As your time at school starts to draw to a close, there's likely to be pressure on you from many sides to aim for university. For many people, that's great advice, but it's not necessarily right for everyone — even if they have the academic ability to get a place. If you want to get stuck right into your career, without the need for academic study, university may not feel all that attractive. Fortunately, there are alternatives.
1. Take a Foundation Degree
OK, this one does involve going to university, but on different terms from a full degree. A Foundation Degree is ideal for someone who wants to continue in the industry they've chosen while topping up their education. It typically lasts two years full time or up to four years if you study part time while working, and the degree is worth two-thirds of a full honours degree. There's no need for any formal qualifications, although work experience may help you get a place. You can apply through UCAS for a full-time course or directly to the university or college for a part-time one.
2. Get an Apprenticeship
For centuries, apprenticeships were the standard way of training for a career, and they've been fully updated for the 21st century. If you have level 3 qualifications (e.g. A-level, NVQ, BTEC) in addition to five GCSEs, you can apply for a Higher Apprenticeship, which can last for one to five years. You'll be in a full-time job, with time off for study at one of various providers, such as a university or college, in sectors ranging from construction to the arts, and your training will be fully funded by the employer and the government. Alternatively, you can spend between three and six years on a Degree Apprenticeship, which combines practical work experience and on-the-job training with studying at university for a full Batchelor's degree.
3. Do Unpaid Work Experience
If you can afford a period of unpaid work, there are various ways of gaining valuable experience in your chosen industry. The simplest is to approach an employer and ask to do a period of work experience, which may only be a few weeks. Alternatively, you can apply for an Internship, which is a more formal type of work experience, sometimes lasting for up to a year. Internships are in great demand and often only open to graduates, but some are available to school leavers. If you don't have the qualifications for an Apprenticeship, you can apply for a Traineeship, which can last from six weeks to a year.
4. Start Working Straight Away
You don't have to go into either training or unpaid work — you can simply apply for a job straight away. Although employers often look for higher qualifications, such as a degree, many offer entry-level jobs to school leavers with good qualifications or work experience. These could be full-time or part-time, and they may be permanent or filling a temporary vacancy, but at the very least they'll offer great experience while being paid. Alternatively, if you fancy yourself as a budding entrepreneur, you could always cut out the middleman and start your own business. Small and micro businesses are quickly becoming part of the standard range of career options, and if you have a plan and a skill, you could go straight onto working for yourself.
5. Take a Gap Year
If you haven't yet decided which route you want to take, it could be the perfect opportunity to take a Gap Year. You could travel for pleasure, or else volunteer or teach English as a foreign language abroad. Most employers nowadays recognise that a Gap Year can give you valuable skills, from languages to organisational experience, that make you more employable.
Whatever you choose, a private tutor can help you to prepare or to achieve the qualifications you need. Register with TutorExtra to find out which tutors are available.