What are your options after GCSEs?

21 August 2018 | Careers Advice | Guest Author

Not sure which qualifications are available after taking your GCSEs? Our simple guide shows you what’s out there…

Work and job related courses:


BTECs are widely recognised, work-related qualifications suitable for a wide range of ages and abilities, which are designed to accommodate the employers’ requirements but which also give you the opportunity to go on to university. BTECs provide a practical, real-world, flexible approach to learning whilst still delivering subject theory. You can study all sorts of subjects at BTEC level but you can still fit your studies around doing other things if you need to.


A Technical Baccalaureate is a qualification which recognises the highest level of technical training. It will recognise the achievement of students taking advanced level (Level 3) programmes which include a Tech Level, Level 3 Maths and an extended project. TechBaccs will be taught from September this year and students who achieve the three component qualifications will be able to apply for technician roles and higher apprenticeships in many sectors of industry. They would also be able to enter professional training or go on to university.


National Vocational Qualifications are delivered in the workplace or settings which are similar to the workplace – like a workshop within a college, for example. NVQs are outcome –based with no fixed learning programme, which is great if you need to be flexible and study around your job. There are NVQs for a huge number of careers ranging from hairdressing or engineering to design or police work and assessment is usually evidence-based.


Subject related courses:


The majority of students complete their A-levels between the age of 16-18 in order to apply to university, although they are also useful when choosing to go straight into paid work or in order to train as an apprentice. A-levels are usually spaced out over two years and are made up of two units: AS and A2 Levels. A-levels can either be studied at secondary school within sixth form or at college if you choose to leave school. Students will usually pick four AS-levels to study during the first year and then drop one of the subjects the next year when they complete their A-levels. AS-levels can stand as a qualification on their own or can be carried on to A2 the next year to complete the full A-level qualification.


The International Baccalaureate Diploma programme is a post-16 alternative to A-levels and is being taught in more and more sixth forms around England now. It covers a broader range of subjects but it requires less in-depth study per subject than A-levels whilst IB students also study the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) which aims to give them a broader understanding of their subjects.  It is a qualification recognised by UCAS and allows you entry into university and higher education in the UK and abroad. Students of the IB are assessed through an oral presentation, a 1,200-1,600 word essay and an extended essay.

Apprenticeships and traineeships:


An apprenticeship gives you hands-on experience, a salary and the opportunity to train while you work. All of this with some high quality, prestigious companies across a wide variety of industries. With an apprenticeship you can earn a wage with at least 20% of your time set aside for learning, gain an official certification of your skills, equivalent to a qualification ranging from level 2 (GCSE equivalent) up to degree level.


A traineeship is a flexible education and training programme with work experience that are designed to help your people aged 16 to 24 who don't yet have the skills or experience needed to get an apprenticeship or a job. It could be suitable for you if you are aged 16 to 24, have no qualifications above GCSE or equivalent and are unemployed or work fewer than 16 hours per week. At is core is a high quality work experience placement with an employer.

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