If you’ve trawled the search engines or our lively Twitter feed and are reading this now, it’s very likely you’re at a time in your life where you’re considering making important educational choices sometime in the near future. And if you’re considering the BTEC Applied Science module, it’s critical that you have the right information at your fingertips to guide you. Fortunately, Forensic Outreach is here to help.
B-T-E-C: Spelling it all out
It’s a vocational qualification which gives you a broad grasp of the three main scientific disciplines (biology, chemistry and physics) without necessitating the study required in the triple-science GCSE. It’s designed to help you develop the skills and techniques needed to be employed. BTEC Applied Science is taught at both GCSE- and A-Level-equivalent tiers, with a slightly varied and more challenging syllabus, depending on which level you’re studying.
Triple-play: Asking the right questions
If you’re fairly familiar with the coursework and structure, we suggest that you ask yourself the fundamental question next: just why are you considering applied science? Try considering these additional questions to help you isolate specific motivations and your intentions for selecting this route.
1. What’s my long-term career goal?
We know it’s difficult to plan far into the future at this stage of your education and work career. Still, if you want to be a notable forensic analyst, providing expert testimony in court — hard work alone may not be sufficient, and you’ll need some decent credentials to back it up. University is the certain pathway to this route, and if you don’t have some form of detailed science study at GCSE and/or A level, this may be a window that’s permanently closed. Look at your future education options very carefully before deciding.
2. Do I want to start working straight away?
If your goal is to leave school or college and head straight into employment (perhaps you want to start as a lab assistant or technician) the BTEC is a smart way to go. It’ll give you the essential, work based, foundation in the skills you want and you can augment them with additional skills and learning initiatives later on. We’d advise though, that in this economic climate and the existing landscape of forensic science in practice, that you’d be well-placed to continue your education if you’re after a more competitive career.
3. Am I considering further education?
If you’re considering undergraduate study, the BTEC alone may not be enough. You should look to do at least a science module as well.
The Official BTEC Pros and Cons List
- Work-based focus, gives you essential skills for your career.
- Enables you to enter the workplace more quickly, perhaps while undertaking further study.
- Overarching focus condenses three challenging disciplines into easy, skills-based study.
- Perceived to be “easier” than traditional double or triple award science GCSEs.
- Modular focus, with most of the assessment by coursework.
- Only 25% of the whole qualification is assessed by examination.
- Two exams, with ample opportunity for re-sits if required.
- Perceived to be of less “value” than traditional science study.
- May pose a barrier to further science education (e.g. graduate study).
- Separate science modules are perceived to be more challenging and therefore of greater value.
- Has too broad a focus to sufficiently study the science disciplines in enough detail.
- Work-based focus does little to teach abstract and more fundamental, science concepts.
- Perceived to not encourage critical thinking.
- Not recognised by some employers for prestigious positions.
- May not give students a competitive advantage when applying for some jobs in forensics.
Recommendations from the team
It’s a bit difficult to make a sweeping recommendation, as it really depends on what you want as an individual. The Forensic Outreach team promotes the detailed study of science, but of course it’s not necessarily feasible for everybody. We would encourage you to consider the three questions we posed above before reaching your own decision.
Your Turn: Disagree with the points in either list? Think we could add an additional question to consider before making a choice between BTEC or something else? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.