School Leaver Career Opportunities in 2024 (Examples & Tips)


School Leaver Career Opportunities in 2024 (Examples & Tips)

by Artöm Obenko

  • Career
  • · July 10 2024
  • · 10 min read
School leaver next steps

Table of contents

Whether you’re leaving school at 16 or 18, or approaching your final exams, it’s time to think about your next steps. Like writing a good CV, you need to carefully identify your strengths, soft skills, and career goals to make informed decisions. The transition from school to work is filled with limitless opportunities. Be open with yourself and let us help you pave a path that truly inspires you. Apply with confidence and get ready to embrace the next chapter in your career journey!

In this step-by-step guide, we cover:

  • A breakdown of diverse pathways available in the UK, from apprenticeships and A-levels to vocational courses and jobs with no experience.

  • Examples of best jobs per industry.

  • Tips for writing your first CV.

  • Steps on how to find and secure a job as a school leaver.

Whether you’re heading to college, sixth form, or considering an apprenticeship, we’ve got you covered with valuable advice and a vast collection of CV templates to help you embark on your career journey with confidence.

Read further to discover the opportunities ahead!

What are your options after leaving school?

1. Apprenticeships and traineeships

Apprenticeships and traineeships provide practical, on-the-job training, allowing you to earn while you learn. Whether you an electrician, carpenter, or plumber, you can pursue different types of apprenticeships or traineeships using one of the platforms below:



Apprenticeships range from intermediate to advanced levels, depending on your qualifications and career interests.

Traineeship refer to short-term programs designed to help young individuals gain the key skills and experience needed to secure an apprenticeship or job.

Use the 'Find apprenticeship' tool by the National Career Service to help you navigate this competitive market.

  • Engineering apprenticeships: GCSEs in Maths and Science with grades 4-9 (A-C), coupled with strong problem-solving skills and an interest in technical subjects, are essential.

  • Business administration apprenticeships: GCSEs in English and Maths with grades 4-9 (A-C), as well as strong organisational skills and technical proficiency in Microsoft Office, are beneficial.

  • Doctor apprenticeships: A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, and either Physics or Maths with grades AAB or equivalent. Strong interpersonal skills, empathy, and a desire to work in healthcare are essential.

  • Fashion apprenticeships: GCSES in English and Maths. Interest in the fashion industry and opportunities for non-design job roles.

Learn more about the qualifications needed for the above jobs:

Camera Flash

Pro Tip

To increase your chances of landing an apprenticeship, expand your network! Consider attending local career fairs, and reaching out to school advisors at your school or experienced professionals on LinkedIn.

Alternatively, consider getting experience through volunteering to help you get more soft skills and develop a portfolio.

2. Internships

Internships offer temporary work experience in a specific field, helping you build your resume and professional network. They can be paid or unpaid and usually last from a few weeks to several months.

Discover what opportunities await if you're interested in an internship or top skills employers look for.

  • Marketing internships: GCSEs in English and Media Studies, grades 4-9 (A-C) with a strong skill set in social media management and basic graphic design tools like Canva or Adobe Photoshop are advantageous.

  • Finance internships: GCSEs in Maths and Business Studies, grades 4-9 (A-C) with technical expertise in Microsoft Excel and knowledge of financial principles, such as understanding balance sheets and financial ratios, are crucial.

  • Journalism: GCSEs in English and Media Studies, grades 4-9 (A-C). Experience with writing for school newspapers or blogs is beneficial. Familiarity with content management systems (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla and basic photo editing skills using tools like Adobe Photoshop or GIMP are advantageous.

Find out more about the qualifications needed for the above jobs:

3. First full-time job

Getting your first full-time job does not require prior experience and is also suitable for school leavers. These jobs provide valuable work experience and can be a stepping stone to more advanced positions. On the other hand, part-time jobs offer flexibility, allowing you to balance work with further education or other commitments. When applying for these roles, focus on building a strong CV and preparing thoroughly for interviews to make a positive impression.

