Results day marks a moment of choice. Do you move on to A-levels or a vocational course? Do you choose an apprenticeship? Do you go to university? We take a look at the choices after results.
- Until you are 18 years old you must do one of the following:
- Stay in full-time education, at school or at a college
- Start an apprenticeship or traineeship
- Spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training.
If you choose to stay in full time education there are two pathways – the academic and the vocational or technical route.
The academic route
A-levels are usually studied full time over two years at school or at a college. There are many subjects to choose from at A-level including the arts and humanities subjects, languages, science, maths and technology. The combination of subjects that you choose is important as it will influence your choice of degree course at university.
If you know that you want to go to university but you are not sure yet what you want to study, then keeping your options open is a good idea. One way of doing this is by choosing facilitating subjects. These are subjects that are asked for frequently by universities and they include:
- Maths and further maths
- English literature
- Languages (modern and classical)
The academic route isn’t for everybody however and there are alternatives after your GCSEs. These include vocational or technical courses such as NVQs and BTEC qualifications as well as apprenticeships.
The vocational route
Vocational qualifications are directed toward a particular occupation, for example construction and the built environment or business. They contain units of study which enable you to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills required by the specific sector, and to gain general employability skills.
Whilst academic qualifications like A-levels are subject specific such as history or geography, they are not aimed towards any particular occupation in the way that vocational qualifications are.
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) involve doing practical, work-related tasks in the workplace or in settings similar to the workplace – like a carpentry or garage workshop within a college if you’re training to become a carpenter or a car mechanic.
Many employers allow you to study for an NVQ whilst working and NVQs are available in hundreds of different subjects – the most popular of which are: business and administration, hairdressing, supporting teaching (teaching assistant), team leading, childcare and education, and health & social care. Most NVQ courses are available at levels 1-5.
BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) qualifications are widely recognised work-related qualifications. BTECs offer a practical, flexible, real world way to learn about a subject and there are many different subjects you could choose to study ranging from applied science to public and uniformed services. BTECs are graded by using a pass (P), merit (M), distinction (D) and distinction* (D*) scale and also carry valuable UCAS tariff points for anyone thinking about going on to study at university.
BTECs can be taken at different levels so you could choose to study for a BTEC award, BTEC certificate, BTEC subsidiary diploma or a BTEC national diploma – whichever suits you best. Progression routes are good and later, you could choose to study for a higher national certificate (HNC) or diploma (HND) if you wanted to.
AT A GLANCE
NVQ or BTEC – what’s the difference?
NVQs are competency-based qualifications. This means that you’ll have to show your skills in a practical way like cooking, for example. BTECs are knowledge-based, where you will develop and evidence your understanding through project work.
Some BTECs are combined qualifications, which mean that they are both knowledge-based and competence-based.
The apprenticeship route
You can do an apprenticeship from the age of 16. Apprenticeships offer a way of learning the skills you need to do a specific job, and to potentially advance your career prospects while earning a wage.
Doing an apprenticeship is a good option for young people who don’t want to go into full time further education or to university but who would like to develop their career in a practical, hands-on environment, gaining skills by working alongside experienced professionals.
Entry requirements for apprenticeships
Employers are free to set their own entry requirements for their apprenticeships or none at all, but to get onto some apprenticeship programmes you may need up to five GCSEs at grade 9 – 4, including English and maths.
There are three different levels of apprenticeship: intermediate, advanced and higher. If you have just finished your GCSEs, the chances are that an intermediate or perhaps advanced apprenticeship is going to be the most suitable.
Finding and applying for an apprenticeship
The type of apprenticeships that are available tend to match the industry that exists in the region that that you are looking. For example, you will find the greatest number of engineering apprenticeships in the North West, West Midlands and South East regions whereas the majority of IT apprenticeships are in the South East and if you’re looking for an apprenticeship in arts, media or publishing then London is where you’re likely to find them.
How to apply for an apprenticeship
- Ask at school or visit your local FE College to check what apprenticeships they offer
- Search the government find an apprenticeship site for live apprenticeship opportunities.
- Search employers’ websites and apply directly – big companies tend to have a careers section where you might find these.
If you are picking up you’re A-level results this August, you have lots of options available to you. Your choices are not limited to university and if you do go to university you do not have to study for a bachelor’s degree. Here are some of the possibilities.
Full time university study
This may seem the most obvious choice after A-levels. It is certainly the option that you are likely to know the most about in terms of how to apply, what courses you can do and what qualification you will get at the end of your studies.
HE in FE
Many FE colleges offer higher education courses, including degrees. Other HE options include HNCs, HNDs and foundation degrees, all of which are offered by lots of FE colleges. It should be said that many universities also offer HNCs, HNDs and foundation degrees.
HNCs and HNDs explained
An HNC takes one year to complete and is considered equivalent to completing the first year of an undergraduate degree course.
An HND is considered to be roughly equivalent to the second year of a university degree and many people who complete a HND go on to complete a university degree, by-passing the first two years at university.
Apprenticeships – including degree apprenticeships
For too long there was a belief that apprenticeships were for learners who didn’t do very well at school or college. A quick search will show you how many apprenticeships are out there that ask that you have three A-levels at a grade C or above (much the same as many university degree courses)
Apprenticeships are available in most sectors and it is possible to begin many careers through an apprenticeship including careers in law, business, engineering and manufacturing. You can also gain a degree through some apprenticeships
Employment and school leaver programmes
Vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs can provide a route straight into employment as many occupations do not require a degree.
School leaver programmes are also offered by lots of large employers – they will take you on after your A-levels and some will put you though your degree and any professional qualifications that are associated with the job.