Whether your grades weren’t as good as you’d hoped, you’re keen to take a break from full-time education, or you’re chomping at the bit to start your career… going to university isn’t everyone’s cup of tea!
Whilst many see university as the next step after completing A-levels, there are so many different routes school leavers can take.
In this blog, I’d like to show you nine alternative paths to university you could choose from.
Once the most popular route for entering a profession and working your way up (just ask your parents or grandparents!), apprenticeships peaked in the 1960s and then slowly declined. After various rebrands, apprenticeships are becoming more popular again and are considered a great alternative to university by those keen to enter the workplace and avoid large student loans.
Degree apprenticeships are available for those who still want to obtain a degree whilst learning hands-on transferrable skills. The format of a degree apprenticeship typically combines three or four days of work with one to two days of studying, with additional time off work around exam times for studying.
2. Entry-level positions
The name says it all! Hundreds of roles out there don’t require too many specialist skills or qualifications, and are perfect for school leavers.
Most job websites have the option to filter for entry-level positions or qualification levels, so you can quickly narrow down jobs which may be suitable for your situation.
3. Professional Certifications
If you’re passionate about learning and gaining recognition, but university doesn’t feel like your thing, how about earning a professional certification instead?
Embarking on a course in your preferred industry will help you to gain the necessary qualifications to begin your career, without the commitment of three or four years at university… and the associated fees!
With many professional certifications obtained through distance learning and on a part-time basis, you’ll also be able to gain some valuable work experience or commit your time to your hobbies.
4. Online courses
There are thousands of online courses out there to help you supplement your education and give you the necessary skills to begin a career that you enjoy (Reed and Udemy are just two places you will find them). If the thought of moving away and meeting new people feels daunting, being able to learn from the comfort of your own home and at your pace might be just what you’re looking for.
With the added benefit that online courses are usually quicker and cheaper to obtain, this is a fantastic option for many.
5. Foundation Degree
Created in partnership between universities, higher education colleges and employers, foundation courses focus on developing the technical skills for a particular job or profession. They provide a strong platform for those seeking employment and open doors for those who may wish to study for a full undergraduate degree down the line.
Studying full-time, a foundation degree will take two years; the part-time route typically lasts for about four years.
6. Work experience and Internships
If you’re struggling to secure an entry-level role, a great way to get your name out there and get your foot on the first rung of the ladder is to complete some work experience or an internship.
Work experience can be easier to organise by contacting individual companies or using your network of family and friends to see what’s out there for you.
Internships are a more formal arrangement but can be very competitive! Do some research to find out what is available in the fields you’re interested in and use the skills you’ve learnt through your education and hobbies to help you stand out from the crowd.
Charities and non-profit organisations are always looking for enthusiastic and dependable volunteers to help them deliver their projects and objectives.
Although you’ll be working for free (you may be reimbursed for some expenses), you’ll be carrying out tasks and duties you may be able to use once you secure permanent employment. It’s also an opportunity to gain experience and practice as many soft and hard skills as possible, such as teamwork, active listening, problem-solving, and leadership.
This invaluable experience will also help to set you apart from the crowd when it comes to your CV, job applications and interview performance further down the road.
8. Gap year
We spend a long time in full-time education, and sometimes it’s nice to have a little breather before embarking on the next chapter in our lives.
If you don’t feel quite ready for university or the start of your career, why not take a gap year to see the world, meet new people and gain some life experience?
It may give you the headspace to work out where your skills and attributes are best suited.
If you can’t afford to travel around the world for a year, you could still take a gap year to temp and experience various industries before deciding which way you want to go.
Do you have a hobby or passion that you could turn into a revenue-generating endeavour? If so, now might be the best time to give it a go before you have the responsibilities of a mortgage or a family.
Becoming self-employed doesn’t necessarily mean setting up a business. You could become a freelancer, do contract work or become a paid driver.
Being your own boss means you can work independently and set your own working hours. It takes determination and hard work, but you could be the next Karren Brady or Richard Branson!