Whether you're interested in exploring if a particular profession is for you or are looking for an entry route to university, BTEC National diplomas are an excellent choice
What are BTEC diplomas?
Standing for the Business and Technology Education Council, BTECs are specialist vocational qualifications you can study at school or college. These flexible work-related courses bring together subject theory with practical learning.
Along with the new T-levels, BTEC National diplomas provide a viable alternative to A-levels, although you can also choose to study A-levels at the same time as completing this BTEC qualification. They're best suited to those with an interest in a specific industry but haven't yet settled on a particular role.
As they've been developed with input from employers, more than 2,000 courses are currently available across many industries, from science and engineering to business, IT and the media.
How long do BTECs last?
If taken as a standalone course, a BTEC will typically take one to two years to complete, depending on if you choose to study full or part time.
However, they can also be taken alongside other academic qualifications such as A-levels or as part of an apprenticeship.
What level is a BTEC?
There are three main types of BTEC:
- BTEC Firsts - up to Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE standard).
- BTEC National diplomas - from Level 3 (a similar standard to having studied three A-levels).
- BTEC Apprenticeships - from Levels 2 to 5 (higher apprenticeship standard).
While BTEC Nationals are also available at two other levels - award (equivalent to one A-level) and certificate (two A-levels) - a BTEC National Level 3 diploma would be ideal if you're thinking of going to university.
What subjects are they available in?
There are BTEC diplomas relevant to the following subjects/sectors:
- art and design
- health and social care
- performing arts
- public and protective services
- transport, travel and tourism.
Read more about some of the Level 3 subjects you can study in Pearson's BTEC Nationals sector guide.
How are they structured?
The qualification is comprised of different core units covering specialist topics required by the sector or industry. There are also optional units to pick from, providing students with the opportunity to deepen their understanding of a particular area of interest, ensuring that what they're learning about fits in with their future plans.
Students are assessed through a number of written and activity-based assignments. For instance, if the BTEC was related to the creative arts and design sector this could be in the form of an individual/group dance or acting performance.
Some BTECs may expect you to complete some form of work experience to demonstrate your technical proficiency in or knowledge of a certain area - for example, by coming up with a business plan for a company you've been placed with or showing that you've developed the key entry-level electrical engineering skills demanded by the sector.
What are the entry requirements?
While entry requirements can vary according to the BTEC course and the criteria set out by the school or college, you'll typically need up to five GCSE passes at grade 9 to 4.
What can BTEC students go on to do?
Once you've successfully completed your BTEC National diploma, you'll have a wider range of options open to you than prior to starting the qualification. For instance, you could look for a job now you have the right knowledge/skills, progress to degree-level study or undertake a professional development course. Alternatively, you may wish to think about doing a degree apprenticeship.
Find out more
- Explore your post-16 career options.
- Consider the job sectors you'd like to work in.
- Read our guide to higher education qualifications.