Choosing what to do when you leave school

It doesn't take a lot of time on social media to see that you’re not alone when it comes to making a life-defining decision about your future.

There are more options open to you when you leave school than ever before. Your parents most likely had a pretty black and white choice: go to university or go to work. But today you're confronted with a range of options and it can be difficult (if not impossible) to decide.

The main contenders are:

  • Traditional university degree
  • Degree apprenticeship
  • Traditional apprenticeship
  • Full-time work
  • Starting a business

Choosing between them is ultimately down to your personal position and ambitions so we can’t tell you what to do (however much you’d like someone to make the decision for you) but hopefully we can help you get a little more informed about the choices available and make you feel more comfortable making that decision.

Let's start by looking at the contenders:

A traditional university degree

A traditional degree is based around theoretical study. Whilst teaching practices have evolved, the principal work towards a degree is classroom based and taught from textbooks.

Typically taught over the course of 3 years you’ll leave your course with a qualification that informs future employers about your interests and aptitude.

The number of school leavers studying a traditional degree has exploded over the past 20 years. Where once a degree stood you out from the crowd, you’re now firmly part of the crowd.

There are still careers for which a degree is fundamental – doctors, vets, mad scientists, etc.


Widely recognised
Get the “uni experience”


Difficult to stand out from the crowd

A traditional apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are not new. They’ve been around since the beginning of time – or at least since humans started to learn how to do stuff.

Back then apprenticeships were really focused on practical work where learning by doing was considered more appropriate than classroom learning.

Carpentry, mechanics, & baking are traditional apprenticeship industries. You’d do well to spend 3 years learning about sourdough in a classroom environment and you’d not be a much better baker at the end of it. But spend a few years actually baking bread and learning how to do it first-hand – you might just be the next Paul Hollywood!

Today apprenticeships are available across a range of industries and job roles meaning you can be an apprentice in pretty much anything you want.


Hands on experience
No debt


Narrow focus
No “uni-experience”

Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are unique offerings that take the best bits of a traditional degree and combine them with the best of apprenticeships.

This part work, part study approach means that after 3 years you’ve got a degree that stands up against a traditional degree and you’ve gained vital hands-on experience to make you stand out from the crowd.

It’s fair to say that degree apprenticeships aren’t for everyone. Studying and working is difficult. But then the type of student applying for a degree apprenticeship isn’t doing it because they tia an easy life, but because they want a rewarding one.

Whilst degree apprenticeships are recent developments they are growing rapidly. The government has put a huge amount of money behind degree apprenticeships in an attempt to get more people studying and working at the same time.

Degree apprenticeships are great because they take a huge financial burden off of getting a degree. Your host employer is responsible for your fees and they’ll pay you a salary too!


Hands on experience
Breadth of learning
Earn a salary


Hard work!


For many the prospect of leaving school and going to work isn’t very appealing (hence the boom in degree applications over the past couple of decades) but there are plenty of people that are using that to their advantage.

More and more school leavers are finding that they can take an entry level job on leaving school (when living at home and they don’t have to worry about bills) and use the opportunity to climb the ladder.

Start to look and you’ll find plenty of companies that are run by school leavers that didn’t go on to further education.


Earn a salary
Get a jump on the career ladder


No “uni-experience”

Start your own business

Of course, if you’re at home and having your food served up by your parents you’re in a unique position to build something of your own with very little risk.

Starting your own business as a school leaver is a great idea as it enables you to pursue a genuine passion. In the course of running a business you’ll get to try loads of different things and – if you decide to study or move in to work afterwards – you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you want to do.


Could build something big


Can be lonely
No income

What can Pearson College London offer you?

Pearson College London provides two principal options for school leavers - university degrees and degree apprenticeships.

Unlike traditional university degrees, we do things a bit differently here as we have some of the most industry-focused degrees available. Working with leading industry partners - including FTSE 100 companies - we offer you the chance to study business from the inside.

Keep up with the academic pace and you'll be guaranteed an internship during your time here plus you’ll be invited to regular events exclusively for students of Pearson College London.

Our degree apprenticeships are unparalleled. You might have seen the government's campaign for Get In, Go Far where two of the students they chose to be the faces of the campaign are studying with us. They’re currently working towards a degree at Pearson College while apprenticing at IBM and the BBC. It’s fair to say that their CVs are going to be pretty special when they come out the end of their higher education journey.

What do I do now?

Whatever decision you make about your future it’s important to know that you’re not making a commitment for the rest of your life. Try not to be overwhelmed by the options and don’t be afraid to change your mind.

It’s vital that you make your own choice. Don’t be pressured by friends or parents. Of course, they have your best interests at heart, but they don’t always know what those interests really are.

The only bad choice when you leave school is the one you didn’t make for yourself.

Here are some articles and downloads with things we’ve written that we think might help you learn more.

If you’re interested in degree apprenticeships you should visit our degree apprenticeships pages where you can learn more about our courses and read success stories from current DA students.

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