Advice for parents about the career options for their children

Alternatives to higher education


Making decisions about whether or not to continue to higher education level or to seek for a career is a difficult business. Despite the reported doom and gloom about employment prospects and the economic situation reflecting badly on the 16-24 age group, there are still plenty of opportunities and choices available for young people and their parents to consider.

After completing GCSE's and A levels your son or daughter could be forgiven for wanting to take a break from full time learning for a while and gain some practical life skills, or to look at alternative means of undertaking additional qualifications than via a classroom or lecture theatre environment. It's important to know that if this is the case that there are potential opportunities open to them for both routes. They just take a little more investigating and involve a deal of luck in some instances, but are still achievable through determination and hard work.

The first choice to look at is a total break from learning and venturing into the world of work after full time education. This is many young people's choice, despite having achieved good enough grades to progress into higher education, and is not necessarily wrong at all. It might be that after 13 years of studying, that your son or daughter has realised that they are in fact a more practical than an academic person after all and are yearning to spread their wings into the field of commerce, business or industry. It may be that you, and they need to look at financing of higher education more closely and that some form of contribution from them would help secure their position at university in the future instead of immediately after completing their A levels.

Whatever path they choose, you all need to remember that it doesn't always mean that it is a permanent choice, that it is still possible to undertake continued education at a later date, either as a full time, part time or distance learning student, an apprentice or as part of continued professional development whilst in employment.

Some examples of career areas with growth potential:

  • Administration and management/ The Civil Service (including the Inland Revenue, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Customs & Excise)/ Local government
  • Air traffic control
  • Computing and IT
  • Emergency services
  • Engineering
  • Estate agency
  • Finance (banking, insurance and accountancy - although over 90 per cent of chartered accountancy entrants are graduates)
  • HM Forces/The Merchant Navy (Deck and Engineering Officer cadet schemes)
  • Hospitality/Leisure/Travel and Tourism
  • Journalism (although most editors prefer graduates)
  • Legal executive work (from which there is a route to solicitor's training)
  • Retail management
  • Sales
  • Scientific laboratory work


volunteerIf your child is struggling to find work, in the same way that gap year experiences boost the CV, a period of volunteer work in the interim will show commitment and an ability to work hard, and may even lead to further opportunities with the volunteer organisations.

Direct Gov Volunteering