Student Advice


Ben Maples  · Feb 21st 2022

The BTEC qualification combines practical learning with theory work and study.


A BTEC is perfect if you enjoy a more hands-on approach to study and know what sector of work you want to get into and is similar to a DipHE or a Certificate of Higher Education.

Pearson BTEC

What is a BTEC?

BTEC stands for Business and Technology Education Council and a BTEC specifically, is a specialist work-related qualification. The BTEC diploma combines practical with theoretical learning. A BTEC usually covers 15 sectors and will have over 2,000 different qualifications.

The sectors covered by BTECs are:

  • Applied sciences
  • Art and Design
  • Business
  • Childcare
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Media
  • Health and Social Care
  • Hospitality
  • ICT
  • Land-based
  • Performing Arts
  • Public services
  • Sport
  • Travel and Tourism

BTEC qualifications are designed for young people who are interested in a certain industry or sector or job, but aren’t sure what the specific job they want is. BTEC results day usually falls into the month of August, although the date changes every year.

The different types of BTEC

There are three types of BTEC available to students, which are:

  • BTEC Firsts: These are available at entry level through to BTEC Level 2 and provide an introduction to work. They are equivalent to GCSE level and alongside other qualifications can lead to further study, work or an apprenticeship.
  • BTEC Nationals: Available from BTEC Level 3, this BTEC Extended Diploma level is compared to A-Levels and is a well-recognised achievement by universities, colleges and employers. The BTEC National qualification is ideal for those wanting to go straight into work or higher education once completed.
  • BTEC Apprenticeships: With over 25 sectors at this standard, a BTEC Apprenticeship covers Level 2-5. This more specialist level is often available at higher education facilities.

There are more than 2,000 BTEC courses available, but some of the most popular BTEC national diplomas are in those subject areas that are expected to have high demand in the labour market over the next decade. These include BTECs in computing, construction, health and social care, and engineering.

BTEC Sport

How do I know if a BTEC is right for me?

BTEC courses have a practical focus and suit people who enjoy hands-on learning. You may also find that BTEC levels are a good option for you if you tend to do better in coursework than when taking exams. In short, if you enjoy learning by doing rather than studying academic subjects, a BTEC can be a good fit.

Can I study a BTEC online?

Some educational institutions (but not all) offer BTECs as part of their distance learning course options. Training is usually delivered using an online platform, which you can also use to upload your coursework and to hold one-to-one sessions with your tutors.

BTEC courses have a practical focus and suit people who enjoy hands-on learning.

What are the employment prospects like?

Due to their practical focus, BTECs are a recognised route into the job market. Many UK employers understand the value of vocational qualifications like a BTEC meaning your chances of finding employment are usually good once you have a Level 3 qualification.

When will I study a BTEC?

You can study for a BTEC at any point in your life, and there are several different ways that you can study for a BTEC Diploma. They can be studied alongside education, as part of an apprenticeship or you can study them as a standalone course. You are most likely to study these at a school or college and are perfect for those wanting to gain a more hands-on approach.

If you are aged 14-16 and want to gain a BTEC alongside your GCSE studies, you can study for the entry-level BTEC First in one or two subjects.

Between the ages of 16 and 19, you can study for either a BTEC First or a BTEC Extended Diploma (BTEC Level 3) at a college or further education centre alongside your GCSEs, A Levels or other academic qualifications.

If you are over 19, you can still study for a BTEC, either BTEC Nationals (BTEC Level 3) or a higher award at a college or university. Achieving a BTEC is a good way to gain specialist professional based learning.

Once you have started studying for a BTEC, it is worth asking your BTEC personal tutor for your BTEC registration number. It is essential that you make a note of your BTEC registration number, particularly if you are planning on applying for further study, as this will be required on any application forms.

How long does a BTEC take to study?

Depending on your circumstances, a BTEC will typically take one or two years to study. You can choose to study for a BTEC either on a full or part-time basis, this allows for flexibility within your current situation.

If you have chosen to study full time you will usually complete the BTEC in a single year; however, if you are studying for a BTEC on a part-time basis due to work commitments or another study, you can complete the BTEC in two years. A BTEC Extended Diploma can take up to three years to complete, you can leave after one, but you will not receive the full qualification.

How should I choose what to study for my BTEC?

Unlike GCSEs and A Levels, where you will choose several subjects, you will study one BTEC and with thousands of different subjects open to you and it can feel daunting when choosing which course is the right one for you.

The first step to take, is to decide what sector you wish to work within, from BTEC Sport to BTEC Biochemistry there are several different sectors to choose from.

A BTEC can also mean that you could potentially look into the possibilities of a:

If you are struggling to decide on a general sector or on a specific job it is always worth seeking advice.

