Build your teaching career

Education is one of the most important things for a country to develop and grow. From the first stages of learning at a young age through to adulthood, teachers are responsible for ensuring an educated population. Often considered a noble calling, by choosing a career in teaching you will be responsible for educating the country’s youth and ensuring a better future for the next generation. You can easily begin this journey with an online teaching degree.

In this article, we will go into detail about all you need to know about teacher accreditation. We’ll answer some common questions such as what degree do you need to be a teacher as well as the opportunities for further advancement after you’ve completed a Bachelor of Education degree such as Honours in education. We’ll also cover online teaching degrees to give you a feel of the online teaching bachelor degrees available as well as the types of universities and colleges that offer teaching programmes to help you decide on what is the best university for a teaching degree for you.

You can jump ahead by clicking on the index items above. Or carry on reading to find out more about building your teaching career and the different online teaching degrees available.

What degree you need to be a teacher

There are two routes that you can take to become a qualified teacher in South Africa. The first way in which you can obtain teacher accreditation is through a four-year Bachelor of Education degree (BEd). The other option is to study for a three- or four-year Bachelor’s degree, followed by a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

The four-year Bachelor of Education Degree (BEd) is ideal for students who know from the start that they want to become a teacher. A Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) is the best option for those who decide later on to switch careers and enter the field of teaching. The PGCE is also a good option for those who have not yet begun their career but have already gained a bachelor’s degree. This is also often a route taken by science and maths teachers, for example.

For some, it may be the case that they are unable to find work with their existing qualification. By adding a one-year certification to their existing qualification, they may find it far easier to find employment due to the dire shortage of qualified teachers in South Africa.

This is the minimum teacher accreditation that is needed to enter the field of teaching. If, however, you aspire of becoming a head of department or principal, then further postgraduate teaching qualifications would put you in good stead. This can be done part-time without a break from your career by doing a postgraduate online teaching degree.

Bachelor of Education

A Bachelor of Education, also known as a BEd, is a four-year full-time degree designed to train future educators and prepare them for the primary school or high school classroom. It covers both academic and later practical training for teachers. Someone who has completed a BEd degree will have a thorough knowledge of how to teach children and will have learnt various methods and approaches to optimise learning.

In South Africa, the Department of Education divides the schooling ages according to four phases. Most teachers usually teach learners in just one or possibly two phases. (Further down we’ll introduce a fifth overlapping phase of early childhood teacher development)

The phases are:

  • Foundation phase: Grades R – 3 (about 5 to 9 years old)
  • Intermediate phase: Grades 4 – 6 (about 10 to 12 years old)
  • Senior phase: Grades 7 – 9 (about 13 to 15 years old)
  • Further education and training (FET) phase: Grades 10 – 12 (about 16 to 18 years old):

As a result of the choice between all the phases, student teachers specialise in just one or two of the above phases when completing their BEd. The decision does not always have to be made right away but it is often the case that prospective teachers feel a personal leaning towards teaching a certain age group over another.

There is also a Bachelor of Science in Education Degree that is offered by some universities across the world. It is not a very common degree internationally, although it is more common in places like Malaysia and Singapore.

Honours in education

A Bachelor of Education Honours, or BEd (Hons), is a postgraduate degree that takes one year if studied full-time or two years if studying part-time. To qualify, students must have either a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). (Please note that although the PGCE is a one-year course, it can only be done after having first completed a degree)

The BEd (Hons) builds on the previous undergraduate level studies, while further developing classroom communication skills as well as independent academic research skills.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) Bachelor of Education Honours in Education Leadership and Management online teaching degree programme covers these skills and modules:

  • Education Resource Management
  • Organisational Behaviour in Education
  • Education Resource Management: Policy
  • Education Theory A: Perspectives of Leadership and Management
  • Education Theory B: Perspectives of Leadership and Management
  • Research Methodology and Design

Master’s in education

A Master of Education Degree is the next level up should you wish to take your teaching career even further than an Honour’s would take you. As well as opening up more senior roles and better-paid positions, a Masters in education is also for those who are interested in the more academic side of education. It is aimed at those who want to be involved in education at a higher level, doing things like setting up curriculums and policy more than merely teaching in the classroom.

Most Master’s students complete their degree in two to three years. As with most Masters level degrees, there are also options to complete the degree through coursework and a research report or just by doing a dissertation.

