Types of post 16 courses

You need to follow a study programme if you're aged 16 to 19 and in full or part-time education.

You can choose one of the following pathways:

  • academic-only - A level qualifications
  • vocational - BTEC or other vocational qualifications
  • combined - a combination of vocational and academic courses
  • foundation - a pathway for students not taking a substantial level 2 or 3 qualification.

Whatever option you choose, you must also study English and maths to GCSE grades A* to C if you don't already have these grades. You should expect to study for at least 16 hours a week.

This page is about study options. If you're interested in practical training, read our guidance on traineeships and apprenticeships.

How many qualifications do you have?

Select the relevant response to view the study options available to you.

  • You can do entry level qualifications or level 1 qualification plus continue to study English and maths.

  • You can do level 1 qualifications plus continue to study English and maths or you can do a traineeship. This can lead to level 2 qualifications or employment, including level 2 apprenticeship.

  • You can do level 2 BTEC diploma or certificate plus continue to study English and maths where appropriate, or you can do a traineeship.

    BTECS or other vocational qualifications involve a number of units around a core subject. The units are assessed through presentations, coursework and online assessments. BTECS are available at Level 1, 2 and 3. The qualification you get depends on how many units you do - for example, the Level 3 Extended Diploma is equivalent to 3 A levels.

  • You can do a level 3 BTEC qualification plus continue to study English and maths where appropriate, or you can do an apprenticeship.

    BTECS or other vocational qualifications involve a number of units around a core subject. The units are assessed through presentations, coursework and online assessments. BTECS are available at Level 1, 2 and 3. The qualification you get depends on how many units you do - for example, the Level 3 Extended Diploma is equivalent to 3 A levels.

  • You can do an A level - BTEC mix (for example 2 A levels and diploma or subsidiary diploma), or you can do an advanced apprenticeship.

    BTECS or other vocational qualifications involve a number of units around a core subject. The units are assessed through presentations, coursework and online assessments. BTECS are available at Level 1, 2 and 3. The qualification you get depends on how many units you do - for example, the Level 3 Extended Diploma is equivalent to 3 A levels.

  • You can do the International Baccalaureate or three or four A levels or an extended diploma or an advanced apprenticeship.

    A levels are generally a two year course - maths and design technology are an exception. This can lead to higher education or employment, possibly with professional qualifications, or advanced or higher level apprenticeship.

Planning for university

You need specific A levels (and specific grades) to apply to some university courses.

If you want to attend a Russell Group university, you'll need A levels in two of the following subjects: English, maths, the sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), geography, history and the modern and classical languages. Philosophy and economics may be accepted as substitutes.

Read the Which University guidance for more information.

Apply for a course

You can usually apply for sixth forms from June of the year before you're due to start.

Contact your chosen post 16 centre directly for more details of how to apply for the course you're interested in.

View a list of post 16 centres.