• GCSEs

    • GCSEs are level 1 or 2 courses (depending on the grade achieved) and are available in a wide range of academic and applied subjects.
    • They are usually achieved in 2 years and are graded from  A* - G
    • A very high percentage of school pupils take these qualifications at the age of 16.
    • They are available to students of any age in schools, colleges and other learning centres.
    • They are the most common and well known of qualifications.
    • GCSE grades are used as an entry qualification for jobs, training and courses.
  • AS and A Levels

    • A levels are Level 3 courses and are available in a wide range of academic and applied subjects.
    • They are usually completed in two years and are graded A* to E
    • A high percentage of learners staying on at school or college study AS and A levels however they can be studied at other learning centres.
    • They can be achieved in two parts; year one is at AS Level. To achieve a full A level, students need to complete a further year of study at A2.
    • Completing A levels usually allows progress to courses at level 4.
    • A levels are a traditional route for entry to higher education and training for the professions.
  • BTEC Courses

    • BTECs are vocational qualifications. This means they are available in subjects linked to an area of work. They are available for students who find learning difficult through to highly skilled professional workers.
    • BTEC qualifications are available in seven levels ranging from BTEC Introductory Diplomas and Certificates to BTEC Advanced Diplomas, Certificates and Awards.
    • Within each level, the qualifications are available in a range of sizes, taking different amounts of time to complete.
    • Some courses at level 2 and 3 run alongside A level and GCSE subjects. Others are aimed at people in employment who need special qualifications to help them get on at work.
    • They can be studied full – time or part time, in schools and colleges and in the workplace.
  • QCF/NVQs

    • QCF/NVQs are work based awards and are available at all levels. However most QCF/NVQs are available from levels 1 to 5.
    • They are delivered in the workplace or somewhere set up to be like a workplace.
    • They are not linked to set course or programme. QCF/NVQs are broken down into small units so that they can be delivered and assessed flexibly at a place of work.
    • QCF/NVQs cover a huge variety of careers.
  • Welsh Baccalaureate

    • The Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (Bacc) is offered at Foundation, National, and Advanced levels in Wales.
    • It is primarily offered to 14 – 19 years olds
    • The Bacc is studied alongside other subjects and courses
      The following subjects are studied as the core of the qualification:
      • Skills Challenge Certificate
        • An Individual Project
        • Enterprise and Employability Challenge
        • Global Citizenship Challenge
        • Community Challlenge
      • Supporting qualifications
        • At Foundation or National Level learners must achieve:  
          • GCSE English Language or GCSE Welsh Language (grades A*-G for Foundation, grades A*-C for National);
          • GCSE Mathematics – Numeracy (grades A*-G for Foundation, grades A*-C for National);
          • A minimum of three further GCSEs (grades A*-G, grades A*-C for National). At Key Stage 4, up to two of these may be equivalent qualifications; at post-16, all may be equivalent.

        • At Advanced level learners must achieve: 

          • GCSE English Language or GCSE Welsh Language (grades A*-C);
          • GCSE Mathematics – Numeracy (grades A*-C);
          • Two A levels, or equivalent. This requirement must be met through the achievement of no more than three separate qualifications.

      • Alongside these topics students study other optional subjects linked to the level of Bacc that they are studying. Some learners will be studying A levels or other level 3 qualifications. Others may be studying level 1 vocational qualifications.

        For more information click here

  • Essential Skills

    • Essential Skills (ES) the new title for what used to be called Key Skills or Basic skills.
    • They can be studied at 4 levels and are qualifications aimed at 14 – 19 year olds in schools and colleges.
    • As with Bacc and IB they are generally studied alongside other subjects such as GCSEs, A levels or vocational courses.
    • ES are aimed at helping learners become effective in work and in society in general.

    Learners study:

    • Communication
    • Application of Number
    • Digital Literacy
    • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
    • Planning and Organisation
    • Creativity and Innovation
    • Personal Effectiveness
  • Certificates of Higher Education

    • Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE) are courses at level 4.
    • They require one year full time or two year part time study.
    • Although CertEd courses are awards in their own right they usually form the first year of a degree course.
    • They can be offered in single subjects or vocational areas.

    • HNC (Higher National Certificates) and HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) are vocational higher education qualifications at level 5.
    • They are aimed at giving learners the skills that can be used in a particular job. Both HNCs and HNDs are available in a wide range of vocational areas.
    • HNCs can take one year to complete full time and two years part time.
    • HNDs take two years full time and can also be taken part time but will take longer to complete.
  • Foundation Degrees

    • Foundation degrees are vocational qualifications at level 5.
    • The courses include study but also have a requirement for the learner to gain work experience and learn in the workplace.


  • Degrees

    • Degrees are higher education qualifications. They are available at several levels.
    • Ordinary  (level 4) or Honours (level 5)
      • These are the most well-known type of degrees.
      • These are the degrees that most learners study in higher education.
      • They are available in a very wide range of subjects and vocational areas.
      • They are the minimum entry requirement for many professions
    • They can take between 3 and 4 years of study.
    • Masters degrees (level 7) are achieved by showing a very high level of knowledge about a subject or topic. They are usually achieved by undertaking a research project over several years.
    • Doctorates (PHDs) (level 8) is a ‘post graduate’ degree offered at Universities. This means that the learner would first need to get a degree qualification – then continue with their research and study to obtain a PHD.
  • Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates

    • Post Graduate certificates and diplomas are at level 7. They allow learners to build on the skills and knowledge gained in a first degree and are available in a wide variety of subjects.
    • Post Graduate certificates are required for entry to some professions for example Teaching (PGCE) and Law (GDL)
    • Certificates are often shorter than diplomas, with each taking a number of months (but less than one year) to complete full time

More information

Share this page

Select an icon:

Croeso i Gyrfa Cymru

Dewiswch iaith


Welcome to Careers Wales

Please select your language