The Pros and Cons of BTEC Applied Science

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.




  • Rhyea says:

    I am currently doing Btec In year 10 applied science level 2. My headteacher has said that more people and colleges and unis are accepting btec (only if you do btec level 3). I do know that my local sixth forms and colleges are accepting people.

  • Cameron says:

    I’m currently studying the BTEC Level 3 extended diploma in applied science (Forensic) and sitting with conditional offers from the University of Reading and Nottingham Trent (Microbiology), also an unconditional offer from Bournemouth (Biology). With predicted grades DDD. It’s not necessary to do an AS Level alongside the BTEC to get into most universities, however some require specific GCSE’s (Usually chemistry). Nonetheless don’t let the stigma behind the course put you off it, there’s loads of opportunities in reputable universities for further study.

    • Maham says:

      hey… i am studying medical science BTEC level 3. just wanted to ask if all the unis requires double science GCSE grade A*-C.

  • Head of Science says:

    This advice is severely flawed in terms of progression and the level of study.

    All universities offering Forensic Science degrees (or Forensic Biology/Chemistry or any science degree course with “Forensic” in the title) will accept the Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science or the Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Applied Science (Forensic Science) as entry qualifications.

    Students do not need to do A Levels at all to gain entry to the vast majority of universities. Every year, I send 20% of my students to top universities such as Bath, Liverpool, York, Durham, Lancaster, Manchester and Glasgow on various healthcare or science courses after they completed their Extended Diplomas in Applied Science or in Applied Science (Forensic Science). The others all gain entry to other universities. Everyone who applies will get an offer from a university – whether they attend university is another question.

    Go to the UCAS website and search for the course you want. Go to “Entry Requirements” and select the “BTEC” tab (instead of A Levels) and you will see that most universities will accept BTEC Level 3 Extended Diplomas, mainly at higher grades such as DMM or higher. Some courses have specific GCSE requirements so select the “GCSE” tab to see those requirements.

    Students completing the BTEC courses in Applied Science or Applied Science (Forensic Science) have completed numerous practicals. They are highly skilled in the use of many different types of lap equipment and have excellent study and research skills.

    Some of the units studied by the Level 3 students are very difficult – even more challenging in depth and breadth than the A Level content in biology/chemistry/physics. My teachers sometimes have to figure out how to teach some of the material as it is not easy at all.

    As a result, good students completing BTEC Science courses are always in demand by universities and employers.

    There are also separate units in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, so the article above is incorrect in saying that there aren’t separate modules. (Sheesh – go and do some research on the BTEC website and read the specification! There are unit titles such as “Chemical Laboratory Techniques”, “Medical Physics” and “Genetics and Genetic Engineering” so I fail to see how these are not considered separate units in Chemistry, Physics and Biology!)

  • Sammi says:

    Right ok answer me this, is it worth it to waste my time on education?

    • The Forensic Outreach Team says:

      Hi Sammi,

      Education is never a waste of your time. It’s the most empowering thing you can give yourself. Trust us on this one.

  • nvek says:

    do you need to do triple for forensic science what if you cant handle it and take double when you get a job in forensic science becuase if i do triple i only do the higher papers so i am thinking of double but i still want to be a forensic scientist so could you please help me

  • nvek says:

    i have got my answer i will just do double then i am going to do a-levels the then my degree and uni

    • shannon says:

      hello could you please email me or respond to this with some details on what you have to do in order to be a forensic scientist i also want to do this i am going back to college to persue this as i am 21 now, i’m wondering if i have to do the applied science level 2 and then the 3? and if so what is the next step after this? thank you so much for your time as i have been searching for hours trying to fondness an answer

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