UJ offers two different online teaching degree programmes at the Masters level for education: Master of Education in Educational Management and Master of Education in Information & Communication Tech. These are two areas of specialisation that are both common and in-demand within the field of education. They can be completed in an online teaching degree course over two years.

The UJ online Master of Education in Educational Management programme has the following modules that must be completed in addition to a dissertation:

Masters online teaching degree modules

  • Academic Writing and Research Skill
  • Resource Management in Education Leadership and Management
  • Education Policy and Practice
  • Organisational Behaviour
  • Educational leadership
  • Qualitative Research in Education Leadership and Management
  • Future trends in education leadership
  • Quantitative research in Education Leadership and Management

Excluding the dissertation component, the modules for UJ’s online Master of Education in Information & Communication Tech are:

  • Educational Reform: ICT Practices and Policy Development (A and B)
  • Learning Ecosystem: Current ICT Issue and Future Trends (A and B)
  • Information and Communication Technology in Education: Learning Design (A and B)
  • Information and Communication Technology and Assessment (A and B)

As you can see from the above, a Master’s degree in the field of education does become more specialised than an Honours or Bachelors. Despite their respective specialisations in management and ICT, there is still some crossover between UJ’s two Masters level online teaching degrees. Both include modules related to policy, showing how a Masters degree includes a focus on the management of entire schools or even districts, with a more holistic overarching view of the education system.

Teacher accreditation

As we mentioned earlier in the article, there are two routes to qualify as a teacher in South Africa. There is the four-year Bachelor of Education degree (BEd) or a three- or four-year Bachelor’s degree, followed by a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).

However, completing a BEd of PGCE just provides the academic qualification. Under South African law, all teachers must register with the South African Council of Educators (SACE). This requirement extends to all teachers in the country, including those at private schools. The list is quite extensive and extends well beyond regular primary and high schools:

  • Public schools.
  • Recognised independent schools,
  • Further education and training Institutions
  • Adult learning centres
  • Waldorf and Montessori centres
  • Early childhood development (ECD) educators
  • Foreign educators

To find out more about registration with SACE you can have a look at the FAQ on the council’s website here.

What are the levels of teacher accreditation?

The Department of Education published revised minimum qualifications for teachers in 2015, setting out the various qualifications and levels of teacher accreditation that are recognised in South Africa.

Qualifications and programmes for initial teacher education:

  • Bachelor of Education Degree
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education

Qualifications and programmes for continuing professional development:

  • Advanced Certificate
  • Advanced Diploma
  • Postgraduate Diploma
  • Bachelor of Education Honours Degree
  • Master of Education Degree
  • Professional Master’s Degree in Education
  • Doctoral Degree in Education
  • Professional Doctoral Degree in Education

Qualifications and programmes for Grade R teachers:

  • Diploma in Grade R Teaching

South Africa’s education system is ranked by the National Qualification Framework (NQF), with NQF levels ranging from one up to eight for doctorate-level qualifications. You can view a good visual representation of the levels at this website for South African teachers.

The BEd is recognised and taught in most English-speaking countries across the world. There are some variations between different countries, with some requiring more practical training and others requiring more theoretical research. As such, a South African BEd does not guarantee automatic accreditation in another country, but it provides a well-recognised foundation. Depending on the country, additional work experience or some form of bridging course may be required.

A large number of South Africans have found work teaching English across the world. Many South Africans work in several Asian countries that have a high demand for first language English speaking teachers and do not have very high requirements. A far smaller number of better-qualified teachers have also been able to find higher-paying positions in the Middle East and Europe

There is not a lot of uniformity among all the world’s different countries within education. If you are interested in teaching overseas it would be best to look at that specific country’s requirements.

Teacher accreditation authority and standards

As mentioned, SACE is the body to which all working teachers in South Africa must belong. This is the group that ensures teachers are properly qualified. It also has more recently begun maintaining a directory of teachers who have committed serious offences at schools that deem them unable to work in other schools or provinces.

The NQF is in turn handled by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). SAQA is the body that ensures that all degrees, diplomas and other academic qualifications meet certain standards to achieve national recognition.

SACE also allows for a wide range of educator registrations, including for:

ECD practitioners

  • Certified copy of a complete ECD Higher certificate with 120 credits for Level 4 and 240 credits for level 5.

