University isn’t the only option after A Levels

girls collecting exam results, a-levels

It’s that time of year again when students are collecting their A Levels and ‘university’ seems to be the only word on everyone’s lips, piling on the pressure that if you don’t get into university then you’ve not succeeded.

However, with so many alternatives out there, instead of the question “What university do you want to go to?”, we should start asking “What do you want to do after A Levels?”. If you’re worried about results day or worried about the concept of clearing, don’t worry, there are so many other options to explore that may even help you progress in your chosen career more so than university will.

Still not sure about what options are available to you? Don’t panic, Sharon Walpole, Director, has come up with a list of the alternative routes to take after you’re A Levels, whether university isn’t for you or you just want to know what’s available…

Apprenticeships and traineeships

Giving you the best of both worlds, some apprenticeships offer you the opportunity to get a degree, gain valuable experience and take home a small salary at the end of the month. Apprenticeships are fast gaining more praise as an opportunity to develop your skills outside of the classroom or lecture hall, giving those that don’t fancy university but want to carry onto further education a chance.

Earning as you work gives apprentices the ability to earn as much as £170 a week, way more than a typical student budget, and you remain debt free at the end of it. What’s more, your first real job will usually be with the same company you did your apprenticeship with, meaning you already know the ropes and your starting salary may be higher than that of a university graduates.

Non-degree career routes

Degrees can often seem like the only route to land a successful job, and it goes without saying that if you want to be a doctor or a vet you will need a university degree. However, it may come as a surprise to hear that you can break into industries such as law and accounting without a degree.

Similar to degree apprenticeships, training typically takes a little longer than university; however once you’re qualified you can work your way up in competitive industries, without the overwhelming student debt. Do your research on jobs that don’t necessarily need a degree, there are often specific entry requirements, however getting your foot in the door in the world of work is often more valuable than a degree.

School leaver programmes

Maybe learning and higher education isn’t for you? School leaver programs are employer-led and offer a direct route into the working world, and some even provide you with a qualification at the end of it. However, be careful to do your research beforehand, as you will need to know as much about the job and opportunities for progression as possible to make sure that it is the path you want to head down.

Get a BTEC

A BTEC is a vocational qualification that places more emphasis on the practical side of an industry rather than academic study. Unfortunately a common misconception is that you can only to do a BTEC in replacement of A Levels, when in fact, you can do a BTEC alongside A Levels or after school as an equivalent to a university degree.

Similar to an apprenticeship, a BTEC gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of work whilst also gaining valuable skills and knowledge related to your subject area. BTECs are offered at colleges around the country in a variety of different subjects from art to engineering, and with a certificate and qualification upon completion, you’ll hold the key to a successful future career.


National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are competence-based qualifications that give you the opportunity to work your way up through the levels, completing practical work-related tasks and testing you on your abilities in the workplace. If you’re certain about the job you want to go in to, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at these.

There are five levels ranging from basic work activities at level one to senior management training at level five and you can do these alongside an apprenticeship or a job. Covering the majority of business sectors from healthcare to construction, there’s something for everyone and if you change your mind you can use your level 3 qualifications to get accepted into a university.

Gap year

If you’re not ready for more education or work commitments and you need a break, a gap year is a great route to take. Providing you with a much needed break, go travel the world and gain life experience that might inspire you for your future career path. Enhance your CV by working abroad, develop your language skills through au pair work or volunteer for a worthwhile cause, for example.

Employers and lecturers often view those that take gap years in higher regard as they understand that many need a break after many years of studying. Indeed, gap year students are generally considered to be more driven and responsible, so don’t push yourself straight into work or higher education if you’re not sure you’re quite ready. If you feel lost about what you want to do and where you want to go, there are numerous gap year companies out there that can help tailor a trip for you and give you all the information you need.

Further reading on the subject can be found here:

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