There are so many different types, but do you know what they are and what they can offer?


What are GCSE's?

GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. GCSE examinations are taken by most pupils at the end of their compulsory education (Year 11) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

GCSE’s are awarded to all candidates in all subjects graded from A* to G (U grade can be given to a paper, which is ungraded). There are currently in excess of 50 different GCSE subjects, and also 14 Vocational GCSE’s which are now being introduced to replace Part 1 GNVQs.

What can I do after my GCSE’s?

Once you have completed your GCSE’s they can lead to a number of different options, for example:

  • Employment
  • Further study such as A-levels, Diploma's or BTEC's
  • Apprenticeships

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Your options

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AS-levels / A-levels

What are AS-levels / A-levels

AS and A-levels are a traditional qualification that is offered by schools and colleges for 16-19 year olds. A-levels are highly valued by universities and employers as they focus on academic subjects; however there are a few work related A-levels.

The minimum entry requirement for studying your A-levels in a sixth form is normally five GCSE’s at grade C and higher. However if you wish to study your A-levels in a college, the entry requirements are generally much lower.

In Year 12, you will be likely to take four AS-levels, after your AS-level exams you can drop one subject, and continue the other three through Year 13 to complete you’re A-levels.

If you are looking to attend university then A-levels are deemed as a gateway to most university and college courses. It is important to know that the subjects you chose for your AS and A-levels will have to be in sync with the university degree you want to take. When looking at University degrees they will show you want A-levels and grades they would require for you to be accepted.

However you can still do A-levels and not go to University, so options could be an apprenticeship, or go straight into employment. However having a good set of A-levels under your belt will demonstrate to employers you have the ability to work hard and organize yourself.


What is a diploma?

A diploma is a new qualification in England that is designed to provide young people between the ages of 14-19 with the required skills and knowledge needed to get a job. Diplomas can only be undertaken in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are yet to adopt the system.

There are around 14 Diplomas in England that you can choose from:

  • Business, Administration and Finance
  • Construction and the Built Environment
  • Creative and Media
  • Engineering
  • Environment and Land Based Studies
  • Hair and Beauty
  • Hospitality and Catering
  • Information Technology
  • Manufacturing and Product Design
  • Public Services
  • Retail
  • Sport and Leisure
  • Travel and Tourism

All diplomas will require you to achieve a minimum standard in England, Math’s and ICT, and also to complete an extended project and undertake a minimum of 10days work experience. A diploma can run parallel to the traditional GCSE and A-level routes, giving you the option to study a boarder range of subjects. Each diploma will generally be taken as a two-year full time course.

How is a diploma structured?

Diplomas are available to you in three different levels

  • Level 1 – Foundation Diploma – comparable to four or five GCSE’s at grade D to G
  • Level 2 – Higher Diploma – comparable to five or six GCSE’s at grade A* to C
  • Level 3 – Advanced Diploma – comparable to three A-levels

You can progress from Level 1 to Level 2, and Level 2 to Level 3. However Level 3 diplomas are designed to be a standalone programme and do not actually require to you have already studied Level 1 or Level 2.


What is a BTEC?

A BTEC qualification is a vocational and work related courses, it is designed to accommodate the needs of employers and allow students to progress to further and higher education.

BTEC actually stands for Business and Technology Education Council, and they are now awarded by the Edexcel exam board in more than 100 countries.

A BTEC will generally take one or two years to complete.

What subjects can I take a BTEC in?

There are currently around 15 BTEC subjects:

How are BTEC's structured?

BTEC’s are available at a number of different levels:

  • Entry
  • Introductory
  • Nationals
  • Foundation Diploma in Art and Design
  • Higher Nationals
  • Development and Professional Development qualifications
  • BTEC Short Courses
  • Work Skills

What can I do after a BTEC?

BTEC’s can lead directly to a job or profession relating to the course you took. They can also lead to further studies, after completion of a BTEC National (Level 3) it could lead to a route into higher education such as a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or a Higher National Diploma (HND).

Foundation Degrees

What is a Foundation Degree?

Universities in partnership with Higher Education and Further Education colleges offer foundation degrees. They are designed to give people the relevant knowledge and skills required for business. The huge benefit to a foundation degree is the flexibility they offer. A full-time foundation degree generally takes two years, and a part-time course may take longer.

Entry requirements for a Foundation Degree?

There is no real set entry requirement to undertake a foundation degree; universities and colleges often set their own entry requirements for each course. However formal qualifications may not be necessary as industrial experience can sometime be more relevant.

University - Bachelor Degree

What is a Bachelors Degree?

A bachelor’s degree is a higher education qualification that helps you develop a thorough understanding of a subject. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘first degree’ and it leads to a qualification such as a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of medicine (MB), or bachelor of science (BSc). Bachelor’s degree are designed to develop your intellectual, analytical and essay writing skills.

A bachelor’s degree usually takes three of four years of full-time study to complete; it is normally four years if you are undertaking a sandwich course, which includes a year working in industry. If you are looking at doing a medical course it is normal for it to take five to six years, or even longer in some cases. There are options for you do a bachelor’s degree part-time, or through a flexible learning scheme at your workplace.

What is a Bachelors Degree?

There is a vast amount of different bachelor’s degrees courses available for you to chosen from. Some bachelor’s degrees are designed to prepare you for a particular career, however some other degrees like English or history will equip you with skills for a wide range of jobs.

Entry requirements for a bachelor’s degree

In order to be able to undertake a bachelor’s degree you will be required to have some previous qualifications. These are typically in the form of A-levels or equivalent, most bachelor’s degrees ask for at least two A-levels at grade D or above. There is a tariff system is called ‘UCAS Tariff’ and is operated by The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Your previous qualifications will earn you points on the tariff, and as long as you meet the tariff points requirements of your chosen then you should be accepted onto your preferred bachelor degree course.

If you want to find out the entrance requirements for particular courses, you can search on the UCAS website, or alternatively read the course prospectus.

When can I start a bachelors degree

It is common for students to finish their A-level qualifications and enter straight into a bachelor’s degree, but as long as you have met the tariff points requirements of the bachelor’s degree then you can start at any point. Bachelor’s degree typically start in September or October. It is best to check the course prospectus for actual dates. You are able to study a bachelor’s degree at universities, higher education colleges or via distance learning.

What grade could I achieve?

There are six different grades that all bachelor’s degrees are graded to:

  • First
  • Upper second (2:1)
  • Lower second (2:2)
  • Third
  • Pass
  • Fail
What can I do after a bachelor’s degree?

After you have completed your bachelor’s degree you can move straight into a job or profession relating to your degree. Another option you have is taking a postgraduate course of higher education, such as a master’s degree or a diploma.