What is the difference between technical courses and A-Levels?

What is the difference between technical courses and A-Levels?

3 August 2021

It’s an exciting but daunting time. You’ve finished school, you’ve got your results and… You still aren’t really sure what you want to do next.

Don’t worry you’re not the only one feeling this way.

You have plenty of options when it comes to your next move. You could choose A-Levels, you could choose a technical qualification (like those offered here at Dearne Valley College) or you could combine working with study on an apprenticeship.

There is often a belief that A-Levels are ‘better’ than technical courses. But how accurate is this?

Below we answer some of the most common questions regarding the differences between studying a technical course and A-Levels.

Are technical courses easier than A-Levels?

Both A-Levels and technical courses are challenging, they will push you and you will gain new knowledge.

Whether one is easier than the other will depend on your interests, skillset and preferred style of learning. If you prefer a hands-on way of learning you may find technical courses more engaging, and easier than if you had your head in a book on an A-Level course, and vice versa.

If you choose A-Levels you will study multiple subjects (probably four in your first year) and will spend most of your time on academic study in a classroom, gaining knowledge and understanding 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’ as you’ll combine practical skills with theoretical knowledge.

With technical courses, such as Construction or Health and Social Care you will be continually assessed meaning a technical qualification is just as challenging and mentally-stimulating as A Level subjects.

Are A-Levels better than technical qualifications?

A-Levels are great – but they aren’t necessarily better. The answer to which is best will depend on you, and your interests and ambitions.

If you want to work as a Vet, a Doctor or a Lawyer, which will require further study at university, then A-Levels (often specific A-Levels) will be the route that suits you best and will help you meet your ambitions.

However, if you are thinking of a career in IT, as a Personal Trainer or Sports Therapist, or as a Zoo Manager, and you prefer a mix of practical and theory, then technical qualifications in Computing, Sport Science or Animal Care could be better for you.

With a technical qualification, you’ll begin to specialise in your chosen industry straight away, helping you gain the technical skills that employers in your industry look for, and will often have the opportunity to gain work experience or work on live projects to boost your industry experience and really help your CV stand out.

Can I go to university with a technical qualification?

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 is more direct from a technical course than A Levels. Certain university courses may require A-Level students to do a foundation course before progressing onto a degree, whilst those with a technical qualification are 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.

Which will look better on my CV?

More than ever, employers are looking for candidates that have relevant experience as well as qualifications.

As technical courses focus on a specific subject, in some industries you are more likely to have the technical knowledge and skills employers are looking for.

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 industry. Whereas students on technical courses are encouraged to undertake placements and work experience – on some courses a work placement is part of your course and is a mandatory part of your college experience.

At Dearne Valley College we have excellent links with employers across a range of industries including ENGIE, Rotherham NHS Trust and many more who 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.

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