Careers advice

Finding employment

Whatever you decide to do immediately after leaving school or college, you'll certainly have to work for more qualifications at some time during your career. The knowledge and skills you possess at the age of 16, 18 or even 21 won't be relevant forever and you'll have to update them regularly if you want to progress in your career. If you decide later on that you've missed out by not going into higher education, you could always enrol as a mature student.

Deciding to go into employment rather than further education has many advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of taking the employment option include:

  • financial independence.
  • regular pay, no student debt
  • no more full-time study
  • the chance to work towards relevant, job-related qualifications
  • the security of having a job now, rather than taking a chance of getting a better one three or four years in the future
  • the chance to get established early in your chosen career

Disadvantages include:

  • it may take longer to qualify in a job by this route
  • you may end up earning less than a graduate over your working life
  • you may not be able to reach the same level in your job as someone with a degree
  • you'll still need to study to gain further qualifications to progress in your career; this study would be after a day’s work
  • a degree or diploma is necessary, to enter some professions

Advice on finding a job

Unless you're applying for jobs that ask for specific subjects, the courses you studied at school won't usually restrict your choice of job.

If you apply for jobs that are not directly related to your subject area you'll have to persuade the employer of the relevance of your qualifications. You'll also be competing with people holding more relevant qualifications.

Make sure the jobs you are interested in provide opportunities for further training and prospects for promotion.

Most employers will advertise their vacancies when they arise, which could be at any time of year. Some large employers have training schemes designed for sixth form and college leavers, and may advertise them well before the end of the academic year.

Places to look for job vacancies advertised include your school or college careers notice board, Jobcentre Plus, the local and national press, and employment agencies – particularly useful for looking for jobs in London.


If you opt for an Apprenticeship, you'll get on the job training, study for a nationally recognised qualification and earn money while you learn. Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 or over living in England and not taking part in full-time education.

Find out about becoming an apprentice or go to the National Apprenticeship Service.

Self employment

If you're interested in setting up your own business, you might qualify for start-up support from the Prince's Trust Business Programme.

This could include:

  • a low interest loan of up to £4,000 for a sole trader, or up to £5,000 for a partnership
  • a test marketing grant of up to £250 (subject to availability)
  • ongoing advice from a business mentor
  • access to a wide range of products and services, including a free legal helpline

You are eligible if you:

  • are aged 18 to 30
  • are unemployed or work less than 16 hours per week
  • live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland

If you are interested in this scheme go to the Prince's Trust, for more information.