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Computer engineering - what Level 3 choices should he look at?

(30 Posts)
Kez100 Fri 08-Nov-13 09:16:09

My son is currently looking at 6 forms and colleges. Tomorrow we are visiting a really big one with a multitude of choices but he isn't sure what options he has which will lead him best towards a career 'fixing computers'. He is relatively clever and with computers changing all the time and being chucked away more often than repaired, I think (but am happy to be told I am wrong) what he is really looking at is a more general electronic engineering route to keep options open whilst specialising in the right direction.

Again, from the list of courses, these seem to fit:

A level: Mathematics, Physics, Electronics, ICT
BTEC Engineering

(BTEC maybe with an added A level)

Any help or advice greatly appreciated before we visit the big college tomorrow.

mummytime Fri 08-Nov-13 09:42:32

Maths A'level would be a good choice, but is he going to get a/a* at GCSE?
B'tec IT can be hard wear or softwre biased, so I would check exactly what options he can do.
Physics A'level is another good one, if he's going to the A'level route.

Is he good at studying alone, keeping up with work, time management? He might prefer A'levels.
Does he need little goals, and prefer a more portfolio approach? B'tec can be better.

Ask about the destinations of leavers, and careers advice.

Kez100 Fri 08-Nov-13 10:46:39

Predictions are difficult because he is making huge progress as he has irlens and only got special glasses ay end of year 9.

At end of year 10 he passed Core Science with a good grade B. (A grade in Physics) and Maths foundation grade C (87%). So, he is aiming for a Maths Grade A and another Physics A in additional science in year 11 and we have offered to pay for tuition next summer to close the gap between double science and triple if he chooses any Science A levels.

He likes little goals but he is also good at exams but with the typical last minute revision. I think, though, that might improve when he is doing the subjects he likes. His written work is not so good as he is severely dyslexic so everything is harder for him which leads to the writing heavy subjects causing frustration. It is this latter which worries me with BTEC but he is doing well on his current level 2 BTEC in music.

mummytime Fri 08-Nov-13 11:03:51

My DS started sixth form last year doing traditional A'levels. It was a disaster - he just couldn't cope with the 20+ hours of free study.
He is now doing a BTec and an A'level. His writing is done on the computer,which he much prefers, and he copes better with actually achieving targets continually, rather than having the chance to fall a long way behind.
He was also very disappointed by A'level Physics, as,it didn't enthuse him or seem to cover the stuff he was interested in.

antimatter Fri 08-Nov-13 20:11:17

regardless of what people say working in iT requires ability to express oneself

is he considering any essay based subjects?

I thought Maths is compulsory for good courses.
What Uni is he hoping to try to get to?

cricketballs Fri 08-Nov-13 21:19:27

as someone who is qualified in this field I would advise if he wants to 'fix' rather than 'code' that he goes the electronic route. This will give him the basics of anything electronic/electrical which will allow him to specialise in a particular field later plus I got on a Physics degree course with a BTEC Electrical with electronics specialism qualification

rightsaidfrederick Sat 09-Nov-13 01:08:03

A Levels are the route that will leave the most options open

IAlwaysThought Sat 09-Nov-13 01:26:05

The best thing to do is to look at a number of universities ACTUAL entry requirements for computer engineering. You can find them on the UCAS website HERE
I would imagine that as long as he does Maths he could choose whatever else he is interested in and stong at (within reason). Electronics or IT / Computing would give him something to talk about on his UCAS personal statement.
Then get your son to read the course details to work out exactly what type of course he likes.
It is really worth him and you doing your homework now.

IAlwaysThought Sat 09-Nov-13 01:27:54

Has he thought of doing MACHATRONICS.
I think it looks fascinating smile

lljkk Sat 09-Nov-13 08:43:13

Is he doing DT at GCSE?
I guess DT's still an A-level.
DH is a programmer by trade & electrical engineer by training.

antimatter Sat 09-Nov-13 10:34:39

I work in IT, majority of non-english born people at work have Computer Science/Computing degrees & lots have Computer Science Masters.
British people often have non Computer Science degrees as undergraduates.

I've heard that Computing/IT A-levels are not taken seriously by universities. Do you think he would be able to to traditional subjects to keep his options open? I think if he is interested then Electronics is very good option.

The thing is what I am doing now as to compare with 10 years ago is very different. IT industry changes with a speed which I think other types of engineering don't. You need solid background in Computer Science to keep up and progress.

Other degrees he may consider are:

I strongly believe having knowledge of software development and Networks or Security will give someone greater edge over just Computer Science on it's own.

Kez100 Sat 09-Nov-13 18:39:48

Thanks all. We have been to look around today. He loved it there and saw a lot of school friends as he went around.

He has (almost) decided.

A levels. Maths, Physics, Electronics and - the fourth not yet decided but - IT or Accounting or maybe even something completely different like Music.

BTEC IT (plus an A level) possibly if he doesn't get the GCSE grades he needs to do A Levels or if he struggles with them in the first few weeks. The BTEC Engineering was quite mechanical and a lot of DT, and the course didn't grab him.

No essay subjects as he is severely dyslexic and will struggle to get GCSE English at C grade (although he is A/A* grade speaking and listening - not that it is counted anymore!). He isn't particularly looking at any University at the moment. Just wants to keep options open.

