Post-16 Options: Your Next Step

It can be tough deciding what you want to do after GCSEs. You might already have your heart set on university, or a full-time Twitch career. Or you might not have a clue.

Either way, this no-nonsense guide will help you understand all of the post-16 options out there, so that you can make a decision that’s right for YOU.

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Your Post -16 Options

Read on for an overview of all your post-16 career options, complete with entry requirements, the qualifications on offer, and where each path leads

APPRENTICESHIPS: Earn while you learn

Did you know that you can now do an apprenticeship in law? Or social care? Even beekeeping

Apprenticeships have changed A LOT in recent years. No longer restricted to trade industries like construction and plumbing, you can now do an apprenticeship in almost ANYTHING.

Apprentices work toward professional qualifications, splitting their time between on-the-job training (80%) and classroom learning (20%). You might think it couldn’t get any more exciting. You would be wrong...

As an apprentice, you’ll also earn a real salary from day one. The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is currently £4.15 an hour.

That might sound low, but TONS of companies pay more than that. IT & Consulting apprentices, for example, rake in an average salary of £19,211 a year.

Open up our guide to The Highest Paid Apprenticeships in the UK to see how much you could earn in other industries → 

There are four different levels of apprenticeship, each with different entry requirements and qualifications.

These guides contain everything you need to know to figure out which level is right for you:

Watch this facts-filled video to discover the benefits of choosing an apprenticeship over university.

TRAINEESHIPS - Prepare for the world of work

What if you were to finish your GCSEs without the grades you need to get a job or an apprenticeship?

Thankfully, there is a third post-16 option - a traineeship. These are short programmes designed to help young people gain the skills and qualifications that, for whatever reason, they may not have picked up at school.

Traineeships can last anywhere between six weeks to six months - as long as it takes to get you ready for the world of work.

Each programme is tailored to the individual, with a focus on developing key employability skillsadditional English, maths and digital skills, as well as a work placement lasting a minimum of 70 hours.

Gaining the confidence they need to take their next step, 66% of trainees get a job, take up an apprenticeship or go on to further study within just six months of finishing their programme.

And because they’re so successful, the government recently announced they will be giving employers £1,000 for every trainee they hire.

This cash boost will help employers run quality work placements for trainees, covering costs like facilities, uniforms and travel.

If you've suddenly decided a traineeship is something you simply have to do, read our Guide to Traineeships to find out more.

A LEVELS, T LEVELS OR A BTEC - Get into university

Sixth form → A Levels, T Levels or a BTEC → University… it’s a well trodden path.

Many of you will progress into sixth form after your GCSEs, with the intention of going to university. But did you know that it’s possible to go to university without paying tuition fees?

No fees. Not a sausage.

If you just wet yourself a little bit, or let out a little scream, read on.

DEGREE APPRENTICESHIPS - Best of both worlds

Degree apprentices work on a full-time basis for a company, while they study for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree at university.

Degree apprenticeships can last anywhere between 3-6 years and are available in a vast range of industries; from Engineering & Manufacturing to Digital, Media & IT.

Degree apprentices are paid a salary throughout the programme AND have their tuition fees covered by the government and their employer.

Every day is Treat Yo’ Self Day when you’re a degree apprentice.

Compare this to the traditional university student who pays around £9,250 a year in tuition fees, lives off Pot Noodles for 3+ years, then graduates with an average debt of £40,000...

If you are already head-over-heels in love with degree apprenticeships, check out our Guide to Degree Apprenticeships to find out how to apply.

A Summary of Your Post-16 Options

It appears you have more career options than Justin Timberlake; each one a solid first step towards a long and fulfilling career.

Choosing the right scheme, however, can be difficult. If you still don’t have a clue which one is right for you, it can help to break them down into three different pathways.


If you remain in full-time education, you’ll study towards A Levels, T Levels or a BTEC qualification. All of which are a pathway to higher education.

You can then choose to do a traditional university degree, degree apprenticeship, sponsored degree or school leaver programme


If you decide to opt out of education, to break free and leap into the world of work, there are a number of paths you can take.

You could step straight into employment - typically in an entry-level role - and work your way up through a company. OR if you don’t feel ready to get a job just yet, start by doing some work experience or volunteering locally

Visit for more information about the school leaving age in the UK.


If neither full-time education or full-time employment sounds appealing, you can combine the two!

Apprenticeships and traineeships are great options for any young hero who wants both practical work experience and professional qualifications on their CV.

If you STILL don’t have a clue, that’s okay!

Use our Next Step Explorer to reveal which post-16 career option is right for you, and make an informed decision about your future.