What are BTEC courses?
Safeera Sarjoo

What are BTEC courses?

BTEC courses are emerging as a valuable qualification. With over 1 million learners choosing these courses, we take a closer look at what makes a BTEC an attractive option.

First published date November 25 2013 Amended date October 05 2015

Looking for a qualification to kick start your career? Want to study a subject you’re passionate about without the stress of rigorous exams at the end of the course? If you learn best from gaining hands-on practice rather than being stuck in textbooks and want to improve your job prospects, then a BTEC course could be for you.

Have a look through some common FAQs, which will reveal all you need to know...


What is a BTEC?
A BTEC is a vocational qualification where students get specialist work-related skills in a particular subject. Unlike a more academic qualification such as A Levels, the course focuses on hands-on experience, with many programmes also offering students the chance to attain extra governing body certificates to help pursue a certain career.

Where do BTECs fit within the overall structure of UK qualifications?
BTECs can be taken alongside GCSE or A levels, or they can be taken as stand alone qualifications at these levels. They will give you the qualifications to progress on to the next stages of education, including UCAS points as an entry requirement into university. There are also additional BTEC qualification options, such as Higher Nationals, which are the equivalent to the first and second year of a university course. An additional year at university will then be needed in order to obtain a degree. This route is usually seen taken from returning learners or adult learners. BTECs are chosen by over 1 million learners every year, and  almost 1 in 4 students entering university does so with a BTEC. A report from The Social Market Foundation in 2016 found that 85% of 16-18 year old students in FE colleges take a vocational course and 31% of 16-18 year olds at school take a vocational course.


Who is a BTEC suitable for?
Many early BTEC programmes are offered to school students aged over 14 to study alongside their GCSEs or as part of an apprenticeship, to help them gain skills in a particular career and boost their employability chances. They’re not just aimed at youngsters though, with courses available to help those looking to change professions or gain an industry recognised qualification to kick-start their career. So, regardless of age, education level and employment experience, a BTEC could be for you.

What are some popular BTEC subjects with students?
This depends on the type of BTEC that you takle but some of the most popular subjects are:

BTEC Tech Awards: Art and Design, Business, Child's Play, Learning and Development, Creative Media, Digital/IT, Engineering, Health and Social Care, Music, Performing Arts, Sport

BTEC Level 2 Technicals: Adult Care, Business, Childcare, Construction, Design Production, Digital Media, Hospitality, IT, Laboratory Science, Sport

BTEC Level 3 Nationals: Applied Science, Art and Design, Business, Creative Media, Digital/IT, Engineering, Health and Social Care, Music, Performing Arts, Sport

BTEC Higher Nationals: Art & Design, Business, Construction and the Built Environment, Computing, Engineering, Health and Social Care, Hospitality Management, Media, Music, Performing Arts


How does the BTEC grading system work?
There are three main grade levels for a BTEC; a pass, a merit and a distinction, with the latter being the highest of the three. These are abbreviated to their first initial, so a results page is likely to show the letters P, M or D on them. If you didn’t achieve enough points for a grade, then a result is deemed unclassified (essentially a fail). With each of the three main grades, you have to achieve a certain number of points, with the targets varying depending on the course and level. The best achievable grade is a distinction*, which is the equivalent of an A* in a more academic qualification.

How will I be assessed?
Written examinations are nowhere near as common of a way to assess BTEC qualifications, with coursework-style assignments and practical assessments far more frequent. With fewer written tests reliant on memory like GCSEs or A Levels, those who typically struggle academically may find this much more straight forward.

What qualifications can students go on to do after achieving a BTEC?
This depends on the level of study a BTEC is studied, but students are able to progress as far as their talent and effort allows them, just like students who take GCSEs or A-levels. They can progress on to A levels, or additional BTEC qualifications at higher levels. Students can also progress on to university to study a degree. 95% of universities accept students with a BTEC. Alternatively, a BTEC, with its mix of academic and practical learning also provides the skills to go straight into employment.


How are BTECs regarded among higher education institutions?
Over 95% of universities accept BTEC students into their universities. We work collaboratively with universities and employers when designing our qualifications to make sure they meet their needs, as well as those of students. Last year, nearly 25% of the young people starting at university, did so having taken at least one BTEC.


If I study a subject at BTEC, does that limit me to what I can study after?
No, not at all. Just like if you were studying A Levels or anther NVQ, once qualified in one subject you can go on to study a different topic in the level above. So, if you did a level three catering and hospitality BTEC  before deciding you wanted to learn something new, you could switch to another subject at the next level up. The same applies if you’re looking to go to university, which over half of 20 to 30 year olds do after studying a BTEC, so don’t feel you’re permanently stuck with a particular subject.

What are some benefits of taking a BTEC?

BTEC is a widely recognised qualification with both employers and universities. Its unique mix of academic and technical learning equips students to either further study or a career.


But I’m still not sure on what I want to do...
Even if you’re still unsure as yet on the career for you, as a BTEC focuses on learning practical skills rather than taking lots of academic examinations, it means the experiences you’ll gain from it can be transferable to almost any other industry.


If you think a BTEC is right for you, start your search now on Hotcourses.
For more information on BTEC qualifications for parents and teachers, check out the Pearson website. 




Safeera Sarjoo

Safeera is Editor of Whatuni and a journalist from Kingston University. Always the inquisitive, her writing spans across a number of areas such as sustainability, fashion, lifestyle and now education. Her belief that you never stop learning and passionate nature has taken her to New York City as part of her degree and across the airwaves on national radio talking about the issues that matter to her.