For more information, explore our related guide for a part-time CV.

  • Retail positions: Cashier, sales assistant or stock clerk usually require GCSEs with grades 4-9 (A-C) and good customer service skills. Previous experience in customer-facing roles is a plus.

  • Customer service: Call centre operator or help desk support may require GCSEs in English and Maths with grades 4-9 (A-C) and excellent communication skills. Basic IT skills and experience using CRM systems can be beneficial.

  • Accountant: A-levels in Maths or Accounting with grades (A-B) requiring strong analytical skills and attention to detail.

Discover more information about entry requirements for the abovementioned jobs:

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4. A-levels and T-levels

A-levels are traditional academic qualifications that can lead to university, further education, training, or employment. Selecting the right subjects is important as they can impact your future career options. T-levels are new qualifications that combine classroom learning with on-the-job experience through an industry placement. They aim to provide a more practical learning experience, preparing you for skilled employment or further study. For example, to pursue a career in medicine, A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, and Maths are often required. For digital production careers, T-levels in Computer Science and Maths can be beneficial.

Check out the A-level and T-level websites for more information about their entry requirements and school leaver programmes.

  • Healthcare career: A-levels in Biology, Chemistry, and Maths, typically requiring grades A-B. Strong analytical skills and a passion for science are crucial.

  • Designer: T-levels in Design, Surveying and Planning, or equivalent qualifications, requiring GCSE grades 4-9 (A*-C) in relevant subjects. Proficiency in design software like Adobe Creative Suite or Sketch, and a strong portfolio of work can be beneficial.

  • Travel and tourism: A-levels in Geography or Business Studies with grades A-C. Language skills and experience in customer service are beneficial for roles in the tourism industry.

Check out our related articles for more details on the required qualifications for the above jobs:

5. Vocational courses and school leaver schemes

When pursuing further education as a school leaver or student, vocational courses focus on practical skills and training for specific jobs, such as a brlcklayer, electrical work, or beauty therapy. These courses are typically offered by colleges and vocational training centres. Graduation schemes are structured programs offered by employers to recent school leavers from the age of 17, providing a combination of work experience, training, and mentoring to help you develop in your chosen career.

Refer to Indeed or National Career Service for more valuable advice on how to find your desired job.

  • IT vocational program: for example, BTEC National in IT may require GCSEs in Maths and English, while hospitality courses might need basic GCSEs alongside an interest in the field.

  • NHS school leaver scheme: GCSEs in English, Maths, and Science, alongside a strong interest in healthcare and a commitment to learning and development.

  • Care Assistant or Nurse: Relevant vocational qualifications or A-levels, usually including Biology, followed by a nursing degree or diploma. Practical experience in healthcare settings is highly beneficial.

Refer to our related articles to learn more about the needed qualifications:

6. Networking and career fairs

Building a professional network is essential for career development. See if your school is organising a career fair or ask if they can help you choose which one to visit. Attending career fairs allows you to meet potential employers, learn about job opportunities, and gain insights into different industries. Effective networking involves being proactive, asking questions, and following up with contacts you meet at these events.

Take a look at the Youth Employment UK platform for an overview of upcoming career fairs and events by month in the UK.

7. Obtaining certificates or diplomas

If you're already 18 years old, consider upskilling yourself by continuing further education after school. You can follow course either full-time, part-time, or using distance learning, offering plenty of flexibility to study from home wherever you are. Apart from getting a Bachelor's degree, consider the following options:

  • Higher National Certificate and Diploma (HNC/HND) or Foundation Degree (FdA): Blend academic learning with practical experience in sectors like sport, hospitality, drama, design, and business studies, usually completed in one year.

  • Certificate of Continuing Education (CertCE): Provices a recognised qualification in 8 months to 1 year, briefly introducing to higher education, which is perfect for those unsure about university.

