Having completed your 'A' level qualifications, you could find yourself at a crossroads again. Choices at this stage are even more important to your future career, so take some time to really think about your decision. Your main options are:
- higher education
- vocational training
- a gap year
- employment with or without training
Speak to your careers advisor, subject teachers, family, friends, or local careers office for information and advice to help make the right choice for you.
Higher education: Degree courses
There are lots of undergraduate degree courses available. Some degrees are academic while others take a more practical and vocational approach. If there is a subject you are passionate about this is a great chance for you to study it in more depth. However, you also need to think about what you want to do once you graduate - if you have a specific career in mind that may determine which courses you can consider. Make sure the course gives you the qualification you need and is approved by the relevant professional bodies.
- How long will a degree course take? Most undergraduate degrees in England and Wales last for three years, though some of the vocational based courses and language degrees do take four or more, with a sandwich year to put skills into practice. Scottish degree courses generally last for four years.
- What is a sandwich course? Some degrees include an industrial placement or a year abroad. These are called sandwich courses and tend to be in the more vocational subjects (such as Engineering) or in language subjects.
- What are the entry requirements? Entry requirements vary for different courses at different universities and colleges - have a look on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website for more information (see Further Information).
- How do you apply? Application is by the UCAS application form. This can be ordered over the internet or you can apply through your school or college. Deadlines for applications vary for different courses and institutions - so make sure you check on the UCAS website and send off your application in plenty of time.
There are some important benefits to going on to higher education:
- research shows that graduates generally earn more than those who have not got a degree
- gaining a degree qualification can improve your chances of getting the job you really want
- you will find a wide range of activities, clubs and societies on offer at most universities and colleges - it is a great opportunity to meet new people and enjoy other hobbies while studying something you are really interested in
- you will have much more say about the direction your learning takes than you have had before.
Foundation degrees combine academic study with workplace learning. They are vocationally-based and you will spend some time working in business or industry. A full-time course usually takes two years and the qualification you gain is roughly equivalent to the first two years of a bachelors degree. They are offered by universities in partnership with higher education colleges and further education colleges. Taking a Foundation Degree could lead you on to higher education or straight in to a job.