AET educators

  • Certified copy of a completed AET certificate with 120 credits for Level 4 and 240 credits for level 5.
  • Certified copy of an AET diploma and a certified copy of matric certificate.

FET educators

  • Certified copies of N3 plus Trade Test OR
  • Certified copies of N6 National Diploma and matric certificate.
  • Letter of recommendation from the Employer. (A contract of employment will not be accepted).

Montessori educators

  • Certified copy of a Montessori Diploma
  • Letter of recommendation from a prospective employer or current (at a school) stating the grades and learning areas.

Waldorf educators

  • A certified copy of Waldorf Qualifications.
  • Letter of recommendation from a prospective employer or current (at a school) stating the grades and learning areas.

Islamic educators

  • Certified copy of Islamic Qualifications.
  • Letter of recommendation from a prospective employer or current (at a school) stating the grades and learning areas.

Catholic educators

  • Certified copy of Diploma in Theology and academic records.
  • Certified copy of Matric/ grade 12.
  • Completed Certificate / Degree or Diploma in Theology & academic record

Early childhood teacher accreditation

Earlier on we described the four education phases that teachers could focus on. Those age groups begin at roughly five years of age, but there is an earlier phase. The early childhood development (ECD) phase covers birth to about age nine.

In South Africa, ECD education is handled differently from the other phases. It falls under the Department of Social Development, but it has been announced that it will be moved to the Department of Basic Education by April 2022.

The requirements for ECD teachers are a little less than for teachers of older learners. That said, while the academic requirements are lower, teachers of younger children still require specialised training to understand and better anticipate the needs of their learners.

The incredible importance of the first few years of a person’s life in their development is well documented. Arguably this makes the role even more important than that of teachers in later phases. Without a solid grounding in literacy and maths, learners will never be able to work their way up to tackling Shakespeare, calculus and chemistry.

To qualify as an ECD teacher in South Africa and to register with the SACE, you will need to have a two-year diploma. This is only the minimum entry requirement, however. If you want to become the head of a pre-primary school, you would do well to gain additional qualifications with a three-year course.

Characteristics of a professional teacher

So far we’ve covered the academic requirements for being a teacher in South Africa, but it takes more than academic skills to make a good teacher. As mentioned, the field of teaching is often referred to as a calling. This is because it is best suited to certain people who have the innate personality and characteristics of a professional teacher.

Of course, differences are depending on the age of the children being taught. For example, ECD teachers working with very young children will need far stronger non-verbal communication skills. A teacher of Matric students will need far stronger verbal communications skills.

That said, there are still common traits and characteristics for teachers of all ages. The traits shown here are more about innate personality and character. A little further down we will look at the skills, which can be learnt and are somewhat different to personality traits.

  • Passion for teaching and passing on knowledge
  • Caring relationships with students
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Well prepared and organised
  • Strong work ethic
  • Compassionate
  • Patient
  • Energetic
  • Flexible and adaptable

Although the above are linked to personality, this is not something that is set in stone. Someone who is by nature not very well organised, but who still has a deep passion for teaching, can work to overcome this and become better organised through conscious effort.

What are the skills of a teacher?

Above we spoke of the characteristics of a good teacher. But, what are the most important skills for a teacher? Managing a classroom comes with much responsibility and many challenges. For this reason, several different skills are needed by a good teacher. While there is some overlap with the characteristics above, these are skills that can be learnt and acquired through a combination of study and practical work experience.

  • Communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Expert knowledge of their subject matter
  • Classroom management skills
  • Observation skills
  • Student engagement skills
  • Teaching skills
  • Subject matter expertise
  • Time management skills

Once you’ve qualified to teach young learners, these skills will be very valuable to have at your disposal when in the classroom. It is in the classroom that your character, along with your training and your experience all come together.

Wrapping up – what next?

Now that we’ve covered the different phases for which teachers train as well as the qualifications, you should have a better idea of whether teaching is for you. You should now also have a better understanding of the different jobs available at the many levels within the education system.

If you are interested in studying education at a postgraduate level through an online teaching degree, then please have a look at the following Honours and Masters courses in education that UJ has to offer:

You can check out the course fees or click here to apply right away. If you meet all the requirements you can begin your online teaching degree within two months or less from any time of the year, thanks to the multiple starting dates available on UJ’s online courses.