What is a BTEC?

  • Emma Finamore
  • Last updated 09 Jan 2020

An explanation of BTEC courses and where school leavers could do them.


BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council. BTECs are specialist work-related qualifications, combining practical learning with subject and theory content.

Students can take BTECs alongside (or instead of) GCSEs and A levels in schools and FE colleges. They’re also usually studied full-time, either in FE college or jointly between a school and a FE college.

BTECs are divided into units, which cover specific areas of knowledge, skills, and understanding required by the particular sector or industry. 

BTEC Firsts are available from entry level to Level 2 (similar standard to GCSEs). These offer an introduction to work in a vocational sector. Combined with other qualifications, these can enable you to go on to further study, to an apprenticeship, or into employment.

BTEC Nationals are available from Level 3 (similar standard to A-levels). Many of these are well regarded by universities, further education colleges, and employers. A BTEC National qualification can lead to employment, continuing study, or professional development programmes.  

BTEC Apprenticeships are available at Levels 2 to 5 across more than 25 sectors.

BTEC courses involve a series of assignments, which can be written or activity-based, for example creating a film clip, planning and putting on a performance, or creating a business plan. Students complete some assignments individually and some as part of a team. For some BTEC courses, students can also apply their knowledge and skills through work experience.

In terms of applying for university after taking a BTEC, for arts and practical degrees, many believe BTECs can give students an edge over A-level applicants, as they will already have a sizeable body of work / substantial portfolio when applying. Passing a BTEC also proves you have time-management skills and can work alone as well as in a team, as these skills are all part of BTEC courses.


More articles like this

Recruiting school leavers? We can help