It’s the beginning of a whole new chapter of your life – you’re deciding what to do after you’ve finished your GCSEs.
And with so many different opportunities depending on your skills, interests or chosen career path – the world really is your oyster. It might feel like it’s still a long way off but it will be here before you know it, so it now is the time to give some serious thought. When it comes to considering the next chapter in your learning, look at the pros and cons of each of the options available to you.
You might decide to stay on to study A-levels in your school’s sixth form, go to college for vocational training or start an apprenticeship.
For some of you, the decision might be easy because perhaps you’ve always known that you want to be a doctor, plumber or architect. For the rest of you it might seem more than a little mind-boggling deciding
what it is you want to do. But there are ways to make it seem less daunting, which start with approaching it positively and with an open mind.
Considering what you are good at and what you are interested in can be a good place to start. If you enjoy learning and want to continue your education in a familiar environment, then A-levels are the most traditional route to university and take two years to complete.
These qualifications have recently been overhauled. The content for the new A-levels has been reviewed and updated, with universities playing a much greater role in this for the new qualifications than they did previously. It is hoped that this will make A-levels better preparation for university study and the move has been welcomed by higher education institutions. A-levels are achieved after two years of study and there are lots of different subjects to choose from. They can be done at a school sixth form or a further education college and you can also take them alongside vocational qualifications.
The combination of subjects you choose is very important as it will influence your chances of getting on to a degree course at university. It’s important to research which A-levels are required for the subject you would like to study later or the career path you want to take. Some courses, such as veterinary medicine, for example, will require you to have studied specific subjects. It’s always better to spend time finding out what the industry wants so you’re not disappointed later.
T Levels are an alternative to A-levels, apprenticeships and other 16 to 19 courses. Equivalent in size to three A-levels, a T Level focuses on vocational skills and can help students into skilled employment, higher study or apprenticeships. Each course includes an in-depth industry placement that lasts at least 45 days. Students get valuable experience in the workplace and employers get early sight of the new talent in their industry. The courses are available at selected colleges, schools and other providers across England. T Levels are being gradually rolled out and the first 16 have now been launched.
There are plenty of other qualifications you can look into such as NVQs and BTECs. They offer a more practical approach than traditional academic courses and may be related to a broad employment area such as business, engineering, IT, health and social care or they might lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, accounting, professional cookery or plumbing.
But if you think you’re ready for the workplace, then taking an apprenticeship is a great way to learn hands-on skills in a real world setting and you will be paid while you learn. There are more than 280 types of apprenticeship for more than 1,500 job roles – anything from engineering to boat-building, or veterinary nursing to accountancy.
When it comes to looking at your options for when you’re 18, higher education continues to be a popular choice for school-leavers, whether it’s university or more vocational courses such as Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). If you opt to work towards a degree, you can go down the academic route or pick a course more closely connected to your dream job. There is evidence that graduates go on to have higher earning potential and have a greater choice of jobs.
University also helps you to develop life-long skills that will come in handy in all kinds of different jobs and industries. For some careers, higher education is a must, so don’t discount it without looking into what qualifications are expected for your chosen profession because you don’t want to be disappointed later. Research is key.
Vocational courses can give you more hands-on experience and can be a quicker route into work. It’s also possible to do an apprenticeship when you’re 18. These are becoming more and more popular with an increasing number of opportunities available every year – so are well worth some serious consideration. They give you the chance to be paid while you are trained on the job and are working towards industry specific qualifications so they might be a more direct route to the career you want.
Employers are keen to recruit apprentices who they can train to develop the necessary skills for their industry and in certain industries they are in high demand due to ageing workforces. Higher and degree apprenticeships are available for more than 100 different job roles across around 75 industries. So, there are many paths to consider when you are deciding what next.
Always aim to do something you will love because there is no point wasting time and money on something you will not be passionate about.