Business and Technology Education Council (BTECs) are industry-led qualifications designed to help you learn more about a particular area of work. They are hands-on, with many being created with advice from real-life industry professionals. They will generally take one or two years to complete, depending on whether you study full-time or part-time and the level of qualification you choose to undertake. 

BTECs cover a range of career choices including health and social care; creative and performing arts; hospitality; leisure and sport; motor vehicles and engineering; retail; information technology; and business studies. 

BTECs are available at different levels and therefore entry requirements differ. If you are studying at the equivalent level to A-levels you'll be looking at Level 3, and to study for them you'll need at least five GCSEs at grade C or above or have completed a Level 2 BTEC. The Level 3 qualifications available are:

  • BTEC National Award (or BTEC Subsidiary Diploma - 6 units) - equivalent to 1 A Level
  • BTEC National Certificate (or BTEC Diploma - 12 units) - equivalent to 2 A Levels
  • BTEC National Diploma (or BTEC Extended Diploma - 18 units) - equivalent to 3 A Levels

BTECs are assessed through coursework, case studies and evidence on the skills you have developed on the course and you’ll be awarded with a pass, merit or distinction. They are made up of a number of units of different sizes which have specified Guided Learning Hours depending on the size of the unit, and you'll be given a grade for each unit which can be converted into the PMD format once you've completed the course. 

Traditionally, as they are hands-on, they led to the world of work. This is still true, and employers value BTEC qualifications - you may find that many of your employers have BTECs themselves. However, BTECs are increasingly accepted as a route to university, with 95% of UK universities accepting them including Oxford and Cambridge. If you've a career in mind and are unsure whether you want to attend university, BTECs may be a good option - you've the hands-on experience of the course which will stand you in good stead when looking for a job, but you've also the qualifications and skills to apply for university. 

In applying for university, you'll be asked for specific grades, e.g. DDM. If you are not taking the Extended Diploma you may have to top-up your qualification with one or two A-levels - increasing numbers of students are applying to university with a mix of A-levels and BTEC qualifications, so do not worry about this. For grade comparisons between A-levels and other qualifications, please see our UCAS Tariff Tables

If you are looking to study a more vocational degree at university, a BTEC qualification may even be a bonus - for example, if you are looking to apply for nursing or midwifery work placements and experience in a health and social care setting will lead to a stronger application.

However, one thing to remember is that, compared to A-levels, BTECs narrow your later choices, so the degrees you can apply for have to relate to your previous BTEC experience. For example, a BTEC in health and social care can only lead you to degrees including physiotherapy, paramedic science, nursing, occupational health, social work and midwifery. 

You can also study for a BTEC at a higher level, such as Level 4 HNC and Level 5 HND. (See Higher Education for more information). In gaining these qualifications, which offer you more in-depth knowledge of a subject, you can apply to study at either second or final year at university and gain your qualification over a shorter period of time to a conventional Bachelor's degree.