Choosing the right A levels

Advice on choosing the right A level courses if you’re looking to move into a career within engineering or technology.

An apple with A+ carved into it on a book By the time you're in your final year of GCSEs you've got a rough idea of what you want to do as a career, and how you're going to get there. For those with an interest in engineering or technology the two main options are higher education (A levels, degree) or vocational study (diploma, apprenticeship).

If you're thinking of taking the vocational route be sure to check out the the apprentices' section of the website, otherwise read on to find out what you must consider when choosing your A levels.

When it comes to A levels the subjects become harder and more focused, essentially taking your knowledge of the topics up a level and preparing you for the next big step - a university degree.

What subjects you choose depends entirely on what you hope to do as a career, and the kind of university degree you aspire to do. Don't just think short term - you need to look at the bigger picture to be sure you get the qualifications you need for entry.

Research university entry requirements

At a basic level, the majority of engineering or technology degrees require A level maths and physics qualifications, so keep that in mind.

If you can find out what you specifically need though, even better. Where possible do a bit of research - look into university courses on your chosen career (electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, IT etc) and see what entry requirements they have.

For example, if you’re interested in environmental engineering you might find that a geography A level is a good choice. By looking around you'll get a feel of the most important A level subjects for your desired degree and can relax, happy in the knowledge that you're working on the most relevant subjects for university entry.

If you feel a bit vague about exactly what you want to do in the future, just focus on more general research. If there's something you particularly enjoy studying, make sure its included in your A levels, otherwise look at the kinds of degrees that sound interesting, and see if there's a theme as to the A levels they request. This might help you get the most supporting qualifications, without closing too many doors.

In addition, when choosing A levels complementary subjects that hone your soft skills can also be helpful. These are just as important as technical ability, so choosing a subject like English can be a great way of improving your written skills – perfect for writing papers and reports, a regular aspect of life as an engineer.

Be sure you enjoy the subjects

Although choosing subjects that will help you get into university is important, there are other things you must consider. Most importantly do you enjoy the subject matter?

If you choose something you dislike, you'll have two years of hell to work through, and you aren't likely to get top results. Don't just pick something because it'll look good on your UCAS application - pick something you have a passion for.

Also consider aptitude. Choose courses that you'll be good at. If you have an interest in engineering or technology it's likely that you've already found a connection to these kinds of subjects, so that shouldn't be too tough a decision.

Everyone will have an opinion, but in the end don't be pressured by family and friends. Choose the courses that suit you and your aspirations best, and don't be afraid to turn to a careers adviser for help. Follow the checklist below and you'll be on the path to A level success in no time.


  • Research - look at university courses and their entrance requirements to pick the most suitable A level subject;
  • A level maths and physics are likely to be useful options;
  • Choose subjects you enjoy;
  • Choose subjects you're good at;
  • Don't be pressured by outside forces such as parents, teachers and friends;
  • Take advantage of career advice centres and websites, as they'll offer unbiased advice.

Updated March 2017