What is the Further Education (FE) & Skills Sector?

Are you considering teaching, but the school environment does not appeal? The FE sector could be worth considering – it offers more flexible working, with a greater variety of learners.

Teaching in the FE sector broadly covers the three areas of:

Academic teaching

E.g. Teacher of History. As an academic teacher, you would be expected to have a qualification in the subject you teach (usually a degree) and have, or show a willingness to gain a teaching qualification.

Maths, English, English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) or Special Educational Needs (SEN)

If you hold at least a Level 3 (or equivalent) qualification in maths or English, this is an area of high demand, where you will also be required to gain a teaching qualification.

Vocational training

As a vocational teacher (or trainer), you are expected to be a ‘dual professional’, i.e. an expert in your own professional area (e.g. plumbing or hairdressing) and an expert teacher. You would therefore need to be qualified and/or experienced in your particular area and be willing to gain a teaching qualification.

Where might you work?

The FE and training sector is probably the widest educational field in the UK. It is estimated that the number of people undertaking education and training in the sector is over four million – that’s a lot of learners! Locations include:

FE Colleges

The most familiar part of the sector, the average college has 1000s of students covering the spectrum of courses on offer. There are about 300 colleges employing 100,000+ teaching staff, many of whom work part time.

Adult and Community Learning (ACL)

This is the range of courses based in community venues up and down the country. From maths and English to community languages to computers for beginners to local history, it is very diverse in terms of both offer, venue and student group. Much of this work is delivered part time.

Offender Learning

Data suggests a high level of basic skills deficits amongst those in prison and hence there is a drive to remedy this amongst the prisoners. Additionally, there are various vocational preparation courses on offer.

Work Based Learning (WBL)

From apprenticeships to updating your IT skills, the scope is enormous. You could undertake assessor and quality assurance roles to ensure the standards of the vocational qualifications being delivered.
If you would like to find out more about working in the FE and training sector, visit the FE Advice website or call 0300 303 1877.

FE Teaching Qualifications:

It is up to individual colleges heads which qualifications they might ask for. Some colleges put all new teachers through their own in-house 30 week training programme, others insist on teaching qualifications prior to starting. It is still possible to enter FE teaching with no teaching qualification and start on a course once you’ve started in the job, but that’s more likely in floristry, for example, than Psychology!

Remember, if you are thinking of teaching a National Curriculum subject, a secondary PGCE would be worth considering as these qualifications will be valid in colleges too and there may be bursaries to train available for your subject. See Get into Teaching

The area of qualifications is confusing because the same level of qualification can have different names e.g. The Diploma in Education and Training, PGCE, PGDE and PCET are all at Level 5. The last 3 options often also contain credits at level 6. 

New for academic year 2020/21 - the Department for Education is offering financial support for trainee FE teachers completing a Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET), or higher-level DET-compliant qualification, for the duration of their training programme. They are offering training bursaries in priority subjects up to £26,000. 

Bursary subject rates for the 2020/21 academic year are:

Subject Bursary Rate
Computing, engineering (and/or manufacturing), maths, and science (including biology, chemistry, or physics) £26,000
SEND £15,000
English £12,000

Funding is limited to 300 bursaries and is available on a first-come-first-served basis. Keep an eye on the feadvice.org website for more information.

Full Teacher Qualification:

Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training:
Training for a full teaching role which includes educational theory and a minimum of 100 hours of teaching practice. These are often general teaching courses and you pick up your specialist subject area e.g. Sociology, Media, via the teaching hours practice. However some courses include specialist training pathways at this level such as in Literacy, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) or Special Educational Needs/teaching disabled learners. This is the level of course often taken by graduates before looking for teaching jobs in college.

For other levels of course see:  FE Advice | Support for Teacher Recruitment

For most Level 5 courses you will need a relevant degree for the subject you want to teach and you will need to show motivation by having gained some work shadowing/work experience observing relevant lessons at college level.

Other levels of course include:


Course fees and financial support:

All Level 5/6 courses can charge the variable tuition fees. You must check the latest costs with each course provider e.g. the University of Bolton for 2019 start are charging £9,250 for their full-time course, some college-based courses may be considerably less. Fees for this level of course do not need to be paid up-front and can be added to student loans. For level 5 and above courses you should still be able to access Student finance to help fund your study.

Contact the Student Loan company for further information: 0845 300 50 90.

Also, see: GOV | Student Finance.

Finding Courses and Applications:

Unfortunately, there is no central website with a complete list of FE courses. The best way to get a full list of courses is to get in touch with FE Advice line (for contact information see first section of page) and they will send you out a list.

For the majority of courses, candidates still apply direct to individual colleges on the college application forms. Courses are mainly offered by universities or colleges and many are offered full-time or part-time.

Some Local Courses for Graduates:

Getting a Job in FE

Flexibility when taking your first job is essential. The message is be prepared to accept a part time post or temporary contract in the first instance.” In vocational areas, such as engineering, or media, many people get their first job in FE on the strength of their previous work experience or qualifications and start on teacher training part-time, after they are already teaching in the sector. For other subjects, e.g. Geography, it would be much more usual to take a teaching qualification first.

To get an idea of the subject areas where teaching vacancies occur have a look at the following websites specialising in advertising college and post-16 roles:

The three largest subject areas taught across the FE sector are:

  1. Arts, media and publishing.
  2. Health, public services and care.
  3. Engineering and manufacturing technologies. 

Train to Teach FE work experience scheme:

ET Foundation | T2TFE

This is a government funded work experience programme, which started  in 2018 aimed at attracting final year graduates or postgraduates to take a paid 40-hour work placement within a Further Education setting in England. (£300 for a week’s placement).  Check above website for latest info.

Can I also get a job in a school with the post-16 qualification?

Yes, academies and free schools can employ any staff with any qualification. For schools under the control of the local authority, once fully qualified to level 5 an FE teacher can apply for QTLS which is now recognised in law as being equivalent to QTS. This type of move tends to be most common with vocational areas mainly found in FE plus Psychology and Business Studies.

There is nothing to stop a school head-teacher employing someone with QTLS with QTLS – it’s their choice. For a full explanation of the professional formation process see: ET Foundation | Professional Formation.

Can trained school teachers move into FE work?

Yes, QTS holders are regarded as fully qualified, so they can move straight across. They need to demonstrate familiarity with the curriculum and that they can deliver to the relevant age group. Frequently, primary school teachers move into basic skills/ESOL teaching roles. 

Further Resources:

Careers and Employability Service Support:

The Careers and Employability Service offers a range of support to Manchester Met students and graduates:


Detailed Careers Guides: Our full range of careers guides, including information on finding and applying for work and further study opportunities are available on our website.

Ask a Careers Question Online: Get online advice through My Career Hub, ask your question at any time and receive support via email.

Careers Consultant Appointments: Book a 30 minute appointment to discuss working or studying abroad with a Careers and Employability Consultant.

Careers Events: Meet employers and enhance your employability by attending our workshops, employer events and careers fairs.

Term-Time Drop-Ins:

Every week during term-time in Brooks Student Hub

For more information visit www.mmu.ac.uk/careers.

Careers and Employability Support

We offer range of support services to Manchester Met students and graduates:

For more information visit mmu.ac.uk/careers