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Studying

Whatever it is you want to do when you grow up, you’re going to need some kind of qualification to be able to do it. But, in order to become qualified in something, you need to be educated in it. There are loads of different types of qualifications that you can get and tonnes of different styles of education, you just need to find the one that’s right for you.

In the UK, qualifications are split into 8 levels, with level 8 qualifications being considered the most rigorous and difficult kind of course you can do.

The National Qualifications Framework 

Level Course or Equivalent 
Entry Skills for Life 
1GCSE grades D-G/1-3
NVQ Level 1 
2GCSE grades A*-C/4-9
Intermediate Apprenticeship
NVQ Level 2
3A Level
Advanced Apprenticeship
AS Level
International Baccalaureate Diploma NVQ Level 3
4Higher Apprenticeship
Certificate of Higher Education NVQ Level 4
5Foundation Degree Diploma of Higher Education NVQ Level 5
6Bachelor’s Degree
Graduate Diploma NVQ Level 6
7Masters or MBA
PGCENVQ Level 7
8PhD
Professional Doctorates 

NVQ

NVQ stands for National Vocational Qualification. These can be studied in schools, colleges or workplaces, and are aimed at preparing you to do practical work related tasks, and assessing your workplace competencies. There are 7 levels of NVQ, with the highest level being equivalent to a masters degree

How long does it take? 

There isn’t a set amount of time to complete and NVQ course, but most of the time it takes about 1 year 

What qualifications do I need to have to do an NVQ?

There are no age limits or entry requirements to do an NVQ

However, if you want to study a NVQ Level 3, for example, you might have to complete an NVQ Level 2 before you can start that course 

What can I do with an NVQ?  

NVQs are taken in specific subjects, such as hairdressing, social care, childcare and marketing for example, so having an NVQ is a great qualification to demonstrate that you’re ready to enter a certain sector 

If you’ve taken a lower level NVQ, such a s level 1 or 2, you may want to progress to a higher level within your chosen field 

How much do they cost? 

For many NVQ students, NVQ courses are funded by their college, so there is no charge to the student 

Where can I find out more?  

The website University Compare has a great page about NVQs, how to apply, and what the courses look like. 

GCSE

  • GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education
  • Most courses are a mixture of coursework pieces and examinations 
  • They are earned in specific school subjects, like English, History, Maths or Geography 
  • Quite often, most jobs will require that you have the minimum of a GCSE in English and Maths.
  • These are typically taken in schools at the end of year 11, but it is possible to take them when you’re older than that 
  • GCSE’s are graded from 1 to 9. 1 being the lowest grade you can get, 9 being the highest. 
  • How long do they take? 
  • 2-3 years
  • What qualifications do I need to have to do GCSEs?
  • There are no entry requirements to study for a GCSE
  • What can I do after GCSE? 
  • After completing your GCSEs you can apply to further education or technical training courses within your chosen field or industry.  
  • How much do they cost? 
  • All tuition costs are covered by the government, so you don’t have to pay anything to study. 
  • If you are taking a GCSE exam as a private candidate (in other words, if you’re not a student), you’ll need to pay for that exam
  • Costs vary, but it’s normally around £100 per exam
  • Where can I find out more? 
  • To find out more about GCSE courses, head to Career Pilot for loads of information.  

A Level

  • A Level stands for ‘Advanced Level qualification 
  • Like GCSE’s, A Levels are earned in specific school subjects
  • Most courses are a mixture of coursework pieces and examinations 
  • How long does it take? 
  • What qualifications do I need to have to do A Levels? 
  • At least 5 GCSE’s, grades 4-9
  • With a minimum grade 6 in the subjects you want to take at A Level 
  • What can I do after A Levels? 
  • If you’re interested in going to university, most courses require a combination of A Level grades in specific subjects. 
  • Even if you don’t think you want to go to university, having A Level qualifications are an important tool. 
  • How much do they cost? 
  • All tuition costs are covered by the government, so you don’t have to pay anything to study.

T Levels

  • Equivalent to 3 A Levels 
  • Mix of classroom learning along with hands-on experience of a particular industry or sector, with an industry placement of at least 315 hours
  • You can get a T-Level in a range of subjects, from human resources, catering, management and administration, to media and production, science and onsite construction
  • A T Level is different from an apprenticeship as you spend more time in the classroom while still getting some practical experience in industry. 
  • T Levels is better for those who know what job they want to go into, who want to earn a wage while they learn, and is ready to enter the workforce after GCSE
  • If you’re not ready for a T-Level, you can take a foundation course called the T-Level transition programme, which will give you relevant subject knowledge as well as the study skills you’ll need to do well in your chosen subject 
  • A handful of colleges and institutions across the country are now offering T Level Courses. Head to the official T Level government website, enter your postcode to find out if there’s a college near to you that will offer the course you’re looking for. 
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full-time: 2 years 
  • What qualifications do I need to have to do a T-Level? 
  • 4 GCSE’s grade 5 and above (must include Maths, English and Science)
  • What can I do after getting a T-Level?
  • Possessing a T Level qualification allows you to take a skilled rob role in the sector of your choice 
  • You could also go into further education, such as an apprenticeship programme, or you could study for a Bachelor’s Degree 
  • How much do they cost? 
  • All tuition costs are covered by the government, so you don’t have to pay anything to study. 
  • Where can I find out more? 
  • Check out the Government website for more information about T Levels. t for loads of information.  

