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Deciding What To Do When You Leave School

Last updated February 28th, 2022

Deciding what to do when you leave school is one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make. It could decide the direction you could take for the next life stage, yet you have so little information available to help.

The one thing you do have plenty of is options.

There are now more paths open to you as a school leaver than ever before. Plus, changing careers later in life is now easier than ever.

Whatever you decide to do when you leave school, it doesn’t have to be forever if you end up not liking it.

So, what are those options you have when you leave school?

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Sixth form

There’s nothing wrong with going along with tradition and getting some A levels. If you’re that way inclined and don’t mind staying on at school an extra couple of years, getting some A levels is a great idea.

You’ll need A levels to apply to university and for some college courses. Some employers want A levels as a minimum qualification for some roles too.

While it is another two years at school, consider it an investment in future prospects.



Going to college is a viable alternative that can offer A levels as well as other qualifications like NVQ, City and Guilds and BTEC.

If you’re looking for an alternative to sixth form, college could be it. It’s a change of scenery, new environment, new teachers and classmates and a whole new experience.

Whether you study academic subjects, learn a trade or something else, it’s another viable option.



Apprenticeships are ideal for those who want to earn as well as learn. If you’re more practically minded or your chosen career benefits more from being an apprentice, this is an excellent direction.

Apprenticeships can be purely on the job training or a mix of work and school. Much depends on the industry or trade.

Apprenticeships used to be for manual trades or more skilled trades like hairdresser, chef, builder and so on. Now many other careers provide apprenticeships, so they are definitely worth considering.


Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships combine the on the job training of an apprenticeship with a degree-level qualification. Some offer actual degrees, which is another way to enter a profession without going to university.

Degree apprenticeships are relatively new but are quickly gaining ground. They offer a way to get a degree without the student loan and hardship for 3 years.

They can take a long time to earn though so you had better be prepared for the long haul!


Get a job

If you’re less academically inclined and prefer to learn by doing, you can always get a job.

You’ll begin as a trainee and won’t get paid much at first but it’s a perfectly acceptable way to build a career. Some big names run their own apprenticeships or traineeships and can result in recognised qualifications.

If you don’t want to go on to further study, getting out there and getting a job could be the right path to take.

If you change your mind later, you can always get qualifications using self-study.


Gap year or work experience

Gap years are traditionally taken after A levels or a degree. They involve taking a year out to see the world and experience life before entering the world of work.

It’s a viable option if you have the means to support yourself during that time or can find work to sustain yourself.

Gap years can provide valuable work experience depending on where you travel. It will probably be poorly paid, low skilled work but never underestimate the life experience it could bring.



Volunteering is the perfect way to gain life experience while adding something genuinely valuable to your CV.

You also get to do some good at the same time, which can be more rewarding than you could possibly imagine!

Time spent volunteering can go down very well with potential employers, colleges or universities. It’s also a great way of trying before buying a career or trade, which is also useful.

All while doing good.


Something completely different

You can also decide to do something completely different. You could join the military, become a freelance writer or videographer, set up your own online store, use your design or creativity to build your own YouTube channel or pursue a career in sport.

Be aware that earning huge sums from social media or becoming the next Mo Farah are only for the few.

One in a million people can make money from their passion and many more fail than succeed. Yet, it’s also better to try and fail than never to try at all.

Plus, you can always try another option if you give it everything and it doesn’t work out!

Want to find out more? Download our FREE Event Management Guide
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