What to Do After Your GCSEs

Posted by: Andre Post Date: 24th July 2015

Since 2015, a change of law meant that you’ll need to stay in education or training until you turn 18. This can seem quite frustrating, especially if you don’t like school, but being in education or training doesn’t mean you need to be confined to a classroom. There is a range of options that will help you follow the path that’s right for you. The choice you make might change depending what career you want, so you should consider that when making a decision.

If your aim is to become a doctor, you’re pretty much guaranteed to do college or A levels, and then attend university. However, if you want to do something that relies on practical skills, such as warehousing or childcare, you can follow the apprenticeship route. Professions such as accountancy and business admin can be achieved through either route.

Let’s take a look at the some of the most common choices for after your GCSEs: sixth form, college, apprenticeships, and traineeships.

Sixth form route

In sixth form you will usually work towards AS and A levels, which are academic qualifications that involve coursework and exams. Most sixth form qualifications require 5 GCSEs are grades A* to C, and are a common choice for those looking to go to university.

Many schools have their own sixth form, meaning that you can often continue learning in the same environment with some of the same people and teachers.

Being classroom based, sixth form is much more like school, although there might be some changes to things such as dress code (you can usually wear your normal clothes) and your timetables may include free periods.

You don’t necessarily need to go to sixth form at your current school, as it may not offer the subjects you want to study, meaning you can apply to different local sixth forms.

College route

Another alternative is college, where you can study a range of qualifications, including A level, BTEC and NVQ. Similar to sixth form, you’ll learn in a classroom based environment, and you’ll need to complete coursework and take exams. However, colleges usually offer a range of more practical, vocational courses, such as bricklaying and hairdressing, that involve frequent practical activities. Some courses even involve work placements.

Unlike sixth form, you won’t necessarily be learning with people your age, and will meet a wide range of people from different backgrounds. You’re more likely to have free time between classes, and you’ll be on more personal terms with your tutors.

Many colleges also do access courses for university, as well as the new 14-19 diplomas. The range of courses on offer at college is usually larger than that of sixth form, and there are alternative study options to day classes, such as completing a course part time or in the evening, which can allow you to work or volunteer part time too.

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Apprenticeship route

This route is different from sixth form and college in that it doesn’t involve spending all of your time in classes. Apprentices will gain an insight into the day to day role on the job, with an average of 1 day a week of classroom learning to complete your qualification. The slogan ‘earn while you learn’ is often used in association with apprenticeships, because you will be paid a wage at the same time as gaining experience and qualifications.

Apprenticeships are a popular choice for those who want to enter a practical profession, such hairdressing or warehousing, but there are a huge variety on offer, including some very unique ones. You can take a look at some of the apprenticeships we offer here.

Apprenticeships are available from level 2 onwards, meaning you will start by gaining a foundation of knowledge, and work your way up to qualifications that can be compared to a bachelor degrees.

Experience is one of the most sought after qualities when you look for employment, and an apprenticeship will give you between 1-4 years of experience – a considerable advantage over those that go to college or sixth form.


If you’re looking for something short term, perhaps over the summer after your GCSEs, a traineeship would be an ideal way to gain experience and bridge the gap to your next step. Traineeships last between 8 and 16 weeks, and include both on-the-job learning and classroom-based training. The classroom based training will mainly be focussed on your maths and English skills, along with tutoring to improve your CV and interview skills.

There are many different industries and roles where you can undertake a traineeship, some of which you can find here. You can also learn more about traineeships here.

Kick start your career through the apprenticeship pathway by clicking below.

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