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Education and careers choices at 18

There are many post 18 options to choose from. What you choose may depend on the career or job you have in mind.

Career options Continue studying Should I stay or should I go Work and study Get straight into work

Career options

If you know what career you want to do, you’re off to a great start. You can find out what education and career paths are available to you for your chosen career through the National Careers Service – Explore careers page or explore our career resources through our careers hub.

You can also use these resources if you are unsure of the next step and want to explore career options available to you.

ake the UCAS careers quiz
Take the Prospects.ac.uk career quiz

If you are an adult and considering your career options the Skills Assessment on the National Careers Service Website can help you understand what level you are currently at.

National Careers Service Skills Assessment


Continue studying

If your chosen career paths means that you need to move on to a higher level of learning there are several options available to you.

Exam retakes

Sometime you may not get the qualification you need and may need to re-sit an exam.

You can do this at a school sixth form, sixth form college or further education college. Some of these providers can be found on our Skills Providers page or our Education and Career Choices at 16 page.

If you are an adult that needs to retake English and maths qualifications to upskill or get a new career, please see our Adult Education and Lifelong Learning Page.

Higher Technical Skills Course

Learn the higher level skills that employers want in sectors like finance, engineering, management and scientific jobs on a classroom-taught course.

You can study for these at college or university  some of which specialise in subjects as part of an Institute of Technology or National College.


University Degree

Some careers require a university degree. University courses are usually studied at a higher education institution. You may learn through lectures, seminars, group projects and independent study.

You can study these courses at a university, college or online. You can study abroad, stay local or move away.

Eligibility criteria for courses will vary from course to course and university to university so it is worth exploring your options as soon as possible. They may involve specific grade requirements, portfolio or other experience in the subject.

In general, there are fixed dates for university applications. You should research these as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

You may be eligible for Student Finance. Student loans help pay for university or college tuition fees and to help with living costs. You will start paying back a student loan once you earn over a certain amount.

You can find more information about courses on the National Careers Service Website.

For information about university eligibility, how to apply, choosing courses and more visit www.ucas.com/

Types of university degree:


Foundation degree

Foundation degrees focus on a particular job or profession.

Foundation degrees are ideal if you’re unsure about taking a full degree or if you want to study while you work. Whether you’re working in or towards the role now, you can gain professional and technical skills to further your career – within a shorter time frame than a full degree.

Undergraduate courses 

Bachelor’s degree – the most common form of undergraduate degree, these courses take three to four years and give you an in-depth understanding of one or more subjects.

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Bachelor of science (BSc)

Bachelor of Education (Bed)

Bachelor of Engineer (Beng)

Bachelor of Law (LLB)

Are all types of qualification you might achieve.

Other courses

  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
  • National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)

You can find more information about courses on Prospects.ac.uk who are experts in graduate careers, and via UCAS


Masters degrees are the most common course studied at this level of study. A master’s degree is a level 7 qualification – above bachelors and below Phd. Masters Qualifications can improve your career prospects, but have high costs and academic demands.

For more information about Masters Qualifications you can visit Prospects or UCAS

Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates

Postgraduate diplomas and postgraduate certificates are qualifications at the same level of study as Masters degrees, but they’re shorter and you don’t have to write a dissertation.

That means they’re more advanced than undergraduate Bachelors degrees.

Available in most subjects, they’re ideal if you think a postgraduate qualification will boost your career prospects, but you aren’t interested in undertaking significant amounts of academic research.*


As well as building the foundations of an academic career, studying for a PhD will enable you to develop excellent research skills and become an expert in your field while pursuing your passion – and the introduction of PhD loans means that Doctoral study is more accessible than ever before.*

For more information about university qualifications visit www.ucas.com, www.prospects.ac.uk



Should I stay or should I go?

Staying local

The Heart of the South West has some great Universities.

The University of Exeter ranks no 12 in the UK

The University of Plymouth ranks no 71 in the UK (and continues to rise)*


Many of our colleges also offer university-level qualifications – visit our Skills Provider Page to find out more

Fantastic facilities, world-leading research and great locations in the Heart of the South West makes this a great location to stay and learn.

