Career choicesOptions at 18+

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Gap year

You might feel you want a break before going on to more study, or you need some time to think about what you want to do next. Then what about taking a Gap year?

Gap year ideas:

  • Au pair and childcare - getting a job as an au pair abroad can be a good way to develop your language skills and experience the life and culture of another country. Au pair work will usually be a minimum of six months.
  • Working on holiday camps and tourist resorts - there are many opportunities to do this both in the UK and abroad. Work may be seasonal and you need to be prepared to get involved in all aspects of work in the camp or resort.
  • Studying - you could use the time to do a work placement, take a language course or improve your qualifications. There are many study options to consider both at home and abroad, and they could open up new possibilities for you.
  • Travelling - you might want to take time out to explore the world, by yourself or with friends. You need to plan ahead to make sure you get the most out of the opportunity. Use the internet and browse through some guide books - they are full of useful ideas and information.
  • Volunteering - there is a huge range of opportunities for volunteering in the UK and abroad. You could teach English abroad, work with children or people with disabilities, work on a conservation project, provide a rural village in Africa with their first running water…whatever you do, it is a great chance to develop new skills and meet new people while making a real difference. Volunteering is very rewarding and will be a good addition to your CV.

Gap year benefits:

  • taking a year out before higher education can help you avoid study burnout or developing negative attitudes to learning.
  • it can help you get used to your freedom and independence - so you will adapt more easily to university life where you will be left to organise yourself and your work.
  • it is a good chance to gain confidence in yourself, develop your personality and build relationships with other people.
  • if you work through your Gap year you can save up money to help pay your way through higher education.

If you are planning to go to university or college and know what you want to do, it could well be wise to apply before your year out and defer your place. This means that your place is guaranteed for the following year without you having to apply again.

Using your Gap year wisely - taking part in expeditions or work schemes abroad, for example - will impress future employers and you will find you get more out of the year for yourself.

Employment

If you decide to start work instead of going on to higher education, look for a job that allows you to improve your qualifications, skills and experience. Some organisations will pay for you to take qualifications or courses relevant to the work and many jobs now include training programmes.

You might want to look at part-time courses you can do in your spare time. Continuing your learning and personal development will help you 'move up the ladder' and improve your career prospects.