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Further Education College

What are the choices at 18?

At 18 there are many choices available to young people.

They can choose one of the following:

  • A higher education course at a college or university
  • An apprenticeship – there are 4 different levels
  • A vocational qualification at a further education college
  • A Gap Year
  • Get a job (preferably with opportunities for training).

For a parent/carer trying to help and advise their child, it can seem like a confusing range of options.

Here’s more about each option with links to additional information if you want to explore further.

Higher Education at 18

There are lots of different higher education (HE) level courses available. HE level is any qualification which is at Level 4 or above (A Levels, BTEC National and Advanced Apprenticeship are Level 3 qualifications and a degree is Level 6).

HE level courses are delivered in universities and colleges and there are also now Higher and Degree Apprenticeships, which are also at a HE level (mentioned below under ‘Choosing an Apprenticeship’).

You can find out about different types of HE level courses here.

You can see all qualifications by level, in a table by following this link to Careerpilot.

You can find out about Higher and Degree Level Apprenticeships

Higher Education (HE) level qualifications are attractive to employers because they show higher level skills, which is what many employers are looking for. HE level qualifications can be very job focused like a doctor, architect, etc. or might be focused on an academic subject e.g history, geography, etc. For some jobs a young person will need a certain degree but many employers are keen to employ people with any degree, and some offer specific ‘graduate opportunities’, which are open to all student with a degree, whatever the subject.

To do a HE level qualification a young person will need to have certain qualifications and grades, these can vary a lot depending on the course and the HE provider - from the top universities requiring very high grades to a Foundation Degree at a college asking for lower grades.

Careerpilot has a whole section about Higher education at 18+ 

Choosing to do an apprenticeship at 18

An apprenticeship offers young people a way to learn a job as they do the job, building up knowledge and skills, gaining qualifications and earning money at the same time.

An apprentice will spend most of their time in the workplace gaining job-specific skills, but they will also be supported by a specialist learning provider to build up their knowledge and qualifications.

Apprenticeship training can take between one and four years to complete and the length of an apprenticeship will depend on its level, the industry and the skills and qualifications a young person has already.

Apprenticeships are available in three levels:

A young person can progress to an apprenticeship at 16 or 18, at a level to suit their needs and experience. Young people can go on to do an apprenticeship after GCSEs, A Levels, BTEC Nationals or another apprenticeship. If they want to do an apprenticeship after a degree they will have to get funding from an employer or help fund it themselves.

Careerpilot has a whole section about apprenticeships which explain what they are, the levels, pay, how to find one, etc.

Choosing a Gap Year:

This is usually something young people do as a ‘gap’ between their studies. Usually after Level 3 qualifications (A Levels, Level 3 BTECs) and before they move onto higher education. From a parent’s point of view a Gap Year might seem like a luxury and it is true that a Gap Year can be expensive, especially if a Gap Year company is used to set it all up. However, they can also be a great way to build up skills, get more experience, try out a job area, etc.

Often, students wishing to go on to higher education after their Gap Year will already have secured a place on a course which they will ‘defer’ until after their Gap Year. This can be a good way to ensure they have a secure plan for after their Gap Year. However, some students will use the Gap Year to help them decide on their next step.

Careerpilot has more about Gap Years

Choosing to get a job:

Many young people who are 18/19 feel ready to get a full time job and have a good idea about the types of jobs they would like to do. If they have been doing a vocational qualification or an apprenticeship they will already have qualifications related to a job area or, after A Levels, have a package of qualifications to offer to employers. Although, job hunting can be hard work and sometimes hard going there are many companies looking to employ students who are 18/19. Whatever job they apply for it is worth reminding them to check out the career prospects on offer and also opportunities for further training.

Careerpilot has information about 19 different job sectors which includes detailed profiles of hundreds of jobs, you can see the job profiles by looking in the Types of Jobs section in each Job Sector.

Careerpilot also has a section about job hunting

Things you could do to help your child make their post 18 choices:

More information

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