Your next steps after finishing school are an exciting time. For many of you it may be the first chance you’ve had to make your own choices and decisions. But, the choices available after your GCSEs are wide-ranging, you could choose to study A-Levels, you can choose a technical course such as those offered at Rotherham College, or you could pursue an apprenticeship and combine employment with studying towards industry-approved Standards. There is often a belief that A-Levels are ‘better’ than technical courses. But how accurate is this?
Below we set the record straight on a few common myths regarding the technical courses vs. A-Levels debate.
“Technical Courses are easy”
A-Levels are challenging. You will study multiple subjects (probably four in your first year) and gain an academic overview of your chosen subjects.
If you choose a technical course you’ll only study one subject. However, this doesn’t make technical courses any ‘easier’. With a technical course you begin to specialise, and gain sector specific skills – the key technical skills that employers look for, for example the ability to bend pipes as a Plumber or plan a menu as a Chef – straight away.
There are also differences in how each is assessed. Most A-Levels are assessed at the end of the year by exam, with smaller pieces of course work throughout the year.
With technical courses, such as Business and Travel and Tourism you will be continually assessed meaning a technical qualification is just as challenging and mentally-stimulating as A-Level subjects.
“A-Levels are better”
A-Levels are great – but they aren’t necessarily better.
The type of course that will suit you best will depend on your interests, ambitions and how you learn best.
A-Levels are widely accepted as being ‘the route’ to university (more on that later), which means that generally you’ll spend more time on academic study – writing, reading and researching – and gain the skills you’ll need to progress to higher level study at university.
Technical qualifications tend to be more career focused. You will begin to specialise in your chosen subject straight away, you’ll gain an in-depth knowledge of your chosen subject area from the get go. You will acquire the technical skills you need to be successful in your chosen industry and the way you’ll learn will generally be more ‘hands-on’ and practical.
Many technical courses also involve work experience. This means you get the chance to work with professionals in the industry, gaining invaluable insight and experience in your future career, and really helping your CV to stand out.
“You can’t go on to get a degree”
You can! Full Level 3 technical courses offer equivalent qualifications (and UCAS points) to those of A Levels.
Level 3 courses provide remarkable ways to learn skills that you can apply to further education or a specific career path. In some cases, the access route to university study, for example Fine Art, is more direct from a technical course. A-Level students may need to do a foundation course before progressing onto a degree, whereas with a Level 3 in Art and Design, you’re straight in.
However, it is worth noting that if you have an aim of attending a specific university, to study a specific course, it is worth checking their individual entry requirements. Some universities do not accept BTEC and equivalent technical qualifications for some of their courses.
At Rotherham College we also offer a range of higher and degree-level courses in subjects including Business, Performing Arts, Graphic Design and many more.
“It won’t look as good on my CV”
Again – not true!
More than ever, employers are looking for candidates that have relevant experience as well as the right qualification. As technical courses focus on a specific subject, you are more likely to have the technical knowledge and skills employers are looking for. And, on courses at Rotherham College you’ll be encouraged to undertake placements and work experience, giving you the opportunity to work with industry professionals giving you a foot in the door and those all-important contacts.
You may find that a common struggle amongst A-Level and university students when completing their courses is that they have little to no meaningful work experience within their desired field as most of their study has been academic.
At Rotherham College we have excellent links with employers across a range of industries including AESSEAL, ENGIE, and Rotherham NHS Trust who all value the practical experience our students bring to their business.
If you think a technical course is right for you, browse the vast variety we have to offer.