How your GCSE choices could affect your future

Although it is a good thing to start thinking about the type of courses, jobs and career you might like to do in the future, at 13 or 14 young people are usually just beginning to explore their options. 

The choice of GCSEs and vocational qualifications available at 13/14 is quite limited. This is to ensure you continue with a broad range of subjects through Key Stage 4. When you are choosing for Post-16, you will have a lot more choice and can start to specialise.

However, you need to be aware that some choices you make now could have an impact on your future.

Choosing your key stage 4 subjects

GCSEs are the main qualifications young people do in Key Stage 4 (usually Y10 and Y11 but some schools start GCSEs in Y9). You will be able to choose some of your courses, but there are some compulsory GCSE subjects like English, maths and science.

Some schools will also offer vocational qualifications alongside GCSEs. Vocational qualifications offer practical learning directly related to a specific job role. These can be a good option if you have a job sector in mind, or if you would like to gain employability skills linked to a specific job area. Find out more about vocational qualifications and ask your school what's on offer to you.

Most GCSEs will be good general preparation for further learning and work so it’s not crucial to choose specific subjects to fit with a specific career at this stage. However, there are a few things you do need to take into account when you are choosing your GCSEs.

Choosing GCSE subjects for certain careers

  • If you think you might want to do a science-related course or job in the future, choose at least double award science.
  • If you think you want to study abroad in the future then it would be good to do a foreign language.
  • If you want a career in art, design or anything else related to a GCSE subject then it is a good idea to choose that subject.

GCSEs that prepare you for post 16 study

If you are thinking about doing an advanced level course at 16, like A-Levels or BTECs, it's sensible to find out what GCSE grades you will need to get on to the course in sixth form or college. Often students need a grade 6 or 7 to be able to do that subject as an A Level.

If you choose to do double science at GCSE you can still progress to any of the science subjects at A level as long as you have the required grades!

GCSEs that will enable you to go on to study at university

If you are thinking about higher education, be aware that many universities will consider your GCSE results before offering you a place on their course. This is because before you receive your A level results these are the only results that universities will be able to see.

Some university courses - like sciences, medicine and nursing - will be looking for specific GCSEs in the science subjects. Courses in psychology, business or English might require particular GCSE subjects and grades. Find out more about how universities consider pre-16 qualifications.

If you are thinking about a university course you would like to do, it's a good idea to check out the qualifications you need. Check directly with the institution (their websites often have this information), ask a careers adviser, or explore degree course requirements on What Uni?

GCSEs for employment

Employers want people with good maths and English GCSEs. 

The government has now made it a requirement that a young person who hasn't yet achieved a grade 4 (old grade C) or above in maths and English will need to continue to do them, as part of whatever course or training they do, until they are 18. 

That’s why getting a good grade for these subjects in Y11 is key!

Looking ahead, what can you do now?

At this stage, start to explore information and get an idea of your future choices.

What do you think about Careerpilot?

A £10 Amazon Voucher could be yours!

Click to complete the Careerpilot survey - it takes 3 minutes!

To save or view your choices and results you must sign in or register (takes 1 minute).

Sign in Register