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Postgraduate primary teaching: Study options explained

James Davis

Careers Commentator
Being a primary school teacher can be highly rewarding, but the barrier to entry is a postgraduate qualification. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to boost your chances of entry.

Postgraduate teaching qualifications of any kind allow students to take what they’re good at and pass it on to younger generations. It provides the chance to work directly with the future. There are several study options available to students of primary teaching in particular, all of which serve distinct but important purposes. In this article, we’ll go over these options and how best to navigate their entry requirements so you can one day enjoy a career in primary teaching or further a current one.

Graduate certificates and diplomas

Until very recently, a graduate diploma was the minimum qualification for teaching, but that has since changed. A master’s degree is the lowest acceptable qualification, but that shouldn’t deter you from these. Graduate certificates and diplomas serve to bolster or refine existing knowledge and contribute to professional development. They show employers you’re willing to go the extra mile by obtaining qualifications beyond the norm.

Graduate certificates and diplomas in primary teaching are generally designed to equip students with appropriate subject-specific methodology. Take the Graduate Certificate in Primary Mathematics Education from Western Sydney University as an example. This is designed for those who hold a Bachelor of Education and wish to branch out into the eponymous line of teaching, taking six months of full time study to complete, or up to one year part time. It’s also accessible to those holding a Master of Teaching, provided they had taken mathematics units. The former method of entry is therefore excellent for those coming from other disciplines wishing to teach mathematics instead. Of course, these certificates aren’t limited to mathematics. They can be obtained in science too, among other disciplines.

If you’re already a teacher, or simply an aspiring teacher having a change of heart, these study options are right up your alley. If you’re looking to get a base teaching qualification however, we urge you to consider the option to follow.

Master’s degrees

These are for those coming from other disciplines who’d like to become teachers. The curious thing about them is their requiring you be from a discipline other than teaching. Although understandable, it makes them stand out from master level programs for other courses. Furthermore is the stipulation that whatever prior discipline you came from must be available in a primary school curriculum. So, if you’ve got a degree in English or Mathematics, you’ll fit right in. If you’ve got a degree in modern history, that may be more appropriate for secondary teaching.

These courses take two years of full time study to complete, or up to four years part time. They will often consist of a research project and coursework regardless of you taking a coursework master. A research master will result in a lengthy research thesis, which is suited to embarking on a career in academia. Coursework masters will allow you take part in work placements and gain first-hand teaching experience, making them valuable for more than the qualification itself.

So how do you get into these programs? Well, using the Master of Teaching (Primary) from Edith Cowan University as an example, you also need to submit a 500 word personal statement describing why you want to become a teacher. Given you’ll be working with children, it’s paramount they assess you have the correct disposition for the job. Primary teaching is more than just having the knowledge and the ability to impart it, after all. One must have the temperament and patience to deal with short attention spans and immaturity in spades. Granted, this is learned in part during the course itself, but much of teaching can come from strength of character. To succeed in this element of the selection process, you must be genuine in your desire to become a primary teacher and preferably it was your first choice. A ‘calling’, if you will.

Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of the primary teaching options available. We’ve covered:

  • Graduate certificates and how they’re best suited to experienced teachers wishing to branch out or aspiring ones wanting to try something new
  • Master’s degrees and how they’re the base qualification for aspiring teachers

No matter what program you choose or where you’re at in your career, primary teaching is highly rewarding. If this is something you really want to do, we have no doubt you’ll thank yourself for the effort. Good luck!