If you’re in the final year of your GCSEs, you may have started thinking about what to do next. Career routes, subject choices, where to apply – sometimes it can feel like a lot to weigh up.
So, whether you already have an idea about which subject to pursue, or haven’t considered your next steps at all yet, read our six top tips to help you with your decision.
1. Start with career sectors
It’s useful to start by thinking about the career sector you’d like to work in. Different sectors and job roles may need you to have studied certain subjects or have gained specific qualifications and experience. Some of these qualifications may be offered by colleges or universities that also have specific entry requirements of their own. This means you’ll need to know these in advance to make sure you choose the right course at sixth form or college to gain entry to universities and colleges afterwards. It’s all about planning ahead!
Look at the Career Pilot website to compare different career sectors by category.
2. Ask yourself these questions
Don’t worry if you’re struggling with step one. It’s very common to feel unsure about what your ideal career would be when you’re only just completing your GCSEs. If you can relate to this and still feel uncertain, then another useful starting point is to try basing it on your interests instead.
- Which subjects do I like the most?
- What kind of topics interest me?
- What do I want to get out of my life in the future?
Career Pilot has more great prompts to help you answer these kinds of questions and work out which subject area appeals to you most.
You could also try taking the UCAS Careers Quiz. It matches your personality and interests to potential job roles.
3. Shortlist the available routes
Once you’ve narrowed down your focus in terms of your ideal career sector, you can start researching the different routes into it. There’s lots of information online and you can also find out if there are any local events happening relating to that sector.
Colleges and universities often run careers fairs and subject-specific events that you can attend free of charge. These can be a great opportunity to ask questions and learn about the different types of qualifications that lead to your ideal job role – from studying traditional A levels to more practical vocational qualifications and apprenticeships.
4. Consider what type of learning suits you best
When you’ve shortlisted the different routes and qualifications available to get you into your ideal career, it’s time to start comparing each of them to work out which will suit you most. Think about what kind of learning appeals to you.
Do you want to get hands-on and develop practical skills? Or do you enjoy studying in the classroom and doing theoretical research? Would you prefer to be earning at the same time as gaining a qualification? Or would you prefer to study first and earn later?
There’s no ‘right’ way for everyone. So don’t worry about what your friends might be doing. Instead, choose the mode of learning that feels right for you. Check out our summary of each qualification type on our Your Choices page to help you determine which that could be.
Watch this video on BBC Bitesize too for a handy overview of the main types of qualifications you can take after GCSEs.
5. Now, think about where
Once you’ve narrowed down the type of qualification or course that’s going to suit you best, it’s time to explore which education or training providers offer it. The chances are there will be more than one local college or sixth form offering the course you’re interested in. So, make a list of the ones that appeal to you most and then visit each one to help you choose between them.
Most providers will run dedicated open days or subject events specifically for GCSE students who want to know more. These can be on campus or virtual. If you can’t see an open event coming up, or you’ve just missed one, then contact the provider and ask if they offer individual visit or tour appointments so you can look around.
6. Talk to a Careers Advisor
No matter which stage of the decision you’re at, there are always people you can chat with. It can be helpful to run through your thoughts and ideas with someone else because it’s a good way to clarify your thinking and it can enable you to consider options you might not have thought about.
As well as family, friends and teachers, you can chat with dedicated careers advisors who specialise in advising on career options. Career Pilot has a useful webchat where you can connect directly to an advisor from the National Careers Service and ask any questions you might have.
We hope the above helps you over the next few months with your decision-making. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to get in touch with our team.