The Careers Adviser: How do I find out about postgraduate study abroad? Please help me find online courses to become a teaching assistant

Q. My daughter is thinking of going abroad to an English-speaking country to pursue a postgraduate degree in politics, to broaden her experience. Where can she get advice on how to go about this?

A. On the face of it this looks as if it would be a good option for a politics student and it would widen your daughter's horizons. Graduate Prospects (www. offers advice on options, issues to consider, information and links to help her find out about the precise arrangements in more than 50 countries. This includes the higher education structure in the relevant country, types of qualification available, links to sites that cover universities and courses, and entry requirements. Prospects gives a warning that using a course solely as a means of getting an extended visit to another country is risky. Your daughter really needs to have a genuine interest in what she is going to study, otherwise staying motivated in an unfamiliar country might be difficult.

There are always other means of getting a trip abroad, such as summer vacation work. Or there might be the opportunity on some PhD programmes in the UK to spend some time in an institution abroad – it might even be possible to find a travel award to help.

If she is determined, however, she should plan carefully and take time to do research – some postgraduate programmes overseas are quite a bit longer than those in the UK, though in English-speaking countries she should find structures broadly similar. And she needs to check if her first degree is acceptable – British undergraduate degree programmes, too, can be shorter than elsewhere, so views on their acceptability can vary. She also needs to check out the research support and facilities for international students in the country concerned. These can vary widely.

Q. I'm hoping to change my job from school support worker to teaching assistant. I am applying for jobs and want to do an online course to work towards teaching assistant level 2. How do I find a course that will be recognised?

A. The role of assistant varies from school to school, and some have a specialism such as literacy, numeracy, or English as an additional language. Most help the teacher in planning and delivering lessons.

You need to demonstrate good reading, writing, numeracy and organisational skills. Qualifications for teaching assistants are available at NVQ levels 2 and 3. You can also move on to become a higher level teaching assistant – these also work alongside teachers but with more responsibility.

You need to check the career development framework (CDF) and continuing professional development pages on the Training and Development Agency for Schools website (www. and www.tda. support/cdf.aspx). The CDF database lets you to search for the qualifications which are relevant to the role in which you are interested, and the CPD database (www.cpdsearch. gives you a list of local course providers and online courses. You can filter it so only online courses are shown. Courses you find there will provide recognised qualifications.

You don't have to have qualifications to start as a teaching assistant, but in practice you'll probably be facing competition from those who do, so if you want to keep moving up the ladder you are doing the right thing.

To move on further to achieve higher-level status you will need the support of your school, funding through a local education authority, and an assessment. You can get help and advice from the support staff enquiry line 0845 600 2944 (supportstaff@mailbox.

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