This article aims to provide a handy overview of the qualification process to become a barrister in England and Wales. For more comprehensive information on the Bar Qualification Rules, please visit our website.

A career as a barrister can be very varied and rewarding. However, becoming a barrister remains highly competitive. There are many more people who want to become barristers than places available.

There are three components to training to become a barrister. These are:

1. The academic component: The academic study of the law in England and Wales is a very important part of the knowledge expected of all barristers. To complete the academic component of training, you need either a law degree which covers the seven foundations of legal knowledge or a non-law degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Your degree needs to be a minimum of a 2:2.

2. The vocational component: The vocational component covers a range of subjects to ensure that you acquire the specialist skills, knowledge of procedure and evidence, attitudes and competence to prepare you for becoming a barrister. To complete this component, you need to enrol on a Bar training course, for which you must be fluent in English, be a member of one of the four Inns of Court – the professional membership associations which provide collegiate and educational activities and support for barristers and students – and have passed the Bar Course Aptitude Test.

During the vocational component, students must also attend qualifying sessions with their Inn. These are professional development events of an educational and collegiate nature which are arranged by or on behalf of an Inn.

If you successfully complete the vocational component of training, you are called to the Bar by your Inn. However, you may not practise as a barrister until you have completed the pupillage component.

3. The pupillage component: In order to be authorised to practise as a barrister, you must first undergo a period of work-based, practical training under the supervision of an experienced barrister. This is known as pupillage, and those who are currently undergoing pupillage are called pupils.

Pupillage is divided into two parts: a non-practising period, usually of six months, and a practising period, also usually of six months. The rules stipulate that, as a pupil, you must receive a minimum award while you train during your pupillage, although most pupils earn more than the minimum amount. All pupillages are advertised on the Pupillage Gateway ( and recruitment must adhere to a mandatory timetable. 

New Bar Qualification Rules came into force in 2019 and, as a result, new vocational Bar training courses started for the first time in September 2020. This means, depending on where you are with your training, some of the transitional arrangements which we put in place when introducing the new Rules are still in place and some of the aspects of the new process have yet to be fully implemented (for example, the introduction from 2022 of a new Professional Ethics exam to be sat during pupillage by all those who complete one of the new Bar training courses which started in 2020).

The process for transferring to the Bar for qualified lawyers and other qualified legal professionals is outlined on the BSB website.

We introduced the new Rules to ensure that training to become a barrister became more accessible, affordable and flexible while maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar.

We hope you will find this Guide and the information on our website helpful and we wish you good luck with your training to become a barrister. 

Click here for information about Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) delivering the vocational (or integrated academic and vocational) component of Bar training, and the courses they deliver.