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Your School Leaver Choices: An Overview


From apprenticeships to going to university, there are many routes that you could take after your GCSEs. Which should you choose?

There are many different ways to get into employment - some will see you earning whilst learning, whilst others will mean a few years of academic study via university. There are lots of options out there, so make sure you know which is right for you.


Apprenticeships offer you the chance to earn while you learn. You can start in almost any industry as an apprentice – from hairdressing to mechanics, engineering to accounting.

Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 or above who is not in full-time education. You’ll receive a training programme that combines paid work with professional training, which will lead to a job-related qualification. You progress through various levels as you complete your training, with salaries increasing on the completion of each level.

These programmes are perfect for school leavers who don’t want to continue in education, but want to be able to learn on a job and earn a salary. This is a great move if you know the type of career and industry you want to work in already.

School leaver schemes

School leaver schemes are increasingly popular ways for employers to hire talented school leavers, train them up in the skills they need and give them real-world experience – all at the same time.

School leaver schemes are offered by many major employers and normally require you to have a minimum level of qualification, whether to GCSE or A-Level standard. You can earn anything from minimum wage to £20,000 a year and your qualifications will be paid for, meaning you won’t end with a mountain of debt.

Unsurprisingly, such schemes are very popular with school leavers, so make sure you apply early.

Professional qualifications

If you want to continue in education but don’t think that university is the right path, then taking a vocational qualification such as an HND or NVQ could be a good alternative.

Vocational qualifications train you for a specific role in a particular industry. They can be taken in almost all industries and are often cheaper and quicker to complete than going down the A-Level and university route.

Vocational qualifications can also be studied while you’re working or part-time. They are generally arranged to suit the needs of the individual, so you’re not committed to going into college every day to attend lectures.

Going to university

Continuing in education through A-Levels and then onto university may seem like a logical step, but make sure you choose further study for the right reasons. A university education is not a guarantee of a high-paying job and many job roles now actively look for school leavers to train on the job.

However, providing you choose a subject that is relevant to the area you want to work in and get relevant work experience at the same time, a university education can still be extremely worthwhile – and can definitely boost your earning potential.

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