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Choices at 16

The two main choices are:

  • carry on learning full-time at school or college
  • train and learn at the same time with an apprenticeship or traineeship

Go to Career Planning for ideas and links to the National Careers Service that lists hundreds of job profiles with details about entry qualifications, salaries and what the work is like.

Carrying on with full-time learning

This can mean moving into the sixth form at school or studying at college. Whilst this usually means going up to a higher level of study, if you're expecting low GCSE grades you should consider re-taking them. Many employers expect you to have decent GCSE grades in English and maths.

Our information sheet on qualifications and levels PDF and diagrams on routes to higher education will help if you're not sure what levels means.  

If you're continuing with fulltime learning and moving up to level 3, you can take an academic route, for example A levels, or a vocational route, for example a BTEC. Vocational routes are usually taken by young people who know what they want to do for a career.

For more information go to the section on level 2 and 3 courses. Whichever route you choose, you will be able to progress on to higher education if you want to.  


Apprenticeships come in 3 levels - intermediate, advanced and higher - that are equivalent to qualifications at GCSE, A level and higher education levels. Most start at intermediate level, but some start at advanced or higher level - it depends on the subject you choose and the qualifications you already have. The main point is that you get paid for the time you spend working with your employer and the time you spend studying and, if you want to, there are opportunities to progress from intermediate through to advanced and higher levels depending on what you want from your career. Most apprenticeships require at least 30 hours work each week. For more information go to the section on Apprenticeships.

Traineeships and pre-apprenticeships 

These start in August 2013 and they provide extra help for 16 to 24 year olds who want to go on to an apprenticeship or job but don't yet have enough skills and training. Ask at school to find out which local programmes will be available to you. Trainee positions vary but there is an emphasis on providing support to build skills and confidence and improve core skills like maths and English. You might have the opportunity to move on to an apprenticeship and, at the end of your programme, you'll have experience to put on your CV.



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