Study options

A majority of the time young people are just expected to get on with their GCSEs and A-levels (or the Scottish equivalent). No questions asked. But what comes after that? And what makes GCSEs and A levels even worth getting? The Mix explains your study options.

A young man is at his laptop. He is thinking about his study options. This is a wide-angle image.

Why should I study?

Okay, before we run through your study options we should answer the very valid question that has crossed every teenager’s mind at one point or another – Why the hell should I be studying? 

We promise, there are loads of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • You’re interested in the subject
  • It can help you learn a practical skill
  • You need a qualification to get the job you want
  • You wanna find out if you’re suited to a specific type of job

Can more qualifications help me get a job or develop my career?

That english language GCSE may seem like an over-hyped piece of paper right now but the qualification behind it, and all your other papers, actually open a lot of doors for you in the long run because: 

  • You can apply for jobs that ask for a particular qualification
  • Your CV will stand out from those that don’t have the qualifications
  • You’ll feel more confident about what you can contribute to a particular job
  • Graduates or those who are suitably qualified, get paid more
  • You can work your way up the ladder to a higher skilled, more interesting or senior job
  • You’ll show you’re committed to working in a particular industry
  • You can build transferable skills by doing a qualification

If all that sounds great but you have no idea how to exploit your qualifications when applying to a job, don’t worry. You can read all about how to write a CV here.

What qualifications should I go for?

Work backwards. Find out which subjects are appropriate for the type of work you’re seeking and what levels of qualification are required. You should also talk to a careers advisor or even try to contact people in that profession for advice. On top of that, make sure to search the job profiles on the National Careers Service website to find out what qualifications and experience employers look for. If you’re really keen you can also look at books relating to your industry and job adverts to see what’s expected.

Alternatively, plenty of people just choose subjects they’re interested in. This is a completely valid option. Especially if you have no clue what you want to do as a career. Whatever you end up studying, you can always tell employers that you’ve built transferable skills that you can use in the workplace.

Further education study options

For those who study in the UK and have GCSEs under their belt, there are general academic courses or vocational ones. You can study a mixture of both, full or part-time at sixth form, sixth form college or a technical or FE college. Have a look at our post-16 qualifications for more information.

Higher education study options

Higher Education courses are for students aged over 18 (over 17 in Scotland) with one or two A-levels, Scottish Highers or any equivalent qualification, such as NVQs. To get the following qualifications you can study at college, university or institute of higher education:

  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • First degree, for example, BA, BSc or BEd undergraduate degree

These could be either in-person or online learning courses, or a hybrid. Depending on what the COVID situation is like and how far universities have come with their online user experience when you’re reading this.

Study options after your degree

If you already have an undergrad degree and you meet the entry requirements you can think about:

  • Studying for a Master’s degree or a Postgraduate certificate
  • Taking a course offered by a professional body or institute

What will it cost me?

Unfortunately education will set you back quite a bit. Here’s a rundown of your potential cheque: 

  • Staying on at school or college is free, up until the age of 19
  • For higher education, you’ll have to pay fees. But you may get financial help with tuition fees and loans for living expenses through student finance.
  • Your employer might sponsor you to do a training course, degree or professional qualification. However, this is something you’ll have to discuss with them.
  • If you work and still want to study then you’ll usually be expected to pay for an evening or weekend course yourself.
  • We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s worth mentioning that if you’re an international student these prices become astronomically higher.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 22-Mar-2022