What qualifications should you aim for?

WHAT happens after you take your GCSEs?


You have to stay in education or training until you are aged 18, unlike your older brother or sister who may have left education at 16.


There are three main categories of qualifications you can take – academic, vocational and apprenticeship-based.


A-levels are the main academic route and if you think you might want to go to university then these are definitely worth considering. Although UK universities do accept other entrance qualifications, the admissions system is geared towards A-levels.


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 onto 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.


By applying learning to real- life situations, vocational qualifications such as NVQs and BTECs offer a more practical approach than traditional academic courses.


They 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.


Or you could decide to combine training or studying for a qualification and work at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a paid job, you can volunteer on a project or with a charity, or get a work- experience placement in a career or job area that interests you.


Colleges offer a wide range of training courses that are part-time, including A-levels, BTECs and NVQs.