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Study routes into PEMD

A-levels, apprenticeships, FE college and university degrees. Which one is best for me?

Exploring a career in Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD) offers exciting possibilities. But it’s important to know that there isn’t just one path to follow. Now, more than ever, there are alternative routes and qualifications available.

The three main pathways to consider, after you've completed your GCSEs:

  • Pursue an apprenticeship while working
  • Study at a Further Education (FE) College
  • Sixth form and then University

If you choose to study engineering, you'll need A-levels in Maths and/or Physics.

Which route do I choose?

One pathway isn’t inherently better than any other. Each route has its own unique approach, structure and experience.

What matters is finding the approach that aligns with your personal preferences, learning style and career aspirations. You should consider:

  • your preferred learning environment
  • practical experience opportunities
  • the balance between academic knowledge and hands-on skills

There are a range of flexible study routes that can lead you into a PEMD career. Allowing you to change according to your choices or personal circumstances.

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An electrical engineering apprenticeship is a hands-on and work-based route into your future PEMD career. You’ll earn as you learn and gain the qualifications and skills to become an electrical engineer.

As an apprentice, at least 20% of your working hours are spent on training. Your training might happen every week, every month or in a separate block of time. The training will take place at:

  • your place of work
  • a college, training provider or university

The cost of the course will be covered by the government and your employer.

Eligibility for an apprenticeship

Applicants must be working in the engineering sector in a role which provides sufficient work-based learning scope to acquire the knowledge, skills and behaviour expected by the Apprenticeship Standard.

Compare apprenticeships

Compare the requirements and equivalent educational degrees to an apprenticeship alternative.

FE college

After GCSE exams, if you want to continue studying full-time, you have three options.

School: Many schools often have their own sixth form. They offer courses specifically designed to build upon GCSE studies, such as A-levels and equivalent qualifications.

Sixth-form college: Another option is to transition to a sixth-form college. These colleges typically offer more freedom, independence, and a wider range of courses compared to school sixth form.

Further Education (FE) colleges: Alternatively, FE colleges provide a wider range of courses at different levels. They also offer a unique learning environment, compared to sixth-form colleges. FE colleges also offer specialised vocational resources for your field of study.

This makes them an excellent choice for students with a keen interest in a particular field.

Compare FE college qualifications

FE colleges have a range of courses and qualifications available. Find out how these qualifications compare against apprenticeships, GCSEs and A-levels. 


For many students, with good GCSE and A-level grades, going to university can feel like the natural next step.

It's important that you've picked the appropriate subjects to prepare you for studying engineering.

You'll need:

  • A-levels (or equivalent) in Maths and / Physics

It's also useful to have:

  • Further maths
  • Design technology
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Compare university qualifications

Compare the qualifications you can study for at University, against the equivalent apprenticeship and their professional recognition.