If you’re considering a career as a teaching assistant then it can be confusing trying to understand what the different levels of qualifications actually get you, and how exactly they’re different. Our guide is going to help you get to grips with what you’ll need to know about each qualification, and which course will suit you best!
Do teaching assistants need qualifications in the UK?
To get started as a teaching assistant you will probably need an A*-C GCSE in English and maths or an equivalent qualification but this can vary depending on the positions you apply for and it’s best to check beforehand.
As a teaching assistant it’s important that you get some kind of teaching assistant qualification so that you can perform to a high standard. It’s good to have these qualifications before you start work but they’re usually flexible and can fit around your work, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your qualifications while you’re already in the job.
While having a qualification is going to improve your chances of getting that teaching assistant job, you’ll still be able to work without one but getting your qualifications means you’ll be qualified for higher level positions with better pay and more responsibility, as well as knowing everything you’ll need to know about the job!
What is a teaching assistant qualification?
The way these qualifications work is simple: you’ll study a range of modules as you work towards your qualification, but what you’ll learn and how long you’ll study will change depending on which type of qualification you choose. Let’s summarise each of the qualification types down below:
An Award, which usually entails up to 13 credits and 130 hours of learning, requires the least amount of time so you can achieve it faster than other qualifications.
A Certificate is in-between the Award and Diploma and could require anywhere from 13-37 learning credits and 130-370 hours depending on the course you enrol on.
A Diploma provides the most comprehensive learning but takes the longest amount of time, with courses requiring 370 hours or more to complete, with 37 credits in total.
Depending on the level of the qualification you’ll be learning more and be introduced to more difficult concepts. A Level 3 course is going to provide you with a higher level of knowledge than a Level 2 teaching assistant course, but having your Level 2 will help you when it comes to understanding the content of a higher level course.
The best part about most teaching assistant qualifications is that you can study at whichever level suits you.
Level 1 teaching assistant qualifications
A Level 1 teaching assistant qualification is mainly geared towards preparing you for further study and work. You’ll receive an introduction to the concepts that you’ll be learning as you move onto further qualifications or the things you’ll be dealing with on the job.
Studying a Level 1 qualification will ensure that you’re ready to start work as a TA and move onto further study if you’re not yet sure that it’s for you and don’t want to commit to a higher level course.
Level 2 teaching assistant qualifications
Getting your Level 2 teaching assistant qualification is equivalent to a GCSE, and will give you a thorough understanding of the position. Depending on the type of qualification, you could be getting some work experience.
A Level 2 Award won’t require you to be in employment but you’ll still be taught everything you need to start your new career, while a Level 2 Certificate or Level 2 Diploma will require you to have a work placement as a part of your study, so you’ll also get some work experience alongside your studies.
The Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools and Colleges allows you to study from home at a pace that suits you, and won’t require you to find a work placement.
Level 3 teaching assistant qualifications
Level 3 teaching assistant qualifications are intended for teaching assistants looking to advance their career and progress in the position. A Level 3 qualification is equivalent to an A Level, so you’ll need to have a higher level of knowledge than you would going into a Level 2 qualification.
You won’t need to have completed a Level 2 teaching assistant qualification to take the Level 3 course but it might give you an advantage as you progress through the material.
Getting your Level 3 teaching assistant qualification can be a good starting point if you’re looking to progress into a position as a more specialised teaching assistant such as a SEN role, where you’ll be helping children with special educational needs.
Much like the Level 2 courses you won’t need to have a work placement as part of your Level 3 qualification if you’re studying for the Level 3 Award but you’ll need to be in work for a Level 3 Diploma or Level 3 Certificate.
Level 4 teaching assistant qualifications (HLTA)
Getting your Level 4 qualification means you’ll be studying to become a higher level teaching assistant. HLTAs take on more responsibilities than regular teaching assistants but to study for a Level 4 qualification you’ll need to be working as a teaching assistant already and be sponsored by your employer.
If you’re considering making the move to HLTA (or want to eventually) then it’s going to be helpful if you already have some experience from a lower level qualification.
What teaching assistant qualifications are recognised?
For your teaching assistant qualification to be accepted by the schools you’re applying for you should make sure that the course is fully accredited.
Don’t understand what exactly accreditation means? An accredited qualification is approved by a professional body and adheres to whatever standards they set, which means that you will be receiving an actual, certified qualification that most workplaces will recognise.
If you don’t need the qualification, CPD courses can provide you with all of the same knowledge as an accredited course, but you won’t gain a fully accredited qualification at the end of your course.
Check what type of qualification you’ll need before you commit and which would be most useful to you and your position, but an accredited teaching assistant course will generally be your best option for career progression and actually evidencing your skills on your CV.
Which teaching assistant course is best?
The best course for you is going to depend on what you’re hoping to achieve and your current position. Below we’ve put together a short list of what you might want to get out of a qualification and which ones would be best for you that will be helpful if you’re still making a decision.
You don’t know if you want to commit to becoming a teaching assistant and want a better understanding of the role:
You want to become a teaching assistant but want to get your qualifications alongside your work:
You’re currently working as a teaching assistant but don’t have much experience:
You’re an experienced teaching assistant and want to progress in your career:
Level 3 Teaching Assistant course
Level 4 Certificate Higher Level Teaching Assistants (RQF)
Level 4 Higher Level Teaching Assistant Course (HLTA Course)
Level 4 Certificate for the Advanced Practitioner in Schools and Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding of what you’ll get from each type of teaching assistant course and which is the best fit for you, why not check out our fully online teaching assistant courses or look at improving your CV with a supporting qualification? If you need any more help in starting (or continuing) your journey as a teaching assistant be sure to take a look at our teaching assistant career advice.