in a subject, as well as education studies. This then leads straight to recommendation for QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) and should not be confused with a Joint Honours degree in Education and Subject.

Primary Education

Most Primary Education courses are 3 year courses, with school placements throughout the three years. Some universities offer four year courses, where you can specialise in one or two subjects. It is not known if this improves your chances of finding a job as a teacher.

The degree in Primary Education teaches the core subjects, English, Maths, ICT and Science, as well as the Foundation Subjects Art, Design and Technology, Modern Foreign Languages, PE, RE, Citizenship, Geography, History and Music. You will be trained for the Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, although you normally specialise to teach across two consecutive stages (either FS/KS1 or KS1/KS2).

The time table for Primary Teaching students is usually very full, because of all the NC subjects plus educational studies. Teaching placements take place in every year, growing in time and responsibility. In year 3, you are normally required to teach 80-100% of the timetable at the school.

To gain QTS, you will need to finish the NQT year (Newly Qualified Teacher year).

Secondary Education

In order to teach in a secondary school, your degree normally needs to be in a National Curriculum subject (at least 50% of your degree). This is why only a few universities offer a straight teaching degree in secondary education. Brunel University offers a Physical Education and Secondary Education (leading to QTS) and Goldsmiths College offers a degree in Design & Technology and Secondary Education (leading to QTS).

The most common route to get into secondary teaching is the PGCE (postgraduate) route. You normally do a degree in a subject you want to teach (as single or joint honours with Education Studies) and then complete a one year PGCE afterwards.

Education Studies

Over half of the people working in education are not teachers, but other educational professionals.

Education Studies is the critical evaluation of contemporary education policies, practices and philosophies. Combining ideas from a variety of disciplines – sociology, history, psychology and law – it leads you from dependence to independence as a learner.

Education studies as a major or specialist subject can lead to career opportunities in educational administration, educational research, training organisations, caring organisations, charities, parents’ advisory groups, learning support organisations or can be used possibly combined with a National Curriculum subject as a route to application for PGCE (primary) or as a joint honours subject combined with a National Curriculum subject as a route to Secondary PGCE.

Early Childhood Studies

Early Childhood Studies is for those interested in the early years of life, young children and their development, care and education. It normally covers the early years curriculum, professional practice for those involved in the care and education of young children, management in early years situations, legislation and agencies which promote the rights, needs and well-being of children. Placement is often an integral part of this degree.

In order to become a teacher, you will need to progress on to a PGCE as well, which will enable you to become a primary teacher, possibly with an early years/Foundation Stage focus.

Special Needs Education

Special Educational Needs is the study of the challenging concepts of equal opportunity, inclusion, children’s rights, working in partnership and a holistic understanding of childhood. It considers the context in which children are defined, diagnosed and labelled as having special education needs.

Some teaching courses (undergraduate) offer a combination with SEN, but most courses deal with general education and special needs.

Successful completion of a BA in Special Education Needs will enable you to apply for an appropriate teacher training programme (e.g. a PGCE primary). Teachers with this degree may choose to teach in mainstream inclusive schools or in special schools. They may become Special Education Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs) in their schools, although this would likely be after several years of teaching and may include doing a masters as well. Other career paths include working within Local Authority Support Services, Early Years settings, and non government organisations such as charities. A number of graduates may also continue their studies at Masters or PhD level.

Foundations: Nursery Nurses and TAs

Foundation degrees are normally required if you choose to become a nursery nurse or teaching assistant. The degree can be taken instead of a NVQ or similar. Those degrees require you to be employed in an educational setting while you study.

Most universities offer the possibility to progress on to a BA programme (top-up, one year).

Educational Psychology

It is a long and hard road to become an educational psychologist. A degree in psychology plus a 3-year educational psychology doctorate are needed. Edge Hill, Lancaster, and Southampton Solent all offer undergraduate courses in Educational Psychology which are BPS accredited (UCAS C812) BUT this does not lead to being a qualified educational psychologist; anyone wishing to become one MUST still do the doctorate. Although it is not a specific requirement to be a teacher (experience in an educational setting with special needs IS required, however), many educational psychology trainees have trained to be a teacher through the PGCE/GTP/SCITT route and it is a VERY competitive course. Funding is currently given for the 3-year doctorate.

For more info on courses and what the job entails, check out the British Psychological Society website.

Universities offering Education

Many places offer Education or Educational Studies degrees, or teaching qualifications, including the following:

For something objective, see the Guardian University Guide.


Academic Requirements

Academic requirements vary from course to course. Teaching courses normally pay more attention to experience in schools than to grades. However, Cs in GCSE Maths, Science (single or double award) and English is required by the government. Education Studies and Early Childhood Studies courses have low entry requirements, but they also depend on the university. Cambridge offers joint honours in Education Studies and National Curriculum subjects. A*AA grades at A Level (40-42 IB points) are typically required. If you are applying for a PGCE, the requirements for GCSE Maths/English/Science are the same (for everyone since October 2006). However, a good 2.1 or 2.2 is normally a standard entry requirement for teaching courses.

UCAS Form & Personal Statement

This article includes guidance on how to write a PS, both for teaching (with QTS) and education studies.

Here are the opinions of people who have studied/worked in education:

I can only comment on the academic study of education rather than the practical teaching degrees as that is what I've applied for. While work experience is not essential for the academic study of education, I found it useful to include mine in my personal statement. I did it in a school for children with disabilities and learning difficulties so it meant I could apply what I'd seen in a practical situation to the provision of learning for these children and a bit about the psychology of their education. I also talked about my own education experiences and how I felt these impacted on my thoughts about education - I was home educated for a period so I could talk a lot about learning styles, how it differed from school learning and my thoughts on independent study. I also talked about what I believed the curriculum was lacking and whether exams should be such a big part of schooling. My advice is to have some areas of interest such as these in your statement.

As a former admissions tutor for the Psychology in Education degree at Lancaster University, I can confirm that the original poster gives good advice. It is not essential to have experience in a school, but experience of working with young people will really stand out, particularly if you slip a grade and go into clearing. I would advise taking on some voluntary work in a school or with a youth group and stressing this in your application. You should say what you have learned from your experiences and why that has spurred you on to go into teaching/undertake academic study of education. Talking about current educational issues is also a good suggestion, and I would add that it might be useful to browse and refer to articles in the Guardian education section or the Times Educational Supplement - this shows that you have an up-to-date interest in the subject area and can give some evidence to support your views, an important skill universities seek to nurture.

Course Structure

Life as an Education Student

The lives of education students differ greatly depending on which university you go to and which course (teaching/non-teaching) you are studying.

Teaching students generally have a full time table with classes every day of the week. This is due to the intense workload the study of the NC and educational studies brings with it. In addition to that, placements ranging from 4-12 weeks have to be undertaken every year.

If you study Education Studies, your workload can be considerably less.

Graduate Destinations and Career Prospects

If you are on a teaching course, you will most likely end up working in a school as a teacher. Other destinations range from teaching assistants, to jobs in media and journalism, curriculum design, management, etc. The degree in Education is very inter-disciplinary, which makes graduates attractive for many jobs.

Many PGCE courses now also allow you to complete some credits towards a Masters degree in Education (MEd), which can be completed with either one or two years part time study in your first years of teaching. This could be in a subject-specific topic or a whole-school topic such as educational leadership or special educational needs. If this is something of interest, it is perhaps worth considering when looking at teacher training courses.

Frequently Asked Questions

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