How to choose a career?
Choosing a career is a big decision and you shouldn’t feel rushed into making a choice too soon. Many people have ‘squiggly’ careers where they start their career in one area but then try lots of other things before settling on what suits them best. It’s important to look at lots of options and learn as much as you can about what you like and don’t like based on your own experience and knowledge – what suits someone else won’t necessarily suit you. The more you can learn about different industries and the career options they offer, the better prepared you can be to make your initial career choice.
Listening to talks by people already working in an industry that may interest you can help you discover more about an industry or career. So can taking part in work experience. The more employers and employees you can meet yourself, the easier it will be for you to gather the insights and information you need to narrow down your choices. By doing several work experience placements in either the same or multiple industries, you’ll also build your confidence and improve your skill set – which will make you more employable and help you to stand out to future employers.
Remember whatever you decide now doesn’t have to be forever – you can keep reviewing your choices as you progress in your career to make sure you follow a path that works for you.
What can I do after leaving school?
There are lots of post-16 pathways available depending on your situation, your qualifications and your preferences. Once you are old enough to leave school, you can opt to go into further education (sixth form college, further education college or UniversityTechnical College) to continue your academic studies, choose to start an apprenticeship or traineeship with an employer, or go into full-time employment provided that you are still receiving part-time training up to the age of 18.
Once you turn 18, you will have another set of options available to you depending on your situation, your qualifications and your preferences. You can opt to go into higher education (university or Institute of Technology) to continue your academic studies, choose to start a degree apprenticeship, a higher apprenticeship, a traineeship or supported internship with an employer, or go into full-time employment. Following completion of the next stage in your career journey, you may choose to study further or seek employment.
There is no one pathway that is best and it is important to review your options at each stage in your career journey. Some careers require a university degree while others are more flexible. Employers generally offer a range of pathways into ‘early careers’ for young people including entry-level roles (where you can join straight after leaving school), apprenticeships (where you can earn as you learn and there are often various levels available) and graduate roles (where you require a university degree to secure a place).
Learning more about different industries, employers and career options while still at school can help you to make more informed choices about what you go on to do next.
What are the highest paying jobs?
The best-paying jobs are often those where you need to be able to demonstrate a particularly high level of skill, expertise or to have undergone significant training. Generally speaking, if a job pays well, there will be a lot of competition when you come to apply for it and high expectations from the employer. Often we talk about a career in terms of its earning potential because you might not earn a high salary to start with, but you have a greater chance of earning a higher salary as you progress in that profession.
Some ‘professional careers’ like lawyers and doctors require specialist training and have well-established career progression paths, so ahead of joining these professions you have a good idea of your earning potential and career development possibilities. There are also many other professional careers where it is possible to rise through the ranks and be promoted into highly paid senior positions based on skill, merit and hard work.
Many private companies offer their most experienced and talented executives bonuses or special performance incentives. Earning potential is an important consideration when trying to decide on your future career, but job satisfaction and work/life balance are equally important considerations. Often jobs that pay higher salaries will require you to have a greater level of responsibility and be more demanding in terms of your time and contribution.
Starting salaries for graduate positions may be higher than for other entry-level roles but many companies offer opportunities for career development regardless of your pathway into their organisation. Having relevant work experience to add to your CV can help you stand out to future employers and can help you make important networking connections that may help you when you come to apply for a job that is in high demand and likely to attract a lot of highly-qualified applicants.
Should I go to university?
Some careers require a university degree while others are more flexible and may offer other ‘on-the-job’ training or give you the option to earn as you learn through an apprenticeship. Some larger employers may even offer degree apprenticeships so that you can gain a degree while also being in paid employment.
University can be considered an investment in your future career, but it does not offer a guarantee of future employment and the combined financial cost of going to university can be offputting for many families. Currently, UK universities charge students from England, Scotland,* Wales and Northern Ireland up to £9,250 per annum in tuition fees and many degree courses are 3 years long. If you are a UK student, it is possible to take out student loans to cover your tuition fees and some of your living costs. Tuition Fee Loans are paid directly to the course provider and do not need to be paid back until after you complete your course when you’re earning above a certain level. Maintenance Loans are also available to UK students but how much you get depends on your household income, where you study, where you live, and how long your course is.
*Scottish students attending university in Scotland are not charged tuition fees, but Scottish students attending university in England, Wales or Northern Ireland will be subject to the same tuition fees as their peers from the rest of the UK.
Learning as much as you can about different industries and the entry requirements for different roles that interest you while still at school can help you weigh up your options and decide whether university is the right path for you.
It’s important that when you do your research you consider whether the course you are considering will be in high demand among future employers and whether the university you intend to apply for has a good employment rate among its graduates. Some courses and universities have stronger reputations with employers than others, so this is an important consideration when making your decision. Don’t forget you will need to meet the entry criteria for whichever university you intend to apply for, so set yourself realistic goals based on your subjects, your predicted grades in those subjects and advice from your school/college.
What are great jobs?
When thinking about what job you might do in the future, it’s important to consider where there will be the most demand for jobs. A job that is popular or considered a good option now may not even exist when you come to start your career!
The world of work is changing fast to respond to technological advances but also to respond to climate change and other economic pressures. Digital skills and skills relating to Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are all in high demand and will continue to be when you leave school.
Taking part in work experience now and listening to employers talk about how their organisations are changing to bridge the skills gap and meet the challenges of the future will help you understand where new career opportunities lie and decide which jobs appeal most to you.
Whatever job you end up doing, it’s important that you also consider whether it gives you opportunities for further professional development and career progression. Many employers recognise that to retain employees they need to keep investing in them and giving them opportunities to try new things or develop new skills. Or perhaps you’d prefer to be your own boss and work freelance to give you more freedom.
When thinking about your future career, it’s good to start with an idea of where your priorities lie. Do you want job security? To live in a certain place? To be able to travel a lot? To work from home? You don’t need to have all the answers worked out just yet, but it’s good to bear this in mind when you start looking at the options!