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What to Do After Leaving School: A Guide

05 September, 2019

Leaving school behind can be intimidating. Up until this point, it is likely all your decisions were made on your behalf by your parents and teachers. After all, you may have been told what school to go to, what to wear each day and how to act both at home and in the classroom.

Entering the adult world can, therefore, be more than a little overwhelming, as you might be unsure about the next best step to take once you have completed your GCSEs. If you need some guidance, read the following tips on what you can do after leaving school behind.

Talk to a Career Advisor

If you’re scratching your head about what to do once you have completed your GCSEs, it might be helpful to talk to an experienced career advisor. They will have extensive experience in helping students to find the right path for their needs after high school so that they won’t be wrestling with worries about their future.

After asking a variety of questions about your passions and personality, they could help you to pinpoint the best avenue for your needs after school life, which could range from staying on at sixth form to securing an apprenticeship.

Apply for Sixth Form or College

If you would like to further your education after completing your GSCEs, you always have the option to attend either sixth form or college. Sixth form is often an extension of high school, as you can secure A levels or NVQs at the same or a different senior school.

Alternatively, you could enrol in a college course, which often provides a wider range of study options, such as:

• NVQs
• City and Guilds
• Higher National Diplomas

If you’re unsure about the best choice for your needs, consider attending an open day or evening at a school or college. It will allow you to learn more about the courses they provide, the level of support on offer, and the type of environment you can study in. Whichever option you choose, obtaining the above qualifications could provide you with a direct path to a career or a university course.

Consider an Apprenticeship

If sixth form or college doesn’t seem like the right fit for your needs, you should consider either an apprenticeship or a traineeship in a field that triggers a passion.

There are also various types of apprenticeships to complement your personality and skillset, as you could work in:

Creative and media
Business and administration
IT & Telecommunications
Retail & Sales
Tourism and Hospitality

An apprenticeship will allow you to step foot into an industry that ignites a spark inside you while providing you with a variety of new skills, which could provide a realistic path to a career and greater confidence when entering working life. It’s an ideal option if you don’t want to stop learning but don’t want to spend the next few years studying inside a classroom.

A Degree Apprenticeship

Another superb option could be a degree apprenticeship, which combines the best features of an apprenticeship with the best aspects of a traditional university degree.

It is a part study, part work program you’ll need to complete within three years, and you will then possess a degree that is comparable to a traditional university degree. The big difference is, you will have secured valuable experience and skills in your chosen industry, which could set you apart from other candidates when applying for a full-time role at a company.

It is, however, important to note that a degree apprenticeship will not be for those who are work shy. You will need to both study and work for three years, so it is a program that will require a great deal of commitment, passion and focus. However, if you are filled with ambition and have a strong work ethic, you could enter your ideal role at a faster rate in comparison to traditional students.

It might, however, be music to your ears to learn that an employer will be responsible for your degree fees, and they will also pay you a salary throughout the duration of the course. Unsurprisingly, it is becoming a popular option for high school leavers, and the government is currently investing in degree apprenticeships to encourage more students to embrace both academic and working life once they leave school behind.

Find a Job

Another option is to apply for a job, which will allow you to enjoy either a weekly or monthly wage. What’s more, it could provide you with your first taste of working life. Many companies are more than happy to hire high school leavers for part- and full-time jobs, and you can often find various roles advertised on job recruitment sites, social media, and in local newspapers. You could even ask your loved ones to recommend you for a position at their company.

It might, however, be beneficial to hire a CV writer to create an impressive CV on your behalf to stand out from many candidates. Plus, you always have the option to attend college or embark on an apprenticeship in the future if you decide a job isn’t the right option for you.

Once you have secured a job, you could potentially climb the corporate ladder. However, you will need to possess a hard work ethic and a positive, helpful attitude. Plus, you should express your ambition to your employer to ensure they consider you for a promotion. Finding a job after high school could provide you with a jumpstart in your career, as you could quickly rise through the ranks in an industry.

Start Your Own Business

If the thought of continuing your education fills you with dread and you would rather become your own boss over working for one, you always have the option to start your own business. You will need to possess excellent business acumen, a passion for an industry and a rock-solid business idea.