Other benefits may include:

  • Saving money – you may be able to stay at home to learn, this may save money on things like accommodation and living costs/
  • You may prefer familiar surroundings and being around your existing friends.
  • You may want or need to stay near to family.
  • Staying in the Heart of the South West means you have access to our areas of outstanding natural beauty.
  • If your local education facility is a leader or specialist in the course you are interested in studying then this may help you find work.
  • You’ll be close to your pets!

Moving away

You may be thinking of moving away to go to University or to study.

The benefits of this may be

  • Studying at a university with a specialism in the course you want to take, which may improve your career prospects.
  • You will learn to live independently.
  • You will meet new people.
  • You will get to experience living in a new place.
  • It is a memorable experience.
  • You can choose your own food!

Study Abroad

“Choosing to study abroad can prove to employers that you’re flexible and culturally mobile. Many employers also think studying abroad gives you great maturity and a breadth of experience that makes you stand out from other candidates.”

UCAS - Studying Overseas

Whatever you choose try to make sure the choice is what makes you happy.

Work and study

Combining work and study means this your get industry work experience while learning a qualification. When pursuing a career, this work experience may make you more desirable to employers. It also means that you can apply your learning to the real world and real time.

Work and study options:


A course that includes a work placement that will get you ready for an apprenticeship or a job. You’ll get work experience and some help to apply for your next steps. You can also improve your maths and English skills. You’ll get work experience and some help to apply for whatever you do next.

Supported Internship

Supported internships are for young people with learning difficulties or learning disabilities, who need extra support to get a job.


Intermediate, advanced higher and degree apprenticeships combine practical on-the-job skills training with off-the-job learning. You’ll get training that is relevant to your job and be paid a salary. Start at a level to suit you, with support if you have special needs or a disability.

Start working straight away

If you want to get straight into work you may want to consider the following.


An internship or work placement can give you the opportunity to work at a company with the intention of learning new skills and gaining experience in a particular industry.

More and more companies are offering these types of positions to school leavers, as well as to graduates.*

Find out more about Internships

Start a business

Becoming an entrepreneur can be exciting, but think carefully about your ideas and make a solid business plan.

The Princes Trust can help you with advice on setting up a business if you are aged 18-30 years old –

Find out more about the Princes Trust

The governments working for yourself website is a good place to start for a person of any age.

Working for yourself website

Searching for a Job

You will need a CV that stands out and a cover letter.

Find out more on our search for a job page.

What are the biggest sectors in the Heart of the South West?

Further education in the Heart of the South West

University of Exeter

“At the University of Exeter, we combine teaching excellence and high levels of student satisfaction with world-class research at our campuses in Exeter and Cornwall. We are a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Our success is built on a strong partnership with our students and a clear focus on high performance.”

“We are a globally recognised centre of research excellence, with expertise, facilities and people who can make a real difference to your business”


University of Plymouth

“The University of Plymouth is renowned for high quality, internationally-leading education, research and innovation.

With a mission to Advance Knowledge and Transform Lives, Plymouth is a *top 50 research university with clusters of world-class research across a wide range of disciplines including marine science and engineering, medicine, cybersecurity and psychology. A three-time winner of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, most recently in 2020 in respect of its pioneering research on microplastics pollution in the oceans and its impact on the environment and changing behaviour, the University of Plymouth continues to grow in stature and reputation.

It has a strong track record for teaching and learning excellence and has one of the highest numbers of National Teaching Fellows of any UK university. With over 19,000 students, and a further 9,500 studying for a Plymouth degree at partner institutions in the UK and around the world, and over 135,000 alumni pursuing their chosen careers globally, it has a growing global presence.”

Distance learning

Open University

Studying a Degree online can be a flexible option that allows you to study at your own pace and fit it around other commitments such as work or family.

Open University


*thank you to prospects.ac.uk, UCAS.com, careerpilot.org.uk and National Careers Service for some of the text on this page.