Tom studied a BTEC Level 3 in Computing before progressing onto a Level 5 HND in Computing at Chichester College. After completing his HND, Tom aspires to top-up his qualifications to gain a degree.

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Starting my journey in computing

Before enrolling onto my Higher National course in Computing, I completed a Level 3 BTEC Computing qualification. During my time studying the Level 3 course we were given a range of ideas and suggestions for future pathways, whether they be at a university or internally at the College on a Higher National program. After researching different options I decided upon the Higher Nationals route as I felt it would be best suited to what I wished to do in the future, and also to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for my personal and professional development.

Why I chose the course

One reason why I chose the HND Computing program over other options offered at universities was because, unlike a university, the Higher National courses tend to have a smaller cohort, allowing for more practical and one-to-one work to take place within the College. This was something I was looking for when researching potential courses as the practical element has helped me to understand certain aspects of computing better, as opposed to listening and taking notes in a lecture format. 

Another reason why I felt that this course was the correct one for me was because of the cost. Unlike many university courses costing upwards of nine-thousand-pounds per year, commonly a Higher National program such as a Level 5 HND costs far less, with mine being around the six-thousand-pound mark (although this can differ at different Colleges). Combined, these factors stood out to me as I would be able to undertake the same content as would be given within a university course, but with the ability to carry out more practical work and to have less people in the same classroom while doing so.

Progressing from my BTEC L3 to Levels 4 and 5

The transition from my L3 BTEC to the L4 and L5 Higher National was seamless; my tutors talked me through the UCAS application before attending an interview, where I found out more about the areas of the course and what I could expect to learn. It worked extremely well for me as it was a simple process, and I was able to ask for help from those on my current course and those leading the HND if I ever needed help with anything along the way.

During our final few assignments on the BTEC L3 Computing course, we were told to do them up to university standard and given the support to do so. This included areas such as document formatting, tables of contents, and correctly structured bibliography and references areas. We were also given a strict word limit to imitate a university level assignment, however this does not come into play within an HND as much as it would at a university. Due to this I felt I was very much prepared, and it did not feel like a large jump, simply a continuation of the previous qualification albeit more in depth and slightly more challenging in areas.


Opportunities within the course

Within this course we have been presented with many opportunities. One that stands out however, is the offer from our Course Leader to put is in contact with local employers. This helped us gain an idea of how the industry works as well as to provide us with possible opportunities such as work experience or employment once our course had been completed. 

We also had the chance to carry out multiple self-paced online courses as part of our main qualification, allowing us to gain optional additional certifications along the way if we desired. This gave us even more room to develop our skills and knowledge in the computing and cyber security sectors.

My future goals

After the completion of the Level 5 HND, one of my goals is to gain a full degree by topping up my current qualifications to Level 6. To do this, my aim is to apply for a Degree Apprenticeship role within a computing or security company as this would allow me to gain a degree while also working in the industry, providing me with real-world experience which I would otherwise be lacking.  

My advice for future students

My advice for any student looking at further education would be to not disregard an HND. Whilst they may only be the first two years of a degree, they provide excellent opportunities that may not be present within a university degree course. They also provide a more relaxed working environment allowing for one-to-ones to take place as well as more inclusive and in-depth practical tasks due to the limited amount of people within a class.

I would also say to any student to not be scared to ask for help. At any time if I was struggling, or I required some assistance with a piece of work, I could always rely on my lecturers, whether it be through an online medium such as Teams or in-person while I was in class. They are always available to offer assistance, or to provide resources if necessary to help you succeed.