Teaching Diplomas: Does Teaching Experience Help?

As you can imagine, when potential candidates enquire about my online mentoring programme for teaching diplomas, they have a lot of questions on their mind.

One of the most frequently asked questions is do you need to be teaching already in order to work towards a teaching diploma. Inevitably, the answer is often ‘it depends’.

In this blog post, I want to explore what individual exam boards say about this. Some of it may surprise you.

London College of Music (LCM)

LCM offer three teaching diplomas: DipLCM(TD), ALCM(TD) and LLCM(TD). Firstly, it is worth stating that LCM set a minimum age on entry: 16 for the DipLCM(TD); 17 for the ALCM(TD); and 18 for the LLCM(TD).

According to the syllabus, for the DipLCM(TD), examiners expect to see ‘solid basic teaching skills’, and this expectation gradually increases for the ALCM(TD) and LLCM(TD).

It is important to note that all LCM teaching diplomas require candidates to teach a demonstration lesson. On this basis, I would suggest that the LCM diplomas are best-suited to those already teaching. Whilst LCM do not stipulate that candidates should already be teaching, I think it would be hard for anyone to teach a demonstration lesson without prior experience.


ABRSM offer three teaching diplomas: DipABRSM, LRSM and FRSM. ABRSM clearly state in their syllabus that:

‘The Instrumental/Vocal Teaching diplomas are designed for candidates who are intending to take up, or have already embarked upon, the teaching of an instrument or instruments.’

ABRSM make an interesting distinction in their syllabus saying that the focus is on the principles of teaching rather than your ability to apply them. In practice, that’s possibly debatable. For the DipABRSM, the first level of ABRSM teaching diploma, the syllabus states:

‘DipABRSM candidates are not required to have taught and therefore examiners will not ask you about any personal teaching experiences, although you may volunteer information if you have taught.’

In that sense ABRSM are fairly clear that there is no expectation that DipABRSM candidates will have undertaken any teaching prior to entering for the diploma.

That said, I would suggest that some kind of teaching experience, perhaps in a support capacity or by observing other teachers is beneficial. Some of the topics listed for the written submission certainly favour those already teaching.

Trinity College, London

Trinity also offer three diplomas at ATCL, LTCL and FTCL levels. Unlike ABRSM, Trinity state that:

‘The primary focus of the diplomas at ATCL and LTCL levels is to provide evidence of the candidate’s ability to apply particular skills in a teaching context.’

The LTCL requires a demonstration lesson, and as with the DipLCM(TD) mentioned above, it would seem almost impossible to teach this effectively without any experience. For the ATCL, some form of teaching experience is required, as candidates are required to:

‘submit case studies based on two environments in which the candidate has worked as a teacher, typically in a support role. This could include deputising to cover a teacher’s absence, coaching a small ensemble, leading a sectional rehearsal or creative session, or working as part of a team.’

So, whilst some experience is necessary, it may not necessarily in a one-to-one context.

But, you haven’t answered the question…

There is no easy answer to this question. The vast majority of the teachers I mentor for teaching diplomas are already teaching. It is very unusual to come across someone preparing for a teaching diploma without any prior teaching experience.

In consideration of the boards’ requirements above, there is no clear answer. It is possible to enter for any of the first-level teaching diplomas without any teaching experience.

Ultimately, in my view, working towards a teaching diploma when you already have some teaching experience, can only enhance your submissions. In that sense, yes, I think teaching experience does help.

What if I have no teaching experience?

Firstly, don’t panic.

As I say, all the first-level teaching diplomas can be attempted without any teaching experience, though some boards are more explicit in saying this than others.

It’s worth remembering that a teaching diploma won’t teach you how to teach though.

If you don’t have any experience of teaching, think about seeing if there might be opportunities to observe other teachers. Could you find a teacher who would act as a mentor to get you started? Do you know any teachers who you could help?

I also think ABRSM’s FutureLearn course, Becoming a Better Music Teacher is a great place to start, plus, it’s free!

If you’re not sure where to start, or perhaps whether you’re ready to start working towards a teaching diploma, drop me a message.

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