How completing a PGCE helps you with a Masters.

This blog is about how completing a PGCE gives you an advantage when studying for a Masters degree. Again, these are simply my thoughts and opinions based on my own experiences having completed a Secondary PGCE in History and now studying an MA. I decided to write this blog because 1.  I’ve noticed quite a few of those who have obtained a PGCE have been considering the Masters route and 2. My personal belief that having studied a PGCE beforehand really helped me with my current Postgraduate degree. So if you liked this post or found it helpful or know a friend who would, please like and share! 🙂

Firstly, for those of you who don’t know what I mean by PGCE, I’m talking about the Postgraduate Certificate in Education course. Completion of the course qualifies you to teach at a state school in the United Kingdom.  You may want to further your employment chances, for example having a Masters degree may improve your chance of getting Head of Department or Head of Year, or maybe it’s something you have always wanted to do. It might be worth mentioning that if you’re unsure as to whether to do a Masters or PGCE, that you do not officially need a PGCE to teach at independent schools (inc. private schools, free schools, etc.) or abroad. That being said, it’s my belief that PGCEs are a major asset to have in acquired skills and reputation of the course. This moves me on to my first two advantages:

  1. Postgraduate experience. As mentioned in the course title, it’s likely that you’re already working at Masters level. If you’re working at Level 7 (C or above) on your PGCE coursework this indicates work at Postgraduate level. Level 6 represents work seen at degree level.
  2. Better skills. There are so many skills that you learn in such a short space of time when studying the PGCE and if you’re doing one at the moment, you don’t need me to tell you. These skills come with you when studying for an MA, making it much easier than how you had it at undergrad.
  3. Better grades. I was nervous at first when returning to an academic degree (as opposed to a professional degree) at Masters level, what if I was out of the loop? I soon found I had nothing to worry about and have been performing significantly better than I did at undergrad. I believe this is because when we were teaching, we had to design the questions and set the success criteria. We had to know exactly what we were looking for when setting and marking work; what the difference was between and an A and a B grade. One of the annoying things as a teacher was seeing a piece of work that had lots of brilliant historical context and you were dying to give them top marks because of the effort the child had put in but they didn’t answer the question. In a sort of role reversal, coming back to an academic degree, I know exactly what I’m being asked to do (most of the time). Even when I was doing some undergraduate tutoring this year, I found myself saying this is a ‘how’ question; an analytical question and this is a ‘discuss’ question a part-descriptive/evaluative question. It struck me then, that this knowledge was a valuable asset in my own studies, even if I hadn’t directly realised it.
  4. Becoming a pro at presentations. Those presentations you hated at undergrad? Not anymore. You will ace presentations during your Masters having done hundreds during your teaching. You know what points you want to drive home. Visual aids? Easy, I’ll wow you with Prezi and resources. Only a one page handout needed? Aww, booo. You’re not nervous having had to present topics like coal mining to set 8 year 8 *faint knowing chuckle in background from all the Welsh history SPGCE students*. Plus, you know how to give a death glare if someone isn’t listening to you.
  5. Better chance of part-time work and course rep position. When studying a PGCE you have educational acronyms coming out of your ears. Your brain suddenly has a new compartment: teaching and learning terminology. All of a sudden you know exactly what the course’s teaching and learning director is talking about, they’re not talking gobble-de-gook like you thought in undergrad, and you feel quite smug about it. Having a PGCE is a great selling asset for your CV. Your university is more than likely to have a sector that has links with schools and the local community or if you would prefer to have a break from school, there are a number of tutoring companies that you could free-lance for.
  6. Workload/ stress management. I’m imagining all the PGCE students past and present wincing or manically laughing before saying ‘you have no idea’ with their head in their hands when thinking of workload. And they have the right to do so. In my opinion, this may sound a bit pretentious or result in a couple of scowls, but a Masters in a walk in the park compared to the PGCE. I’m not denying that the Masters requires a lot of academic thinking, a stack of reading and mammoth essay word counts. You may start to moan about the workload, but then you think back to the PGCE days, make a cup of tea and think ‘ya know what? it’s not all that bad after all’ and get stuck in to another tortured philosopher’s anthology or a batch of security council papers.
  7. Confidence. Whereas in the past you may have been afraid to ask a question or speak up in a seminar, this is definitely no longer the case. There is nothing worse than sitting in a seminar and no one answers the question the professor has asked. Firstly, you want to help the poor Prof. out because you’ve experienced the moment yourself when you throw out a question to the class and literally no one knows what you’re talking about. Secondly, you know that it’s probably the way you worded the question. Therefore, rather than feeling like an idiot you act the way you know you would have wanted your students to: by asking for clarification or sharing an opinion (at least saying something).
  8. Maturity. Firstly, I’m not saying that those who haven’t done a PGCE are immature. Definitely not. Here I’m drawing on my own experiences from being a third year undergraduate – to PGCE student – to MA student. In the PGCE year, you have to grow up a hell of a lot – because if you don’t believe it – than the students your teaching definitely won’t believe it. The responsibility from an undergraduate course to PGCE course gets cranked up about 3000%, you’re now responsible for around 200 (or more [secondary school]) students, their grades, behaviour and well-being. Even when you’re feeling like shit that day you have to be prepared to  face a class full of 30 kids, teach with a smile on your face, with resources ready and prepared beforehand (by you), with every child accounted for, when the bell rings, and if you don’t? Well it’s over. What I’m trying to say is, you develop certain skills when a kid calls you a dickhead under their breath (just kidding). ANYWAY, what I’m really trying to say is you’re less likely to not attend/not put the work in. Your organisational/scheduling skills become superhuman. You’ve managed to revert the traditional student bodyclock you acquired in undergrad to a normal working life grown-up body clock. Getting up for school at 7am, working til 4pm and then coming home to do some more work during your PGCE will undoubtedly help you treat the Masters like a full-time job, rather than the more… relaxed approach you had during undergrad.

 

Please feel free to comment if you’d like to add anything to this list! Thanks for reading. 

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