There are, however, many factors that can determine your company’s success, such as the current economic climate, your cash flow, sales tactics, leadership skills and your financial literacy. If you’re serious about starting your own venture, you would be smart to gain experience in your chosen industry first or to secure an A-level and business management degree, which could help you to build a respected, profitable business.

Join the Armed Forces

If the above options don’t seem right for you, a career in the armed forces could be right up your street. You can enrol in the armed forces once you reach the age of 16 years old and you could potentially enter the:

British Army
Royal Navy
Royal Air Force (RAF)

Most armed forces are more likely to accept school leavers who possess two good A-levels (A-C), which can be in any subjects. However, your personal attributes will be deemed just as important as your academic qualifications. You also will have the same opportunities to develop in your chosen career as those with A-levels or a university degree.

Possessing a university degree can, however, increase your likelihood of being accepted into the armed forces. So, if you’re a school leaver, you’ll need to prove you have what it takes to flourish in your desired career. To do so, you should gain an understanding of both the fitness tests and academic requirements for entering the British Army, Royal Navy, or RAF.

Create a Clear Path to Success

If you are filled with passion for an industry and have a dream career in mind, you should create a clear path to success. For example, if you dream of becoming a teacher, doctor, nurse or paramedic, you should identify the GSCE, A-level and university courses you will need to acquire to turn your goal into a reality.

Of course, you will need to maintain a tunnel vision when earning each qualification, which means attending every class, seminar or lecture, studying hard during term-time, and reaching out to your teachers and lecturers for support when needed.

Learn More About Your Profession

It is, however, essential to learn more about your desired profession before working your way towards it. While a career might offer an attractive salary and can sound impressive at a party, it might also be exceptionally demanding and feature a great level of pressure and responsibility.

For this reason, you must aim to make an informed choice by talking to professionals currently in the role. You also should read various job specifications to learn more about a job’s working hours, daily tasks and salary expectations, which could help you to identify if a position is a right match for your needs and personality.

Gain Essential Experience to Make an Informed Choice

It might also be beneficial to gain experience in your chosen industry. For example, if you believe the healthcare industry could be a good fit for you, you should consider volunteering at a local hospital or medical practice.

It will allow you to learn more about the fast-paced environment, so you can identify if you can keep up with its responsibility and demands. You will also have an opportunity to mix with different healthcare professionals, which could help you to identify a passion for a specific role.

Review Your Career Options

While you might be filled with ambition to secure a specific career, the position could have a ceiling, which could prevent you from climbing through the ranks in an industry and could stifle your salary goals. To ensure you will not be professionally limited throughout the years, you should learn more about the different avenues you could potentially venture down once you have reached your career goal.

For example, while you might dream of becoming a teacher, you will also have the option to become a headteacher, private tutor, or an education liaison officer in the future. Alternatively, if your goal is to become a registered nurse, you would have the ability to enter a new position in the future. For example, you could attend one of the online colleges for neonatal nurses, if you’re an actively practicing RN, so you can obtain a doctorate of nursing practice.

Consider the Option of a Gap Year

The thought of embarking on your A-levels or working towards a university degree might be more than a little daunting, but it doesn’t need to be, as it is possible to take a break from your studies if you need to in the future.

While you shouldn’t embark on a gap year immediately after finishing high school, you should know that it can be a superb option in between studying for a university degree. Many institutions allow their students to take a break from a course, so they can travel the world or gain industry experience. It could ultimately take some of the pressure off your shoulders, as you can enjoy a little distance from your studies if you feel the pressure of a degree is too much.

Travelling to different destinations and separating yourself from your everyday life could provide you with mental clarity, so you will feel more focused and determined than ever to complete a course and reach your career goals once you return home.


It is only natural to feel a little overwhelmed at the prospect of leaving school life behind. There are many opportunities available to help you secure the right career for your personality, passions and ambition, however.

If you’re unsure what to do, it might be beneficial to talk to your parents about the next best steps for your needs. Alternatively, you could speak with a career advisor for informative advice, as they could help you to create a route to success, which could range from enrolling in college or sixth form to embarking on a traditional or degree apprenticeship. If the above options aren’t the best fit for you, you could consider a career in the armed forces or even launching your own business.

It might also be helpful to know that you don’t need to rush the decision. If you’re not ready for college or university life, you could always find a full-time job to experience a taste of the working world, which could potentially lead to you climbing up the corporate ladder.


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