BTEC in Information Technology

The BTEC is a fairly new qualification in the UK, and the letters stand for Business and Technology Education Council. These qualifications are vocational in nature, meaning that the emphasis is on employment and gaining skills for the work place. They can also be used to gain a place at University, as they are roughly equivalent to an A Level. You can do a BTEC in a wide range of subjects. There are three main BTEC qualifications available, called the BTEC Nationals:

  • BTEC National Award
  • BTEC National Certificate
  • BTEC National Diploma

(It is doubtful, however, that the person interviewing you for the job will know the difference between the three!)

BTEC National Award for IT

There are six units in this qualification, and taking all six is about the same as one A Level. The grades are Pass, Merit, and Distinction. A BTEC National Award with a grade of Distinction is like getting an A Level grade A.

The BTEC National Award for IT takes 360 hours to complete. These are called Guided Learning Hours. The focus is on gaining skills for the work place, and the curriculum was drawn up in consultation with employers. That means you'll get training that is designed to give you the skills that an employer is looking for.

Studying for a BTEC National Award in IT involves taking two core subjects worth 60 Guided Learning Hours, and any other 4 units to make up the 360 hours. Each unit will be worth 60 hours.

Core Units

  • Communication and Employability Skills for IT
  • Computer Systems

Other Units

There's over 50 other units to choose from, and we won't list them all. Here's a few, though, to give you an idea of the things you can study.

  • Information Systems
  • Advanced Database Skills
  • Advanced Spreadsheet Skills
  • IT Systems Analysis and Design
  • Client Side Customisation of Web Pages
  • Maintaining Computer Systems
  • Principles of Software Design and Development
  • Installing and Upgrading Software
  • Digital Graphics and Computers
  • Computer Animation
  • IT Technical Support
  • IT Systems Troubleshooting and Repair

Average time-scale for a BTEC National Award in IT is about 1 year.

The BTEC National Certificate

You need to take 12 units to gain this certificate. If you do, it's seen as about the same as two A Levels. Again it's Pass, Merit, and Distinction at the end. But this time the letters are doubled (PP, MM, or DD)

Taking all 12 units means 720 hours of study, so it's double the commitment for the BTEC National Award. The subjects are more or less the same, but the specialist skills you gain are more in-depth. There are now four Core Units, however:

Core Units

  • Communication and Employability Skills for IT
  • Computer Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Impact of the Use of IT on Business systems

The other units remain the same, but you'll probably want to specialise in something. Again, each unit is worth 60 points, and you can take a maximum of eight units.

Average time-scale for a BTEC National Certificate in IT is about 2 years.

The BTEC National Diploma

18 units have to be taken for the BTEC National Diploma. If you gain the Diploma, you'll have the equivalent of three A Levels. The letters are tripled for Pass, Merit, and Distinction (PPP, MMM, or DDD).

For the BTEC National Diploma, you'll do six core units, worth 60 hours each.

Core Units

  • Communication and Employability Skills for IT
  • Computer Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Impact of the Use of IT on Business systems
  • Organisational Systems Security
  • E-Commerce

Other units are quite specialised now, and you are allowed to take up to 12 of them. Each unit is still 60 hours. In total, you need 1080 Guided Learning Hours before you'll get your BTEC National Diploma.


The BTEC National qualifications are meant as a way to gain you the essential skills you need in the modern world of employment. Because they are drawn up with the help of employers, they can be an excellent route to acquiring a decent IT career. If you're not interested in getting a job with computers, or any job at all, then it's probably better to leave them on the shelf. If you're planning on going to University, whatever age you are, then the BTEC National Award can be really helpful. As long as you get a Distinction, that is!

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