The Careers Adviser

Do foreign qualifications stop you from teaching? And will a lack of chemistry hinder me?
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Varying degrees

Q. I am 45 with a BA (sociology) degree from New Zealand obtained as a mature student. I would like to train as a KS2 teacher. I am a British citizen. But I am having trouble getting a PGCE place as most providers require a "good Honours degree". New Zealand degrees are not graded, only individual courses. Despite having the equivalent of a First I am faced with doing an additional year at university before re-applying. Are there other routes?

A. There are a number, all listed on But they depend on acquiring or having a degree, without which it is not possible to get Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Although you say your degree is the equivalent of a first you need to get it checked for UK equivalence by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC). Check ( that you have Maths and English at GCSE standard.

If you do have the equivalent of an English degree plus English and maths, your main challenge at this level, which is oversubscribed, is that providers might prioritise graduates with National Curriculum core subject degrees. That might be the same for other routes - school-based training, for example.

If you don't have the UK equivalent of a degree you could ask course providers directly what they suggest - in particular, perhaps, whether you can top up your qualifications with one or two extra modules. Each individual teaching college sets its own criteria and how they judge a degree is up to them. Experience of working with children also helps.

Biologically speaking

Q. I am enjoying a year out having completed A-levels in biology, psychology and sports science, but I am completely lost. I have high A grades and would like a challenging, well-paid, biology-based career. I have been offered a place at Cardiff to study joint honours in physiology and psychology. What are the career options with this? I am limited in my choices as many biology-based programmes require chemistry at A-level. I detest certain areas of psychology but feel this is the only option.

A. Previous students doing this combination have gone on to do PhDs in neurophysiology research; postgraduate studies in psychology or education; educational psychology, publishing, physiotherapy and dietetics. So there's a wide choice, especially with further training.

Concentrate on what you really want. If your heart is set on that well-paid career in biology then you'll almost certainly need to study for a PhD, but these subjects may not contain the right modules for a further degree in your preferred area.

Have you asked Cardiff if there is a way round your lack of chemistry A level, for example by taking extra courses in the first year? If there isn't, it may be worth examining this offer to see whether it is going to lead you in the direction you want. Thinking now is better than embarking on a course you already suspect is not quite right for you, or taking subjects because they seem "the only option".

Talk both to the Cardiff tutors and, if you can, the university careers advice service. You should also ask other universities if you can get round having no chemistry A-level, and thinkvery hard about whether spending time on an extra A-level will be worth it in terms of the many career years ahead of you.

Careers adviser: Anne-Marie Martin, director, The Careers Group, University of London.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to