Kez100 Sat 09-Nov-13 18:44:14

Thanks for the UCAS link!

Looks like he is choosing the right sort of subjects.

antimatter Sat 09-Nov-13 20:02:40

Dyslectics make great IT Engineers, thinking outside of the box is what's needed (most of the time anyway smile )

good luck to your DS!

Kez100 Sat 09-Nov-13 21:28:03


circular Sat 09-Nov-13 22:07:47

Music not so different alongside Maths & Physics. Over half DD1's A level Music group taking one or both.

I work in I.T. too. Totally agree with antimatter about the different degrees I.T. specialists have. I have come across more with science related than computing related degrees. And definitely the need for high quality written and verbal communication.
Not sure I would go as far as to say an essay writing subject at A level would be necessary to achieve this. Surely the written work needed for most science subjects would be sufficient.

Maths & Physics definitely.

littlejo67 Mon 11-Nov-13 21:08:43

My son is in his second year of a computer engineering degree at uea. He did a Btec advanced diploma in IT and got DDD*
He is dyslexic and would never of got the A level grades needed.
it was easier for him to get the required UCAS points using the Diploma route.

mumeeee Tue 12-Nov-13 12:56:02

little job is simular to your DS. She is Dyspraxic with another learning difficulty. She did BTECH IT extended Diploma and for DMM. She is now in her first year of a computing degree. She found when she researched unis that most of them accept BTECHs. She is also used to working on her own which is helping her now.

Kez100 Wed 13-Nov-13 10:07:37

The problem with the BTEC, and Computing A level, was the sheer amount of programming. He is happy to do some and capable too, but he finds it boring. I really don't know enough about computers to understand if programming is something that is necessary to have, a preference to have or not necessary at all depending on the job you would be aiming for.

He wants to keep his options open but equally be realistic. His dyslexia is going to rule out the careers requiring an immaculate set of GCSEs. He is likely to be looking at A's in Maths, Physics. B's in Chemistry and Biology. Distinctions and Merits in his 3 Btecs (which he chose to reduce stress at school caused by his dyslexia - it has worked quite well) and History, RE and English are all up for guessing - depends on how much progress he can make with writing between now and the summer - mentally and verbally he is a good grade student (scoring A/A* in the uncounted speaking and listening) but controlled assessments are coming in at D. He did manage one RE assessment at a A! Honestly, he is all over the place when it comes to written stuff.

He would love to do Classical Civilisation - it is his passion. I am wondering whether to tell him to go for it as a fourth. Try out the taster session and see. It would give a balance to his choices.

mumeeee Wed 13-Nov-13 11:23:00

DD3 likes programming and is doing a lot on her computing degree. She looked at several different computing coursee and they all had a fair chunk of programing. I don't know about Computers engineering thoughbut I expect it would have some programing on it. DD3 has actually found her BTECH is helping her a lot with stuff now.

antimatter Wed 13-Nov-13 11:37:27

you say that your son finds coding boring (I do too smile )

what aspect of computing does he enjoy?

funnyvalentine Wed 13-Nov-13 11:40:19

IHMO, 'fixing computers' is going to get far more specialist in the future - with cheaper computing (i.e. more disposable), more remote computing (cloud computing) and more compact (smaller hardware).

If he doesn't like programming, then I agree that electronics is the way to go. The main problem with not liking programming is that software and hardware are becoming more intertwined. For example, there's a move towards building in redundancy to cope with hardware failure, and that's nothing without the software to manage it. And 'programmable hardware' is popular too, as it gets cheaper. I'd say he'd have more options in future for a career in computing if he learns some formal programming too.

For Engineering (incl. electronics), I always advise if possible Maths, Further Maths and Physics, plus an extra of your choice. That gives you most options. But, it obviously depends on the entry requirements of what he wants to do after a-levels/btech.

Kez100 Wed 13-Nov-13 12:31:29

I agree about the fixing side of it. As we discussed together, 5 years ago the ipad didn't even exist so there is no point in looking at todays jobs or equipment and assuming they will be here tomorrow.

Even he isn't absolutely sure of where he wants to end up so wants to keep his choices open but play to his strengths. He is happy to do some programming, he just doesn't want to do a lot of it if it isn't necessary. Not at A level anyway.

Looking forward at Unis and working back it seems Maths and Physics rear their head almost all of the time. For useful extras ICT and Electronics are mentioned (I was surprised about ICT). Or, obviously, they could choose any subject they have a passion for.

When we went to college to look around they said that FM was really for those than live, eat and sleep Maths. He didn't think he was quite that extreme!

funnyvalentine Wed 13-Nov-13 13:30:27

I don't think it's necessary to study programming at a-level, just worth bearing in mind that it's a useful skill in a computing job, and one that requires actually doing it to learn.

Completely disagree about FM being only for those that live, eat and sleep maths. It's a really useful foundation for any engineering course. But then, I'm probably biased as I enjoy maths (don't think I am that hardcore). Engineering, physics etc at higher levels have a lot of applied maths.

By the way, communication is a really useful skill to have in a technical field, but I don't think you need an essay writing a-level to get it.

Kez100 Wed 13-Nov-13 14:38:42

Communication is a strength of his, so that is good. He has been part of a theatre group for about 8 years and plays in the school band. He is a confident and outgoing lad.

What are the required units for FM and what are the optional ones - are they applied or pure?

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