School leaver courses: What are your options? 

Just finished school, and not sure what to do next? Look no further… 

Whether you’re leaving school at 16 or 18, there are a number of ways to keep learning, and whilst higher education is a popular choice – it’s not the only option. Even if you’re looking to go straight into work, you could be able to study at the same time. 

We’ve already covered your options following GCSE results day and A Level results day, along with key info on A Level and GCSE retakes, but here are some of the best school leaver courses to consider: 


Learning in higher education

Suitable for: 18-year-old school leavers.  

If you’re looking to remain in education after leaving school, there are a number of options for you to consider. 

A Bachelor’s degree is the most common type of undergraduate qualification, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. You could also opt for: 

  • A Higher National Certificate and Diploma (HNC/HND) or a Foundation Degree (FdA). These are vocational courses that combine academic study with work experience, enabling you to learn practical skills. Whilst you’ll find them in multiple industries, they’re most popular in fields such as sport, hospitality, drama, design, and business studies. They take around one year to complete.
  • A Certificate Continuing Education (CertCE). Known as a ‘taster’ for uni, this course provides a short glimpse into higher education, whilst allowing you to gain a recognised qualification. It takes 8 months-1 year to complete, and is perfect for people who aren’t sure if university is right for them.
  • A Certificate and Diploma of Higher Education (CertHE/DipHE). These are levels within a degree course, which can be taken separately, and apart from each other. A CertHE takes 1 year to complete, whilst a DipHE is 2 years long.  

Each of the above vary in length, credits awarded, and entry requirements, so it’s important to do your research to figure out which one is right for you. 

Depending on where you study, these courses can be done full-time or part-time, with some unis even offering distance learning options – so you can get qualified by studying from home.

View all higher education courses 

Should I go to university? 

What are the different degree levels?


Learning job-specific skills

Suitable for: 16 and 18-year-old school leavers. 

There are a number of professional certifications and regulated courses that allow you to develop proficiency in a certain industry, software, or programme – which could greatly boost your employability. 

Here are just a few subjects you can study in, and some examples of the types of courses that are available: 

Graphic Design 


Project Management 



Office Skills 


These certifications are designed with a job in mind, focus on developing practical skills, and are an excellent way to aid career progression in a particular field. 

They’re likely to take less time to complete, are more cost-effective than a higher education course, and can easily be studied alongside a job. 


Learning while you earn

Suitable for: 16 and 18-year-old school leavers. 

If you’re looking to start earning straight away, but aren’t ready to stop learning – don’t panic. There are a number of ways to earn while you learn. These include: 

  • Apprenticeships. An apprenticeship is a work-based training programme which allows you to earn a recognised qualification whilst gaining practical experience.
  • Internships. An internship is a period of work experience offered by an employer, which enables you to learn job-specific skills and gain practical work experience in your preferred field. 
  • Traineeships. A traineeship is an educational programme that includes work experience, helping young people to practically prepare for the world of work.  

But these aren’t the only ways to learn while you earn. You could also take a part-time online course to study alongside your job – whether you’re working for an employer, you’re freelancing, or you’re working on your own business (e.g. tutoring).  

This is a great way to develop your skills in a new industry if your current role is temporary, part-time, or not in your preferred field – or to gain the qualifications you need to move up the ranks from a junior role. 

How to fit work around studying

Five ways to make studying affordable


Learning on your gap year 

Suitable for: 18-year-old school leavers. 

Looking to take a gap year? That doesn’t mean you can’t learn anything new. 

With a number of online courses available and many offered from just £10, your year off could be the perfect opportunity to pursue a hobby you never had time for before – whether it’s learning the guitar, beauty therapy, animal care, fashion styling, or even beer brewing

Or, if you’re thinking of travelling in the near future, there are many skills you could learn before you go, or even whilst abroad, to make your time away more beneficial. 

These include: 

There are also a number of transferable (and work-based) skills that you can gain from working in temp and/or part-time roles during your year off – from hospitality and retail to office work and nannying. 

Five of the best things to do in your gap year

How to start work after your gap year



Still searching for your perfect learning opportunity? View all courses now. 


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