Post-16: What next?

This article was last updated on 13 August 2020.

So your GCSEs are all done and dusted – yay!

It’s time to think about what to do next. To help you plan your next move, we’ve asked our experts to tell us what options are out there. In this short film, they explain about the different qualifications you can take after GCSEs and going forward.

Our experts explain what types of qualifications you can get after GCSEs.

What are my options after GCSEs?

There are three main categories of qualifications you can take after GCSEs: vocational, apprenticeship-based and academic. They can all lead to higher level qualifications, university and work


  • A-levels are the main academic route. They are achieved after two years of study and there are lots of different subjects to choose from. You can also take A-levels alongside vocational qualifications

Find out more about what A-levels are really like

More information on mixing A-levels and vocational qualifications

Thinking ahead to uni? You don't necessarily need A-levels


  • When you do an apprenticeship you’re out in the workplace four or five days a week and earn a wage, but some of your time is also spent working towards professional qualifications
  • Certain types of apprenticeships can also lead to university qualifications

Find out more about starting work as an apprentice

Find out more about apprenticeships and work

Vocational qualifications

  • You can also opt to take vocational qualifications offered by a sixth form or local college
  • Vocational qualifications are qualifications related to a specific area of employment, e.g. if you want to do care work, you can take Health and Social Care
  • Vocational qualifications start at different levels. For example, if you want to enter the world of construction trades, you will probably have to start at a slightly lower level because you need to get all the hand skills required
  • They’re much more hands-on: you could be in a studio, workshop or on a farm
  • From September 2020, there is a new type of vocational qualification available in England – T-levels. They are two-year courses, equivalent to three A-levels, where you spend 80% of your time in classroom-based learning and 20% on industry placement(s).

Get the latest on the T-levels website.

Learn more about switching to a vocational pathway

Pause for thought

  • If you’re interested in a certain career, but to get there you need to take subjects that you don’t like, think about it carefully! Why not start with the subjects you really enjoy, and take it from there?
  • Whatever you decide, remember: this is your life! Don’t be influenced by where your friends are going. Ask yourself: what do I enjoy? What would I like to do? And what do I want to get out of my life?
  • Also think about how you enjoy learning new things: is it in a classroom, passing exams and writing essays? Or is it doing more practical activities?
  • And don’t forget to talk to teachers and career advisors – they have lots of knowledge and wisdom to share!
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