When you reach 16, you're suddenly faced with some decisions to make. Up until GCSEs, your path has pretty much been mapped out for you. But after all those years of school, you now have some choices.
The first thing to remember is that, if you live in England, the law has changed which means that you now have to be in some form of education or training until you're 18.
But even with that in mind, there are still more options than you ever had before. At 16, it can be difficult to know what you want to do in terms of careers and unless you have your sights set on something in particular, knowing what to do next can be tricky. In this post, we’ll explore some of the options that you have after taking your GCSE exams.
Staying on at school to study for A-levels
If you intend to continue down the academic route and go on to further education, then you’ll need to gain A-level qualifications. Although universities will look at your GCSEs as part of their application process, A-levels are given more significance. So if you have your heart set on a career that requires you to have a degree, then you’ll need to continue studying for your A-levels.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to stay on at school. Some students decide to study for their A-levels at college, either full-time or part-time. If you feel that you really need a change of scene but you still want to continue studying, then applying to take your A-levels at college can be a good way of gaining some independence while experiencing a different learning environment.
On that note however, most people say that their best years at school were their last two. As an A-level student, you’ll be one of the older pupils in school, which means you’ll be given more responsibility and a bit more freedom in your studies.
Consider applying for an apprenticeship
One alternative to staying on a school is to look for work-based training opportunities. If you have a specific career in mind and you want to earn while you learn, then an apprenticeship could be the best career move for you.
As an apprentice, you’ll have the opportunity to experience working in a specific industry while gaining the knowledge you’ll need progress into specialist roles in the future. Apprenticeships are ideal for students who are ready to start working and know what type of industry they’re best-suited to.
Most apprentices gain a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), which enables you to work in a particular role. Apprenticeships typically last between one and four years, so you’ll need to be willing to commit to working in that industry for at least this length of time and most probably for some time after too.
It’s worth bearing in mind, that if you’re still unsure about what career you’d like, you may not be ready for an apprenticeship just yet as it may limit your options in the future, unless you want to re-train.
Look for a job
If you’re certain that education isn’t for you, then you could consider looking for a job. Just because you don’t want to stay on at school, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful in your future career. Some of the UK’s wealthiest businessmen left school at 16, working their way up in a company or starting their own business.
Because the law has recently changed in England, which means that you now have to be in some form of education or training until you are 18, if you do get a job, it will need to offer vocational training or you'll need to study part-time.
Making the leap from school to work can sometimes take a bit of getting used to and we’d suggest that you do some research into budgeting, so that you know how to manage your money responsibly.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that just because you choose to start working, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go back to education in the future. People decide to take their A-levels or study for degrees at various ages.
Remember, there’s no such thing as the ‘right’ career path.
Have you just taken your GCSE exams? Which of the options above do you feel are the most suited to your situation? Do you have any advice for students who are facing these decisions?