1 year ago

Your post-16 options in one place

What can you do once Level 2 BTECs or GCSEs are over? There are lots of choices if you want to stay in some form of education or training. Some will appeal to you, some might not, which is how it should be – we all learn differently. Here’s a summary of each one.

A Levels

Qualification level: 3

Assessment: exams/Coursework

What is it?

The A Level family is made up of AS Levels and A Levels. AS Levels are completed over one year, A Levels over two. They’re normally studied full-time at school or college.

It’s for you if…

A Levels are a popular way to get the qualifications required for university, although you can just take them on their own. They’re for you if you get on well with both classroom learning and independent study, and if you enjoy a more ‘academic’ style of learning.

A levels studying

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Qualification level: 3

Assessment: exams/coursework

What is it?

There are two kinds of IB programme, both studied full-time over two years.

The IB Diploma: you choose one subject from five different groups – two languages, social sciences, experimental sciences and maths – plus an arts subject (or one more subject from the first five groups).

The IB career-related certificate: similar, but you study between two and four academic modules and learn skills through a hands-on vocational qualification.

It’s for you if…

You want an academically challenging, wide-ranging education. The IB looks complicated at first but it’s really just about keeping your options open by studying a variety of subjects. It’s another popular way to get into uni, too.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs)

Qualification level: 1-7

Assessment: in the workplace

What is it?

NVQs are usually taken alongside work. They’re designed to show that you’re competent in the various skills needed to do a particular job and are assessed on the practical work you do.

It’s for you if…

You want a qualification that ties in with a job, that enhances your career prospects and that you can follow as you gain more skills – once you complete one level, you can progress to the next one.


Qualification level: 2-5

Assessment: written or activity-based assignments

What is it?

BTECs are work-focused qualifications that look at the areas of knowledge and skills you might need for a particular sector or industry. You can take them on their own, or alongside other qualifications like Apprenticeships and A Levels.

You can also choose BTEC Higher National Certificates or Diplomas – sometimes called HNCs or HNDs – which are the equivalent of the first and second years of a degree respectively. These can then be topped up to a full degree with additional study.

It’s for you if…

You know that you’re interested in a particular industry or sector, but you don’t have an exact job role in mind yet; or you’d like a course that gives you some of the academic theory while also preparing you for the workplace. BTECs are increasingly popular for getting into uni – one in four students takes the BTEC route.

BTEC Certificate


Qualification level: 2-7

Assessment: at the end of your training

What is it?

It’s helpful to think of an Apprenticeship as a job, rather than a study programme. You get hired by an employer for a particular role – like a hairdresser, veterinary nurse or accountant – and you study while you get paid to do the job. The various levels of Apprenticeship are equivalent to GCSEs, A Levels, and Foundation Degrees.

It’s for you if…

You know what you want to do for a living, you want to work, and you want to get nationally recognised qualifications while you’re at it. Apprentices learn by doing the job, so if you prefer a hands-on approach, it could be ideal.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

Degree Apprenticeships

Qualification level: 6/7

Assessment: on-the-job and written/exam

What is it?

Just what it sounds like: a full degree that you gain by the Apprenticeship route over three or four years, so you do a job, and also a university degree at the same time. That means you learn about work and get paid, and you don’t have to pay uni tuition fees.

It’s for you if…

You want a degree without the cost, or you simply want to get on with your career but still want degree-level training.

Apprenticeship Levels

Traditional Degrees

Qualification level: 6

Assessment: exam/coursework/performance

What is it?

Traditional degrees last three or four years (full time). They’re more theory-based and academically challenging – students learn to think critically, structure arguments and gain an in-depth understanding of their subject.

It’s for you if…

You get on well with academic learning and want to totally immerse yourself in a subject. The university experience is unique, offering students the chance to develop and grow both personally and professionally before entering the world of work.

Essential sites

Pearson – info on BTECs, Apprenticeships, Traineeships and more

Higher Nationals – all things HNC and HND

UCAS – for degrees, Degree Apprenticeships and anything uni-related

IBO – everything about the IB

Gov Apprenticeships-guide – government Apprenticeship website







Find Apprenticeships at careermap.co.uk

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