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Vocational qualifications

What are vocational qualifications?

Vocational courses are designed to help you learn in a practical way about a specific job area. They can help you get the skills you need to start a job, progress in a career or go on to higher education.

If you know what job or job sector you want to go into you may want to study a vocational qualification. 

There are many different types of vocational qualifications in a wide range of subjects at all levels, from Entry Level right up to Level 8 - you can look at the Careerpilot Qualification Planner to view all the different qualifications and levels.

Different vocational course options:

Job Related Subjects

Vocational subjects are general qualifications that develop practical skills and knowledge related to a broad job area such as Business, Engineering, IT and Health and Social Care. They are offered in both schools and colleges. They include a significant amount of classroom-based activities. Assessment is usually by both written course work and practical examinations. These qualifications are known as Applied General Qualifications and can be taken on their own or alongside other qualifications such as A levels. Examples of these qualifications include BTEC and Cambridge Technicals.

Courses that prepare you for a specific job

These vocational courses provide specific job related training and qualifications such as in plumbing, hairdressing or catering. They are offered at Further Education Colleges. They are usually very practical and involve learning in real situations, with real customers, such as cutting hair in the college salon which will be open to the public, cooking for paying customers in the college restaurant or installing bathrooms in the plumbing workshops. There is lots more information on courses that prepare you for a specific job


If you work towards a specific job as an apprentice you will do a combination of technical and professional qualifications either online or in a college setting and also be assessed on your skills and competence in the work place.

T Levels

T level qualifications are 2-year qualifications that you can do after GCSEs as an alternative to A levels, other post-16 courses or an apprenticeship.

T-levels have been designed with leading businesses and employers to give you the knowledge and skills you need for work. They are offered in a range of vocational areas and delivered by colleges in partnership with local employers to enable students to progress on to higher level apprenticeships or university.

You can find out more about T Levels here.

You can see which ones are on offer near you.

Some examples of colleges that are doing T Levels?


Truro and Penwith 

Exeter College 

Bridgwater & Taunton College 

Strode College 

Weston College

Peter Symonds College 

Fareham College 

Havant and South Downs College 

Farnborough College of Technology 

Find your nearest T-level

When can I take a vocational qualification and where will they lead? 

Some schools offer vocational qualifications alongside your GCSE subjects. However, vocational qualifications are mainly for 16 to 19 year olds.

Vocational qualifications have been designed in partnership with employers, universities and professional or trade organisations - this means that you can develop the skills that employers want. You can also acquire the knowledge needed to progress to a higher level - such as degree level courses or apprenticeships. 

Careerpilot has information on lots of different job sectors. Each sector has hundreds of job profiles explaining what is involved, what you will earn, routes into the job, etc.

How do they compare?

  • Level 1 vocational qualifications build confidence and help people prepare for further learning and work.
  • Level 2 vocational qualifications are the equivalent of GCSE grades 9 to 4.
  • Level 3 vocational qualifications are equivalent to A levels. 
  • Level 4 and 5 vocational qualifications are equivalent to a Foundation Degree.
  • Level 6 vocational qualifications are equivalent to an honours degree. 

You can compare qualifications using our helpful tools.

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