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What are my career options after A Levels?

It may be that your A Level results weren’t quite what you had hoped, or that university just isn’t for you, whatever the reason may be, there are so many career options for you to explore after achieving your A Levels.

Do I need a degree to get a job?

Absolutely not. Don’t be fooled into thinking that university is the only way to forge a career – it’s not. Although it is a path that a lot of friends may take, this is certainly not the route for everyone and with the considerable expense of university it is worth looking at every option before making a decision and starting employment directly from school can be very beneficial in a lot of ways. A Levels are a nationally recognised qualification which can be the entry requirements for a vast amount of jobs; it may just be that you start at a lower level than that of someone that has a degree. But remember starting work from school means you have at least a three-year head start!

What are the benefits of starting a career from school?

Firstly, the massive advantage of starting a career from A Levels is that you will be debt free! You will not have the thousands of pounds worth of debt that the average student racks up from rent, bills and tuition fees. On top of this you will be earning money, so while your friends are emptying their banks at university, you will be filling yours. Secondly, you will be gaining invaluable on the job experience to use in the rest of your life. In such a competitive job market, an experience is now essential on a CV, in the three years that friends will be studying at university, you will have built up an extensive experience to better and progress your career. You can also often gain nationally recognised qualifications on the job, which can be just as valuable as an undergraduate degree and are more often than not, paid for by your employer.

What if my parents think I should go to university?

Although it may sound harsh, it is not up to your parents! They do know you very well, so it is worth listening to their opinion, but the decision to continue within further education, or for you to embrace a career is entirely up to you. Ultimately it is you who will have to live with your choice, pay back tuition loans or get up and go to work – not them and you don’t want to go to university because you feel like you have to and not enjoy it and drop out, or suffer in silence through a course. Even though it may cause problems or tension it is important that you follow your own mind, if your parents do not agree with your decision it may be that they don’t understand your reasoning, it could be worth showing them a presentation or getting a friend who took the same steps as you to show them what the outcome can be and the benefits of starting a career so early on.

What about apprenticeships?

If you enjoy learning on the job an apprenticeship could be the perfect option for you. Studying an apprenticeship will also allow you to achieve specific qualifications, which could end up being equivalent to a degree level while gaining important work experience and being paid for your work. Studying as an apprentice, you will split your working week between learning at a training centre or college and learning the job skills at work. This is a great way to start a career and to get qualifications usually paid for by your employee. You can be employed as an apprentice in a whole array of subjects from plumbing and journalism to coaching and engineering, so there is something for everyone. If this sounds like something you may be interested in, search online to check out the current vacancies and their specific application forms.

Do I have any work experience?

It is more likely than not that you will have work experience that will be relevant for a career, even if it is in a completely different sector. Employers look for transferrable skills so don’t think that your waitressing job is worthless on your CV. By having a part-time job it shows that you can time manage, deal with stressful situations under pressure, and you can hold a conversation with customers. All of these are skills that you can take into a future career, and if you are proven to have these basic skills, the company can mould these into the specifics they need. Even extracurricular activities can be looked at as work experience, joining a sports club shows your ability to work in a team and strive towards a common goal, whereas running the History Club shows that you have the commitment and leadership skills. Never think that your skills or experience are pointless, even if you initially think you have no experience relevant to a career, have a look back at your school life and see where you did something slightly different to everyone else.

It may be that the career path that you want to go down requires specific work experience. While waiting for your A Level results, or even once you have received them, you can apply for some volunteer work or undertake an internship in your chosen field. Although it is likely that the work will be unpaid, two or three weeks of experience can be invaluable on a CV and gives you something to talk about in an interview, so if you have some free time either in a block or one morning a week over a few months, it is always worth taking this up. It also shows that you have used your initiative to reach out to a company to gain this experience.

I have no experience, will I get hired?

One of the things that people worry about applying straight from school is that you may not have any, or any relevant experience on your CV and so you will seem unemployable. This is not the case and can actually often work in your favour. Coming straight from school allows the company to train and shape you to how they want their employees to be, this is a massive bonus for some companies and can be a big positive, so never doubt yourself. Companies look for positivity and the ability and willingness to learn, so if your CV, covering letter and interview can convey this, you have just as good a chance as anyone.

Are there School Leaver programmes?

A lot of the big companies now offer specific school leaver programmes as well as graduate schemes. These school leaver schemes are designed exactly for people straight from A-Levels, and are particularly common for those wanting to go into a career in accountancy or law. They combine full-time employment with training to earn a qualification such as Accountancy Qualifications and Level 2 and Level 3 Diplomas. Not having a degree will in no way hinder your chances of progression in the workplace as many people will go on to achieve as high paid and successful job statuses as those who went to university.

How does the applications work?

It is essential to make sure that you have a strong CV, covering letter and present yourself in a positive manner when applying for jobs or apprenticeships after finishing in education. You should be prepared for attending an interview and understand how to dress professionally and respond in a professional manner to emails. The small things all add up, and you want a workplace to respect you as a sensible and mature adult so avoid incorrect spelling and grammar by asking somebody else to proofread any emails and covering letters. If you are unsure how to write your current skills on a CV to sound appealing to an employer, there are plenty of guides online, or you can ask a careers adviser at your school or college to help. It is also good to ask a parent, older sibling or friend to conduct some practise interviews with you so that you know exactly what to expect. Interviews can often be long and intense, even if they aren’t you’re bound to be nervous, so the better prepared you are, the better it is like to go.

If you are still unsure after receiving your results exactly what it is that you want to do – don’t worry. Don’t rush into any decisions; jobs have vacancies all year around so have a think about what you want to achieve in life and talk it through with those around you. You can always apply to further education at a later date or take some time out, travelling or doing an internship before applying for jobs.