As you approach the end of sixth form, you will be making decisions about your next steps. University may be the desired option for some pupils, but not for all.  However, there is a variety of pathways to choose from.  Here you will find alternative pathways that may potentially be of interest to you.  

If you are asking the following questions, you are on the right page:
What can I do instead of university?
Can I get a degree without going to university?
Do I need a degree to get a good job?
Can I travel and work?
How can I gain industry experience?
What are employers looking for?

You may want to take a break from education or you may be thinking that you would like to earn money and gain some experience, or travel, or you may be interested in gaining industry experience in order to help you decide where you want to be.  If all the above applies to you read on.

The following are alternative options to university and higher education:

  • Higher and Degree apprenticeship 
  • Gap year
  • Employment
  • Internships
  • Further Education
  • Self-employment
Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

If you are a pupil who wishes to gain skills but does not want to experience university life, applying for an apprenticeship could be the right pathway for you as there are many benefits:

  • You earn whilst you learn.
  • It is an opportunity to gain a real experience of work whilst gaining a qualification in a sector that you are passionate about.
  • Apprenticeships enable you to become independent.
  • An assessor will support you to gain your qualification.
  • Working as an apprentice will enable you to develop many valuable skills that can be utilised in many ways.
  • It will give you the opportunity to discover your earning potential.

You may want to consider the following:

  • It can be challenging if you attain an apprenticeship and later on in life decide that you want to change your career path.
  • You will not get to experience the university lifestyle.
  • Holiday entitlement will be shorter.
  • You may have to start off on a lower salary.
  • Balancing the study alongside work can be challenging
  • You would need to have an interview and succeed against other applicants to obtain the apprenticeship.
  • For more information about Degree Apprenticeships click here or you can find more information in the resources page of this website.
Gap Year

There are some very exciting opportunities available for those that are interested in taking a Gap Year which could include 

  • Volunteering 
  • Travel
  • Paid Employment 
  • Work Experience 
  • Part-time courses 

Here are some things you may want to think about, if you are considering this as an option:

  • Volunteering could include working for a charity in the UK or abroad.
  • Think about which sector you would like to work in.
  • Consider your hobbies and interests.    
  • This is a productive way to develop valuable skills 
  • Your experiences can be added to your CV.
  • It is a great way to attract potential future employers.
  • It will demonstrate that you have used your time productively.
  • You can relate to a specific subject area that interests you, or a career that you aspire to pursue in the future.
  • Taking a gap year is tremendously beneficial for personal growth.
  • After a gap year, some pupils can struggle to get back into study.
  • For more Gap Year ideas and things to think about please click here
  • For more information about the variety of gap year options please click here
  • If you have your heart set on working abroad and want to gain industry experience during a gap year, click here for more information.  
  • If you would like more information about volunteer gap year opportunities click here.
Entry Level Jobs (No degree qualification required)

If you are keen to enter the world of work by gaining employment in a job role that does not require a degree or specific qualifications this can be a good way to start your career. You can gain skills and earn whilst developing your employment knowledge and building your CV. 

To help you make a good choice, you may want to consider the following:

  • What subjects did you most enjoy at school?  
  • What subjects did you enjoy studying during sixth form? 
  • What are your strengths?  
  • Do you enjoy meeting new people?  
  • Do you prefer sitting behind a desk or do you prefer being out and about?  
  • Which sector could you see yourself working in?

If you are thinking about entering employment you should explore all the above, to help enable you to think about which environment would suit you best.

Job Examples:

Here are some examples of these types of jobs.They may require other skills, for example, level 2 qualifications (GCSE’s) and level 3 qualifications, (A levels, BTEC Nationals or IB). However, depending on the type of job role, it may be possible that as you progress you could further your academic studies or take industry relevant qualifications. 

  • Administration Assistant
  • Estate Agent
  • Hospitality and catering
  • Travel agent
  • Cabin Crew
  • Various roles within the police force.
Working for the Armed Forces
  • If you have a desire to work for the Armed Forces and would like to find out more information please see below

The Army 

The Royal Navy 

The RAF 

Do you have a particular job role in mind?

If you have any particular job role in mind and would like further information, including the qualifications needed click here.


An internship will enable you to gain work experience lasting for a fixed period of time. If you are keen to seek work experience within a specific industry, an internship will enable you to do this. Internships are available at undergraduate level, which means, if you have completed sixth form and want to gain work experience, you can do so. 

Consider the following if this is a choice you are considering:

  • Do some research about the company that interests you before you apply.
  • Find out what the duration of the internship will be.
  • Will your expenses be paid?
  • Think about why you want to apply for that particular internship.
  • Ask yourself why you are interested in that particular industry
  • Prepare for your interview.
  • If you would like to know more information, such as shown below, these can be answered here
  • Internships explained in more detail.
  • Internships in the UK.
  • Internships abroad.
  • Duration of programmes.
  • Pay for internships.
  • How to apply. 
  • The requirements.

You may wish to consider the following:

  • Internships give you the opportunity to get to know the company.
  • Looks great on your CV.
  • You will gain first hand experience.
  • If you decide to apply for a permanent role within that company, you could potentially be a stronger candidate than other candidates.
  • Internships are not often paid because it is seen as experience.
  • There is no guarantee that you will be offered a position.
  • Often companies expect you to pay for your travel.
Further Education

Further Education colleges are a good option for those of you that would like to study a vocational qualification and are attended by people who are aged 16 and above.  

A range of qualifications are offered at FE Colleges which include, vocational, technical and professional courses in specific subject areas.

If you do not wish to stay away from home but would still like to study a Higher Education course, some local Further Education colleges offer a selection of degree courses. For more information click here or find out more from college Higher Education departments.

Self Employment

Another alternative to all the above is to set up your own business.  If this is something you have been thinking about, and have a great business idea, here you will find some useful information.

  • The Prince’s Trust helps support young people who want to set up their own business in England. Find out more here.
  • The Kent Foundation support provides free business support to Kent’s young entrepreneurs. Find out more here
  • For Greenwich young entrepreneurs, find out more here  
  • Peter Jones Foundation, find out more here.

You will be glad to know that there are a variety of schemes out there and possible funding available. 

If this is an option that interests you, think about the following: 

  • You will need a business plan.  
  • You will need to have a vision.
  • Who are your potential customers?
  • Do your market research.
  • Do some research about who your competitors will be.
  • What will be your unique selling point to compete with other companies?
  • Think about any legislation and regulations that apply to your business idea.
  • You may want to partner up with somebody.

Here are some of the things you may need to consider:

  • As a young entrepreneur you can adapt easily to changing environments.
  • Young people have energy and drive particularly when they are passionate about their aspirations.
  • Young people are resilient which means you are unlikely to give up
  • There is a lot of support available and accessible to you..
  • The risk could be that you have no experience of running a business.
  • You can have less self-discipline when you are young.
  • You need to consider that you may not have many business connections in the beginning.
  • Dealing with uncertainty.
  • Profit is statistically unlikely in your first year of business so you need enough funds to survive that first year.

Click below for further information from these useful websites

Website for school and college leavers

Alternatives to university

Alternatives to university