• FE Vocational Qualifications

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Vocational Qualifications

What sort of opportunities are available?

In addition to apprenticeships and diplomas, there are a number of qualifications taught in the Further Education colleges around the country. At first they can appear quite confusing with the acronym names, such as BTEC and NVQ (National Vocational Qualification).


Levels

All levels of education in the country are split into levels, which enables employers to understand which qualifications are equivalent. A table showing these levels can be found here.


How do they work?

BTECs, NVQs (at level 3) and other vocational qualifications are taught as equivalents to A-Levels. They are not to be seen as an inferior alternative to A-Levels because of their vocational nature; far from it. BTECs, NVQs, et al can actually be beneficial as they cover a wider range of subjects - offering different skills and incorporating more practical experiences that make students more employable. These qualifications are especially suitable for those who know the area they would like to work in, but aren't suited, for whatever reason, to taking the traditional A-Levels and then university route. For example, someone interested in health care or child care can study these as an NVQ, giving them practical experience alongside classroom study. This would obviously give them an edge over a student who has studied A-Levels and may have no experience of actual health care or the guidelines involved.


What subjects can I study?

Although the specific opportunities on the different types of qualification will vary, here I have simply taken the BTEC courses to demonstrate the range of opportunities available.


BTEC Firsts (a Level 2 qualification) are available in:

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Care
  • Applied Science
  • Art and Design
  • Business
  • Children's Care, Learning and Development
  • Construction
  • Countryside and Environment
  • Engineering
  • Fish Husbandry
  • Floristry
  • Front Line Services
  • Health and Social Care
  • Horse Care
  • Horticulture
  • Hospitality
  • ICT Practitioners
  • Land-based Technology
  • Logistics
  • Media
  • Music
  • Performing Arts
  • Public Services
  • Retail
  • Sport
  • Travel and Tourism
  • Vehicle Technology

BTEC Nationals (a Level 3 qualification) can be studied in:

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Management
  • Applied Law
  • Applied Science
  • Art and Design
  • Aviation Operations
  • Beauty Therapy Sciences
  • Blacksmithing and Metalworking
  • Business
  • Central and Local Government
  • Children's Care, Learning and Development
  • Communications Technology
  • Constr., Building Serv Eng and Civil Eng
  • Countryside Management
  • Dental Technology
  • Electrical / Electronic Engineering
  • Engineering
  • Fish Management
  • Floristry
  • Forestry and Arboriculture
  • Hairdressing
  • Health and Social Care
  • Horse Management
  • Horticulture
  • Hospitality
  • IT Practitioners
  • Land-based Technology
  • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Media
  • Music and Music Technology
  • Operations and Maintenance Engineering
  • Performing Arts
  • Personal and Business Finance
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Polymer Processing and Materials Technology
  • Production Arts
  • Retail
  • Sport
  • Sport and Exercise Sciences
  • Travel and Tourism
  • Uniformed Public Services
  • Vehicle Technology


Where can they lead?

These courses open opportunities for students to move onto higher professional qualifications. While studying at university would earn you a degree, they tend to focus on the knowledge side of the subject: vocational qualifications can lead onto HNCs or HNDs (Higher National Certificates/Diplomas). HNCs and HNDs give you the practical skills and expert knowledge in a certain area that can give you an advantage over graduates with no practical experience.


What To Remember

So, it's important to remember that these qualifications are not inferior to A-levels, they simply represent a different route of study. These may not be suitable for everyone, but what is? For those students eager to get out into the real world, and make a living for themselves, these qualifications offer the experience and teaching that allow them to begin that journey.


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