Choosing your options
If you have enjoyed studying chemistry at GCSE (or equivalent), there are various ways you can continue with the subject post-16. There are a range of school, college-based and work-based qualifications available at this age so it is important that you take time to think about what would suit you and your plans best. The option you choose might depend on:
AS chemistry is a discrete qualification, assessed at the end of the course, which typically lasts one year. The marks don’t count towards A-level chemistry. A-level chemistry courses typically last two years and students are also assessed at the end of the course.
In AS and A-level chemistry courses, practical skills are assessed externally by written exams only. For students studying A-level chemistry, there is a practical endorsement component which involves assessing student’s competency in performing skills that are not assessable via a written exam. The practical endorsement is assessed internally. There is no practical endorsement in AS Level chemistry.
AS and A-level chemistry are slightly different in Wales and Northern Ireland. In both countries, the qualifications consist of AS and A2 units. AS Level is a standalone qualification but also contributes 40% of the marks to the full A-Level qualification. In both Wales and Northern Ireland, students complete a lab-based practical exam and a written paper to assess practical skills.
Applied general courses include level 3 certificates and diplomas, a common example is the BTEC in applied science. These courses are assessed by a combination of written exam, assignments and practical reports. These qualifications are well recognised by UK universities should you want to go onto a degree, or start a higher, technician or degree apprenticeship (or equivalent).
There are several options to consider:
Students in the Senior Cycle have the following options:
If you like the idea of working whilst you study science and are not sure about going to university then an apprenticeship might be for you.
Apprenticeships offer the combination of working as a professional alongside studying towards a recognised qualification. For the majority of roles you need to be 16+, you will not pay for your qualification and you will be paid the national minimum wage for apprentices. Although many science-related employers pay more than this.
Apprenticeships are available at different levels and offer qualifications up to degree level. You might find chemistry apprentices working as laboratory technicians or analysts working in the food, petrochemicals or pharmaceuticals sectors. The level of qualification and how you apply for one depends where you live. Find out more about these options by visiting our earn while you learn page.
Alternative post-16 options include starting work, setting up a business or volunteering. In England, continuing in some form of education until the age of 18 will be compulsory for students currently in Year 11 and below. This means that if you live in England and you choose something other than full time education or an apprenticeship, you will have to take up part-time education or training alongside.
When it is time to choose your post-16 options, remember to think about what you would enjoy, what would suit you and what is most likely to fit in with any future plans you have.
If you are unsure about your next steps, try talking to someone at school: a careers adviser or teacher could be a good person to start with.
When it is time to choose your subjects, there are benefits to studying maths alongside chemistry. You will find that the two subjects complement one another, with a strong foundation in maths becoming even more important if you intend to study chemistry at university. In some cases, A-level maths is one of the entry requirements for a degree in chemistry.