Business and Technology Education Council (BTECs) are industry-led qualifications, designed to help students learn more about a particular area of work. They are hands-on and many were created alongside industry professionals. They generally take one or two years to complete, depending on the level of qualification and whether students study full-time or part-time. 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.

Close up of a hand with painted nails writing in a notebook

BTECs are available at different levels. BTEC Firsts cover level 2 and are roughly equivalent to GCSEs. BTEC Nationals are available at level 3 and are roughly equivalent to A Levels. BTEC Firsts are divided into 3 categories: Certificates (worth 15 credits and equal to 1 good GCSE), Extended Certificates (worth 30 credits and equal to 2 good GCSEs) and Diplomas (worth 60 credits and equal to 4 good GCSEs). BTEC Nationals are divided into 4 categories: Certificates (worth 30 credits and equal to 1 AS level), Susidary Diplomas (worth 60 credits and equal to 1 A level), Diplomas (worth 120 credits and equal to 2 A levels) and Extended Diplomas (worth 180 credits and equal to 3 A levels). 

BTECs are assessed through coursework, case studies and evidence of the skills students have developed on the course. Students will either be awarded a pass, merit or distinction. BTECs are made up of a number of units, which have specified Guided Learning Hours depending on the size of the unit.

Traditionally, as they are hands-on, BTECs lead to the world of work. This is still true, and employers value BTEC qualifications. However, BTECs are increasingly accepted as a route to university, with 95% of UK universities accepting them including Oxford and Cambridge. Students with a particular career in mind, who are unsure whether they want to attend university, should look to BTECs as a good way to gain hands-on experience but also the qualifications and skills necessary for university.

Students applying for University with anything less than a National Diploma, may have to top-up their qualification with one or two A-levels, but this is nothing to worry about. For those looking to study a more vocational degree at university, such as nursing or midwifery, a BTEC qualification can even be a bonus, as it give work based experience. However, compared to A-levels, BTECs provide fewer choices; students can only apply for degrees relating to their BTEC experience.

BTECs are available at a higher level, such as Level 4 HNC and Level 5 HND. In gaining these qualifications, students can apply to study for either a second or final year at university and gain their qualification over a shorter period of time than a conventional Bachelor's degree.

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