Where do I start?

When you need to make big decisions about your future, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Should you go to university? What should you study? What career do you want to have? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, there’s only what works best for you. If you already have an idea of the careers that might suit you, find out more by exploring the professions. This will give you loads of in-depth information about each profession, as well as access to forums, advice, and school leaver schemes.

If you haven’t yet begun to think about what you’d like to do, then you can find fast facts about lots of different professions in our career choice guides, to help you decide. They give a quick overview of all of the following industries and professions:


These will give you an idea of what each career involves, the kind of work you could end up doing, what kind of salaries you could expect to earn, and the most common routes into the industry. You can download any or all of the guides as PDFs absolutely free.

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships involve practical on-the-job training in a particular trade or profession. They often involve earning a professional qualification and many apprenticeships can be undertaken straight after GCSEs.

They are widely available in professions such as engineering, construction and hospitality. Find out more about apprenticeships.

What are school leaver schemes?

If you want a high flying career without the cost of going to university, an increasingly popular option is to join a school leaver scheme.

These are programmes offered by employers that you can join straight after A levels. You get on-the-job training and earn professional qualifications, such as the ACA or CTA, all whilst earning a good salary and getting valuable work experience. They’re different from apprenticeships, as they usually last a long longer – with some you will get to attend university part-time as part of the scheme.

These programmes are generally offered by big employers in certain professions and last between 4-6 years. Some of the key professions that offer school leaver schemes are Accountancy, Tax and IT.

Find out more about school leaver schemes.

What about university?

Not all professions offer apprenticeships or school leaver schemes, and many will require you to have a degree. If you’re not yet sure what career you will go into, a degree will keep your options open while giving you the opportunity to distinguish yourself and get plenty of other types of experience in order to impress future employers.

Thinking about your future career before choosing your degree can help you later on. Choosing the right subject to study is very important for some professions, but less so for others. For example, it is very important for an actuary to have studied for a numerical degree (e.g. maths, economics or statistics) or a patent attorney to have a scientific background, but accountancy employers recruit people from all degree subjects.

Applications to universities are made through the UCAS website, which has some helpful tips on how to choose the right course. You can also use our profile search to find out what careers people have gone into from different degrees.

What’s the next step?

As well as our general advice section designed specifically for people about to leave school, don’t forget to look at the school leaver advice sections in different professions, which feature profiles from school leavers working in the industry.

Use our job search to find all of the employers currently recruiting school leavers and apply.


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