A Levels or T Levels – which one should I choose?

What is the difference between T Levels and Vocational Courses

15 February 2023

What is the difference between T Levels and Vocational Courses such as BTECs and Apprenticeships?

This September, the RNN Group Colleges made up of Rotherham College, Dearne Valley College and North Notts College will be offering T Levels in Construction, Digital, Education and Health.

T Levels, which were launched in 2020, are a new initiative backed by the Government. So, what are they and how do they differ from Level 3 courses, BTECs, and Apprenticeships which have been part of the RNN Group of colleges offering for a number of years?

T Levels are new advanced technical level 3 qualifications that are equivalent to 3 A Levels for learners aged 16-19 who have finished their GCSEs. Although they take the same time to complete as A levels and Apprenticeships which is around two years, they offer a much longer period of industry placement (usually up to almost 3 months) and are aimed at students who are very clear on the career path they wish to pursue.

The course is a combination of in-class study and work placement. T Level learners spend 80% of the course in the classroom, learning the essential skills that your employees need. The other 20% is a meaningful industry placement helping young people develop the knowledge, attitude, and practical skills to thrive in the workplace.

Once a learner has completed a T Level course, they will be able to progress onto a skilled occupation, a higher or degree level apprenticeship, or continue with further study including Higher Technical Qualifications or Higher Education.

But what about the other courses available and how do they compare?

Level 3 courses are equivalent to an A Level and great for students who have a passion for a subject that they can immerse themselves in. There are various Level 3 studies including an award, diploma, certificate, and National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and equal to a variety of different points levels for UCAS applications. Learners can then opt to do a Foundation degree to support a move to full degree-based learning.

BTECS – like T Levels – are advanced level 3 courses and equivalent to 3 A-Levels however, they have a shorter work experience period (2 weeks) and are mainly focused on developing key skills during practical sessions in college. On completion of a BTEC, you receive up to 112 points to support a UCAS application to move onto a degree-based course or a skilled occupation.

Apprenticeships have a variety of levels of attainment up to Levels 6 and 7 (degree and masters level), with a Level 3 Apprenticeship equal to a T Level, BTEC, Level 3 course, and A Level. The difference with apprenticeships is that they are 80% based in the workplace and 20% class-based.

Apprenticeships and T-Levels, unlike A-Levels and some BTECs, are always taken as single subjects. Despite this, they are still worth the equivalent of three A-Levels, as all qualifications in further education are. The difference is that an A-Level contains less content than T-Levels and Apprenticeships do. Therefore, they take the same amount of time to complete.

We know it is confusing to decide what route to take post-16, however, it is important that learners talk with careers advisers in their current place of education and find out what is right for them. Additionally, talk to staff about your options when you visit other education providers on an open day, taster day, or personal tour. They can advise you on the best course of action for you and your interests, including subjects and areas you are passionate about, as well as any career goals you may have at this early stage.

For more information on our T Levels, please visit the Rotherham College website:


For more information on our Study Programmes (Levels 1-3) courses, please visit:


For more information on Apprenticeships, please visit:


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