What are my further education options?

Further education (FE) refers to any post-16 education below degree level, and usually takes place in a college setting. It’s important to consider how your education after school will lead into your chosen career or higher education pathway.

Here you’ll find an overview of a range of further education qualifications which provide different routes into higher education.


A-levels are academic qualifications which are studied full-time over two years. They can be studied at sixth forms and colleges, in a wide variety of subjects.

Many choose to study three A-level subjects, alternatively you may be able to take a mix of A-levels and other qualifications.

They are assessed by a series of exams, and sometimes include coursework and practical assessments. A-levels are accepted by all universities, some degree courses may ask for one or more specific A-level subject.

BTECS and other diplomas

BTECs and other Diplomas can be studied over two years exclusively, or in combination with A-levels. They combine practical learning with developing knowledge and skills. Subjects available are often connected to industry. They’re assessed via a combination of written assignments, exams, coursework and practical assessments.

Diplomas support applications to higher education, however some universities may ask for one or more A-levels alongside. Some sixth forms and FE colleges offer other Level 3 diplomas such as CTECs (Cambridge Technicals).


T-levels are two-year courses that are designed by employers to address skills shortages across different occupations. There are a wide range of subjects available from agriculture to catering, and engineering to science.

They’re equivalent to 3 A-levels and include a 45 day industry placement, allowing you to get valuable experience in the workplace and employers to get early sight of the new talent in their industry.

T-levels prepare you for entry into skilled employment, an apprenticeship, or related technical study through further or higher education. The T-level foundation year (1 year) is designed to prepare you for your chosen T-level. It will enable you to develop your English and Maths, practical, technical and study skills and provide work experience.


An apprenticeship is a real job where you learn, gain experience, and get paid. They are designed to help you develop the skills you need for a specific job, such as early years practitioner or electrical engineer. Advanced apprenticeships (Level 3) typically take 2 years to complete.

You’ll study alongside work for a qualification related to the trade you are doing. The exact qualification will vary depending on the apprenticeship. Apprentices will be in work for at least 30 hours a week – the remaining 20% of your working hours will be spent at college or with a training provider.

If you complete an advanced apprenticeship you may have the chance to progress to higher education via a higher apprenticeship – you should speak to the university or college offering the course you’re interested in to discuss your plans.

other options

Intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2) are options for those who do not progress to Level 3 learning after GCSEs. Some of the most popular intermediate apprenticeships include accounting, IT, hair and beauty and digital marketing.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are available at both Level 2 and Level 3. They’re available in more than 1,000 subjects and are a good option if you know what job you’d like to do, or if you’d like to learn a trade.

Technical certificates will allow you to develop specialist knowledge and skills to help you get an apprenticeship or job, or progress to higher level qualifications.

An Access to HE Diploma is an option if you don’t have the Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A-levels, BTECs) needed to go straight on to a higher education course.

Further information

There’s lots of things to consider when making decisions about your future so we have collated some useful websites for you to start your research.

National Careers Service icould gov.uk Success at School Career Pilot UCAS

The next big questions

What are my higher education options?

Higher education can come in all shapes and sizes, and there are plenty of factors to consider when making your choices.

Find out more

What support is available?

Support on your chosen pathway is important. Here you can find out more about financial support and the right support for you.

Find out more