Although you may feel you want to make the decision yourself, a school career adviser or a personal tutor can look at your current grades and school progression and offer you advice about how your stronger subjects can be transferred into a particular sector – check out our student subject guides, it will provide you with a great basis and what each subject covers. It is also worth talking to your family and your friends; after all, they know you the best!

Most of all, think about what you enjoy learning and what interests you the most, you might end up doing this as a career, so you want to choose something that you are both good at and enjoy! You should also consider what you plan on doing once completing your subject if you know you want to go to university; it is worth checking what subjects your university choice might require you to have in order to get accepted onto the course. Once you have decided what sector bests suit you, you can then look for a specific BTEC.

If you are struggling to decide on a general sector or on a specific job it is always worth seeking advice.

How is a BTEC assessed and graded?

When studying for a BTEC, the course is divided into several sections. There are core units that everyone on the same BTEC will study, these core units will provide you with the basic and essential knowledge on your chosen subject.

You will then be asked to decide on several optional units. Think carefully when choosing these units, as well as being the things that interest you the most, or that you are the best at. They will also shape your study into a more focused area and will lead to the type of job, apprenticeship or further study that you will be able to apply for on completion.

Throughout the course, you will be assessed on a number of assignments. These assignments will be specific to your course of study and may be practical or written, some may be completed individually and others as part of a team. You may also have to complete some work experience as part of the qualification, although this isn’t always the case. You can check how your specific BTEC will be assessed by checking the specification page when applying.

On completion of your BTEC, you will receive a Pass (P), Merit (M), Distinction (D) or Distinction* (D*) grade. On this grading scale, Distinction* is the highest award and Pass is the lowest.

The Distinction* was only added in 2010 to award those with outstanding work, so don’t worry if your parents or older friends haven’t heard of the D* grading! If your work did not meet the criteria for a pass, you will receive an unclassified grade (U). These grades can still affect your UCAS Tariff Points as well.

BTEC Business Level 3

How do I calculate my BTEC results?

You can use an online BTEC grade calculator to work out your potential BTEC grades for your current BTEC Level 1/2 or BTEC Level 3. Each module will be awarded credits, and you will receive a number of points for each module. Depending on whether you achieve a pass, merit, distinction or distinction* you will receive a different number of UCAS points BTEC.

The awarded points are then added up to give a BTEC score. Compare these points to a marking grid, and you can work out your overall score. This is also used when calculating your BTEC UCAS points.

What is a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma?

A BTEC Subsidiary Diploma (BTEC SD) is a slightly lesser version of a normal BTEC. The BTEC Subsidiary Diploma counts for one A Level, whereas a normal BTEC counts for two and a BTEC Extended Diploma counts for three A Levels.

What can I do once I have achieved my BTEC?

On receiving your BTEC qualification and depending on what level, you have several options open to you as to what to do next. If you have just completed a BTEC First, it is a good idea to continue on to study for a BTEC Level 3 (BTEC Nationals), or to enrol in further study, either of these two steps will lead to an apprenticeship.

If you have completed your BTEC Level 3 (otherwise known as the BTEC Level 3 extended diploma) or Apprenticeships, you can choose to go straight into employment, you will have a good basis for applying for specific jobs, and you will have gained skills and experience that could benefit you in job applications, that will look great on your CV – gain help and advice with writing a student CV.

You can progress to a higher level of BTEC or BTEC courses, or you can apply to further education such as a university. Also, you have the opportunity to take on an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship will allow you to gain new qualifications while working on the job and can lead to a career.

What if I want to go to university?

Although BTECs are considered a vocational qualification, an increasing number of universities list BTECs as one of the accepted entry requirements. In fact, some reports show that approximately 10% of university students have a BTEC, as this qualification is becoming increasingly considered on par with A-Levels, whether that be students looking at BTEC Health and Social Care, BTEC Engineering or even BTEC Business.

For example, having a BTEC Applied Science Level 3 can get you into biomedical, clinical science, physics, or pharmaceutical science degrees. Whether your BTEC is accepted or not varies from institution to institution, so you will want to check with the university of your choice first.

Alternatively, you may want to continue on the BTEC route. BTEC Higher Nationals are a Level 4 / Level 5 qualification, which is equivalent to completing the first and second year of an undergraduate degree.

How do I apply to university with a BTEC?

As long as you have completed a BTEC Level 3 (also known as a BTEC Extended Diploma), you can apply to university through UCAS. You also need to make sure that if you have a Level 3, that these still add up to the points required for the course, so make sure you check your BTEC Level 3 UCAS Points prior to applying.

The application process is divided into several steps, which you are explained in detail here. You will also need to have your BTEC registration number handy, this can find this number on your BTEC certificate.

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