What is a BTEC and why is it seen as a popular alternative to A levels?

Max Whitlock BTEC

BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council. A BTEC is a qualification that’s based on practical study rather than academic study. Let’s bust one myth before we go any further – BTECs don’t have to be an alternative to A levels. In fact, you can do them alongside your GCSEs and/or A-levels, or you can do a standalone BTEC at college or university.

A BTEC is a vocational qualification, which means that it has a career focuse and is grounded in the world of work. BTEC students study to gain skills and knowledge in their subject area, then put those skills into practice in real-life scenarios.

BTECs have been around since the 1980s but there’s a chance you might still be confused about them, so let’s take a closer look at what they are!

What is the difference between BTECs and A levels?

Max Whitlock BTEC

With both BTECS and A levels, you will gain a certificate and qualification that will enable you to impress work employers or do further study at college or university.

A key difference is that a BTEC provides a way to learn through practical work as well as study, while an A level course structure typically involves more written work and exams.

BTECs are also different to A-levels in that you can get varying BTECs and some are equivalent to GCSEs, depending on the level you do.

BTEC levels breakdown:

  • BTEC levels 1-2 –  GCSE equivalent
  • BTEC level 3 – A level equivalent
  • BTEC levels 4-7  – Degree equivalent

Can you do BTECs and A levels at the same time?

BTECs are a flexible option, so you can choose to study a BTEC alongside academic qualifications like GCSEs or A levels. You can also study BTECs as a full-time or part-time course at college or university.

If you’re mixing and matching your qualifications, it’s worth knowing that a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma is the same as doing one A-level, a BTEC Diploma is like doing two A levels, and a BTEC Extended Diploma is like doing three A-levels. So don’t feel tied down… you can pick the levels and qualifications that are right for you.

More employers and Higher Education institutions are choosing BTEC-qualified candidates than ever before.

What is a BTEC course like?

As a BTEC student you will put your learning into practice straight away by taking part in assignments set in real-life situations, developing practical skills and knowledge that employers will love.

You will get a certificate and qualification on completing your course. And that qualification is precious, because it opens lots of doors in terms of your life choices. University? Getting a job? A BTEC holds the key to both of these. Live your life.

Did you know?

  • 90% of BTEC students are employed full-time after graduating (London Economics 2013)
  • Over 1 million learners choose BTECs every year
  • With a BTEC you can become a professional worker, entrepreneur or go to a top university

Max Whitlock BTEC

What BTEC courses can you do?

The range of BTEC courses available is pretty wide, so you don’t have to feel like a square peg in a round hole. If you’d like to take a practical route into science or engineering, you can do that. You can develop your artistic skills, or learn to become a business whizz – and so much more.

You will learn a huge amount, whatever course you do, so you can feel proud that you’re learning all these amazing skills and picking up knowledge in a practical way instead of a purely academic way.

You can do a BTEC in a range of subjects including:

The links in the list above will take you to a breakdown of careers in that business area and ways to get stuck in from school onwards. We always show you alternative routes (i.e. not just going to uni) for each career.

Where can you study a BTEC?

BTEC courses are available in schools, colleges and universities across the UK.

  • Visit ucasprogress. com to learn more about what BTEC courses you can study and where
  • Ask about BTEC courses at your local school or college
  • Visit quals.pearson.com/btec to find out more about Pearson BTEC qualifications

This information was brought to you with support from Pearson, the UK’s BTEC Awarding Organisation.


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