BTEC Diploma

  • BTEC stands for the Business and Technology Education Council 
  • They are work related qualifications that combine classroom, theoretical learning with practical industry skills. 
  • The majority of BTEC courses are assessed through assignments and coursework, set and marked by a tutor. There are some BTEC courses that require you to do an externally marked text. 
  • Different Types of BTECs 
    • BTEC Firsts 
    • These are an introduction to a vocational career
    • These can be combined with other qualifications to help you go into further training, further study or into getting a job 
    • BTEC Nationals 
    • These are similar to A Levels 
    • A BTEC National can help you land a job, get a place on a university course, or get accepted onto professional development programmes 
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full time: 1-2 years 
  • What do I need to get a BTEC? 
  • The qualifications you need to have before you do a BTEC can vary depending on the school or college you apply to and the course you are interested in 
  • You might need up to 5 GCSE’s at a grade 9-4 or A*-C
  • What can I do with a BTEC qualification? 
  • Apply to study at University: Academic institutions recognise the value of a BTEC qualification. With a BTEC you’ll be able to apply to study your subject as a Bachelor’s Undergraduate Degree
  • Get into the world of work: If you don’t want to go into higher education, a BTEC qualification is highly valued in a wide range of industries. Once you’ve finished your course, you’ll be able to apply to job positions in your chosen field 
  • How much do they cost?
  • All tuition costs are covered by the government, so you don’t have to pay anything to study. 
  • Where can I find out more? 
  • Take a look at the Pearson Qualifications BTEC information page to find out more. 

Traineeship  

  • A traineeship is a course that can help you prepare for a job or an apprenticeship 
  • You’ll get help with writing you CV, and finding and applying for jobs
  • You’ll also receive support with English, Maths and basic digital skills if needed 
  • Unlike an apprenticeship, you won’t be paid to complete an apprenticeship, but you might be given expenses for things like travel for work purposes, and meals 
  • The course consists of completing a 70 hour long work placement 
  • How long does it take? 
  • It can take anywhere between 6 weeks to 1 years to get a traineeship qualification, but most courses are less than 6 months long 
  • What qualifications do I need to have to do a Traineeship? 
  • You can apply for a traineeship as long as you are: 
    • Eligible to work in England 
    • Unemployed, and have little to no previous work experience 
    • Between the ages of 16 and 24
    • Have qualifications up to a Level 3 standard 
  • What can I do with a Traineeship?  
  • After completing a Traineeship, you can either apply for an Apprenticeship, go into further training and education, or apply for jobs positions in your chosen field. 
  • How much do they cost? 
  • All tuition costs are covered by the government, so you don’t have to pay anything to study. 
  • Where can I find out more? 
  • Check out the Government website for more information about Traineeships.

Apprenticeship 

  • Similar to a BTEC, apprenticeships are a combination of studying and practical, hands on training 
  • As an apprentice, you receive a wage while you study 
  • You get to work alongside experienced staff
  • An apprenticeships
  • Types of apprenticeships and their equivalents 
  • Intermediate – GCSE 
  • Advanced – A Level  
  • Higher – Foundation Degree and above 
  • Degree – Bachelors or Masters degree 
  • How long does it take?
  • An apprenticeship can take anywhere between 1 to 5 years to complete, depending on the course and the level 
  • What qualifications do I need to have to do an apprenticeship?
  • To apply for an apprenticeship, you need to be: 
  • Over 16 (you can apply for the apprenticeship before you turn 16, but by the time the course starts toy need to be 16 or over) 
  • Living in England 
  • Not in full-time education 
  • What can I do after an Apprenticeship? 
  • After completing an Apprenticeship, you can either go into further training, higher education, or go straight into the workforce and apply for jobs in your chosen sector 
  • How much do they cost?
  • Apprenticeship tuition fees are paid for by the government and your employer, so it doesn’t cost you anything. 
  • You will need to cover your own living costs, but Apprentices are paid by their employers while they study 
  • Where can I find out more? 
  • Head to the Government Apprenticeship website for more information, and how you can apply.

Foundation Degree 

  • You can earn a foundation degree within a specific profession or job 
  • These are ideal if you don’t know if you want to get a full degree, but want a formal qualification in a topic you’re interested in 
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full-time: 2 years 
  • This will be longer if you’re doing the course part time 
  • What do I need to study a Foundation Degree? 
  • There aren’t fixed entry requirements for foundation degrees, it depends on where you apply and what course you want to do 
  • Unlike Degrees, Foundation Degrees don’t always require you to have formal qualifications
  • Often, industrial experience might be more relevant to what you want to study
  • What can I do with a Foundation Degree? 
  • Getting a foundation degree in a subject means that you can then go on to study that subject for a Bachelor’s Degree 
  • A Foundation Degree means that you can also go and look for work
  • How much do they cost? 
  • Tuition fees for a Foundation Degree vary depending on where you choose to study and what course you want to do
  • Most courses vary between £2,500 to £6,000 
  • Academic institutions and the government offer loans that cover tuition fees and living expenses
  • Where can I find out more?  
  • UCAS is the official portal for applying to Foundation Degree courses. They also have loads of information on their website about entry requirements, courses, how to apply to the course you want to study, and how to apply for funding. out Traineeships.

