See what vocational alternatives to A Levels you can try once you finish your GCSEs. There are lots of post 16 options to explore.
So you’ve finished your GCSEs or equivalent, or are about to – congratulations! That’s a huge achievement. You might be wondering what comes next. There are so many options available to you at 16 that it can be hard to know where to begin. And unlike at GCSE, nothing is compulsory at this stage.
That’s why we’ve broken down some of your options for you. Our goal is to take the mystery out of choosing your Post-16 path and empower you to make the right choice confidently.
Today we’re going to look at the vocational options that are available to you at this level.
What is a Vocational Qualification?
Vocation is another word for job or career. So a vocational qualification is one that is specifically related to a particular job role or career path.
Vocational qualifications tend to be very practical, providing hands-on experience and training that will equip you to join the working world in your chosen field. They also give you a theoretical grounding in the subject.
Who are Vocational Qualifications For?
Are you a practical person who enjoys learning by doing something rather than just by reading about it? Do you have a good idea of what job or career you might want to go into?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, you might be a great candidate for vocational A Levels or equivalent qualifications. Vocational learning is great for anyone who likes to be hands-on and apply what they’ve learned at every stage of the process.
Are Vocational Qualifications Easier than Academic Ones?
No, not necessarily. Different things are easy for different people – some of us thrive in an academic environment, and others are much better at practical things. Only you know which one is true for you.
Don’t take a vocational subject because you think it will be an easy option, though. It’s still a commitment that can take two years or longer to complete. You’ll need to study, work hard, complete coursework, and hone your skills.
What Are Some of the Main Types of Vocational Qualifications at This Level?
There are several types of vocational qualifications you can take at the Post-16 stage. Here are a few you’ll want to consider if you’re considering the vocational path:
- Vocational A Levels: A Levels are available in a number of vocational subjects, including Art & Design, Business, ICT, Leisure & Recreation, Performing Arts, and many more.
- T Levels: T Levels are a new type of course that was introduced in 2020. They focus on technical and practical subjects and are the equivalent of 3 A Levels. T Levels offer a mixture of classroom-based learning and on-the-job experience, including a placement lasting at least 45 days. T Level subjects include Accounting, Animal Care & Management, Education & Childcare, and Healthcare Science, among others.
- BTEC Level 3: A BTEC level 3 is a vocational qualification equivalent to 3 A Levels. They are available in subjects such as Travel & Tourism, Engineering, and IT.
- In an apprenticeship, you work for an employer while going to school or college part time (usually one day per week.) You’ll earn a wage and gain on-the-job experience in a trade or profession, while getting a qualification at the same time. Sometimes, your employer will offer you a permanent job at the end of an apprenticeship. If not, you’ll be well positioned to find work in your chosen field.
- An NVQ is a National Vocational Qualification that you take through your workplace. You’ll need to either be employed or have access to a part-time job or placement while you’re at school or college. Assessment is in the form of a portfolio of work and a supervision of you doing the work.
In some cases, you can combine vocational qualifications with more traditional academic study. For example, you might choose to take a mix of academic and vocational A Levels. All schools and colleges offer slightly different options, so find out what’s available at yours.
What Can I Do After a Vocational Qualification?
Many young people think that taking a vocational course means they’re tied into working in that field or industry. But that’s not the case at all! All qualifications offer you valuable skills that are also relevant in other areas of work and life, so don’t panic if you don’t have your career path perfectly mapped out.
Here are a few of the possible paths that vocational A Levels or equivalent can lead to:
- Your qualification will equip you to enter the workforce in your chosen field or profession, particularly if you take a work-based qualification like an apprenticeship or NVQ. You can also go into a different line of work. Employers value vocational qualifications because they show that you are able to learn well on the job.
- A higher level qualification. For example, if you completed a BTEC Level 3, you might continue on to a Level 4 or higher qualification such as a Foundation Degree.
- That’s right – many vocational qualifications can help you get into university! Some qualifications, such as vocational A Levels, T Levels, and BTEC courses, are worth UCAS points. It’s simply not true that universities only care about academic qualifications. Check the requirements at the universities you’re interested in.
Where Can I Go for More Advice and Support?
It’s important to take the time to think through all your options before you make a decision. If you need some help and advice, your school or college might have a careers guidance specialist who can help you. Your parents, teachers, older siblings, and friends can also be great sources of support. Finally, don’t forget to check out our other articles to explore some of the options available to you.
Whatever you choose, we know you’ll be amazing!