If you've decided to stay in further education, you might already have a clear idea about your future career. But if you don't know what you want to do after your course, you'll need to take time to explore your career ideas and make some important decisions about your future education, training or employment.

There are many options available to you during and after your course:

  • Higher education
  • Further education
  • Vocational training
  • Advanced and Higher level apprenticeships
  • Finding a job
  • Taking a year out

Higher education

Higher education courses can lead to a wide range of qualifications, including:

  • Degrees (BA, Bed, BSc)
  • Foundation Degrees (eg, Art and Design)
  • Higher National Diploma (HND) or Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)

Entry requirements will differ from course to course and from institution to institution. Certain grades in specific subjects may be required, or a combination of different qualifications may be acceptable.

There are a number of free, independent sources of information and advice which can help you find the right degree course and university including UCAS, Which? University and Education Guardian.

The Unistats website includes key information for prospective students and you can compare courses at different institutions based on their National Student Survey satisfaction scores.

For more information and advice, talk to your Careers Adviser or Connexions Personal Adviser at school or college.

Further education

If your A Level results aren't what you expected, or are lower than you need to enter the university course of your choice, you could choose to resit. Be aware that some institutions ask for higher grades from candidates who retake their A Levels and some do not consider people who resit at all. Talk to your teachers and your Connexions Personal Adviser if you're considering resitting your exams.

There may be other courses available at local further education colleges that would lead to useful qualifications for your future career. Further education colleges also offer a range of higher education courses that you could consider. Academic courses and foundation courses may help to prepare you for further study.

Vocational training

Occupational or vocational courses at a further education college will help you learn about specific areas of work, such as administration, childcare or catering. Vocational courses will often include an element of work experience relevant to your subject.

Entry requirements will differ from course to course, but advanced-level qualifications may not always be required.

Advanced and Higher level apprenticeships

Advanced apprenticeships lead to qualifications at NVQ Level 3. You will be employed and will normally receive a wage that reflects your skills, experience and ability. Higher apprenticeships lead to work-based learning qualifications such as Level 4 NVQs and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a Foundation Degree.

Finding a job

All young people are expected to stay in some form of learning until they are 18 and leaving full-time education doesn’t mean finishing with learning.

You need to think about a job that provides you with further learning opportunities and better prospects.  The vast majority of jobs require you to develop and continually update your skills and knowledge in order to be effective at what you do, particularly if you wish to progress.

Knowing the right places to look for vacancies can make finding a job that much easier. Our Help finding a job pages have lots of useful information for young people who are looking for work, including links to other vacancy websites.

Once you've started work, you may have the chance to gain further qualifications. Your employer may give you time off for courses or offer a structured training programme that could lead to higher qualifications.

Taking a year out

Although it's possible for people to take a career break at any age, young people will often defer their entry to higher education by a year to enjoy new experiences or learn new skills, or they may choose to take a gap year after graduation and before starting work.

There are many reasons why people choose to take a year out:

  • To try new experiences
  • To develop self-confidence and maturity
  • To gain relevant work experience
  • To earn money to fund further learning
  • To give themselves time to think about their options
  • To fulfil their personal ambitions

Whether you choose to get a job to earn money, take a working holiday abroad or offer your time volunteering to a cause you are interested in, it's important to plan your year out so that you get the most out of it. Skills gained on a well-structured gap year are much in demand from employers and can make a significant contribution to your own personal development.

Ask your Connexions Personal Adviser about the year out options that would be best for you. You can find guidebooks and magazines advertising year out opportunities in your local Connexions Centre and there are many websites offering advice and information, including the Gap Year or Gap Work websites.