Bachelor’s Degree

  • The two most popular types of Bachelor’s Degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BSc) 
  • You can either study one subject, or combine two subjects into a single course (This is called a Joint Honours Bachelor’s Degree) 
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full-time: 3-4 years
  • What do I need to study a Bachelor’s Degree? 
  • In order to study for a Bachelor’s Degree, you’ll need the qualifications that meet the specific entry requirements of that course at that college or university. This can range anywhere between 3 A Level grades, 
  • You’ll also need to write a personal statement when you apply for a university course. This is a piece of written work where you explain to universities and colleges why they should pick you to study on their course. 
  • What can I do with a Bachelor’s Degree?  
  • Having a Bachelor’s Degree in your qualifications can really expand your choices when it comes to applying for jobs in the future 
  • Statistics show that graduates have higher rates of employment, and can on average nearly £10,000 a year more than non-graduates
  • How much do they cost? 
  • Currently, tuition fees in the UK are up to £9,250 per year. 
  • Academic institutions and the government offer loans that cover tuition fees and living expenses
  • Where can I find out more?  
  • UCAS is the official portal for applying to Bachelor’s courses. They also have loads of information on their website about entry requirements, courses, how to apply to the course you want to study, and how to apply for funding.

MBA 

  • MBA stands for Master of Business Administration, and is a postgraduate qualification
  • An MBA qualification provides you with an overview of business practices
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full-time: 12-15 months 
  • Because most students study for an MBA while continuing work, part-time MBAs are quite a popular option
  • What do I need to study a MBA?
  • Bachelors or Undergraduate Degree (2:1 or above)
  • It is normally expected that you’ll study for an MBA after you’ve worked in a business and/or management role for a couple of years, so having a few years of practical experience is expected
  • Most MBAs require you to take an entrance exam, normally the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT for short 
  • What can I do with an MBA?
  • An MBA is highly regarded by top employers, and can lead to higher earnings or a job promotion 
  • How much do they cost? 
  • Unlike undergraduate degrees, tuition fees for an MBA vary depending on where you choose to study
  • Most courses vary between £15,000 to £40,000 
  • Academic institutions and the government offer loans that cover tuition fees and living expenses
  • Where can I find out more?  
  • To find more information about Masters study, head to Prospects for everything you need to know

Masters Degree 

  • A Masters Degree is the specific study of one topic within one subject, which will give you more specialist knowledge
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full-time: 1-2 years 
  • Part-time: 2-4 
  • What do I need to study a Masters? 
  • A Bachelors Degree (2:1 or above)
  • Some Postgraduate courses require you to have some professional experience (for example, for a postgraduate PGCE qualification or to get a Masters Degree in Social Work) 
  • What can I do with a Masters Degree? 
  • Masters degrees are highly regarded by employers, and can give you an edge in a competitive job market 
  • Some technical and vocational jobs, such as teaching at a college or university, require you to have a Masters Degree 
  • Completing a Masters also gives you the possibility to study for a PhD. 
  • How much do they cost? 
  • Masters tuition fees vary hugely from university to university
  • The average cost is around £11,000 per year, but fees can starts as low as £4,900 and get as high as £87,000 in some cases 
  • Academic institutions and the government offer loans that cover tuition fees and living expenses
  • Where can I find out more?  
  • To find more information about Masters study, head to Prospects for everything you need to know

PhD 

  • A PhD is the highest level of academic qualification you can get
  • Getting a PhD shows that you have made a meaningful contribution to your area of study, whether that’s discovering something new, or finding a new angle on an argument
  • The course centres around one piece of work called a thesis. The course is dedicated to researching, writing, editing and defending the arguments presented in your thesis. 
  • How long does it take? 
  • Full time: 3-4 years 
  • Part time: 6-7 years
  • What do I need to study a PhD? 
  • A Masters degree 
  • A Bachelors degree (2:1 or above) 
  • What can I do with a PhD?  
  • Given that a PhD is a specialisation in one specific area of academia, most PhD graduates go on to get jobs in academia, becoming researchers, professors and lecturers in academic institutions 
  • A PhD shows that you can analyse large quantities of information, work independently and execute long term projects; skills that employers in every sector are interested in 
  • Because of this, PhD graduates also go on to get jobs in non academic sectors, such as business, healthcare and science. 
  • How much do they cost? 
  • Between £3,000-£6,000 a year 
  • Academic institutions and the government offer postgraduate doctoral loans that cover tuition fees, living expenses and research costs 
  • Where can I find out more?  
  • To find more information about PhD study, head to Prospects and take a look at their pages about PhDs for everything you need to know