  • Certificate and Diploma of Higher Education (CertHE/DipHE): Standalone levels within a degree program, with CertHE taking 1 year and DipHE taking 2 years.

Please keep in mind that each course has different requirements, duration, credit system so ensure to choose carefully the best fit aligning with your career goals.

10 best jobs for school leavers per industry

Whether you're seeking part-time jobs for school leavers, summer jobs or seasonal work, we have compiled a list of the top 10 jobs per industry.

  1. Healthcare: Healthcare Assistant or Pharmacy Assistant.

  2. Engineering: Engineering Technician or Junior CAD Designer.

  3. IT: Support Technician or Junior Software Developer.

  4. Administration: Office Administrator or Data Entry Clerk.

  5. Retail: Sales Assistant or Customer Service Representative.

  6. Receptionist: Front Desk Receptionist and Hotel Receptionist

  7. Construction: Trainee Electrician or Plumbing Apprentice.

  8. Artist: Graphic Design Assistant or Junior Photographer.

  9. Teaching: Teaching Assistant or Nursery Assistant.

  10. Marketing: Marketing Assistant or Social Media Coordinator.

For additional guidance on the most-demand jobs, refer to our related blog article on the best jobs for students.

10 best jobs for school leavers with no experience

  1. Hospitality: Kitchen Assistant or Hotel Porter.

  2. Customer Service: Call Centre Agent or Helpdesk Support.

  3. Cleaning: Domestic Cleaner or Office Cleaner.

  4. Sales: Market Stall Assistant or Retail Assistant.

  5. Security: Event Steward or CCTV Operator.

  6. Gardening: Garden Centre Assistant or Park Maintenance Worker.

  7. Care Assistant: Nursery Assistant or After-School Club Helper.

  8. Driver: E-bike Courier or Truck Driver

  9. Warehouse: Warehouse Operative or Stockroom Assistant

  10. Supermarket: Tesco Supermarket Assistant or Sainsbury's Checkout Assistant

For valuable insights, refer to our related blog article on how to write a CV with no experience.

Tips on how to choose the career path for you

Choosing the right career path can be challenging, but breaking it down into manageable steps could be your solution. Here are 5 tips to navigate you through the process:

  1. Set realistic goals: Define what you want to achieve in your career and the steps needed to get there. Research the qualifications required for your desired roles.

  2. Build a strong CV and cover letter: Highlight your skills, experiences, and achievements. Tailor your CV and cover letter to each job application, focusing on how you can meet the employer’s needs.

  3. Practice interview skills: Prepare for common interview questions and practice your responses. Focus on communicating your strengths and how they relate to the job.

  4. Use social media to connect with others: Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. Join relevant groups and participate in discussions to build your network.

  5. Stay updated on trends: Keep up with industry trends and job market developments. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions and stay competitive.

Take a career aptitude test

To help you assess your strengths and weaknesses, consider using one of the following tests:

If you're still unsure what career suits you, ask yourself one of the following questions:

  • What are your main interests and strengths?

  • Are you a creative or analytical thinker? Are you a thinker or a doer?

  • How do you envision yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?

  • What values are important to you in a company setting?

  • What skills do I need to develop to pursue a career in a certain field?

Consider taking a gap year

If you're still uncertain about your career path, consider taking a gap year. It allows you to change scenery, reflect on your passions, and get involved with personal projects that interest you. It's also a great opportunity to learn new skills, travel around the world, and try out different things. For more inspiration, take a look at gap year programs in the UK and UCAS gap year options.

For more expert tips, refer to our blog article on how to find and track your job applications.

School Leaver CV example

School Leaver CV sample

In this school-leaver CV sample, Isabella highlights her previous work experience. She has showcased her customer service and language skills to gain a competitive edge. This simple CV template is well-structured, concise, and well-formatted, which looks appealing and is easy to read by recruiters.

Refer to our school leaver CV example for more career advice for school leavers.

Kickstart your career with a winning CV! Use our easy-to-follow guide and templates to create a CV for your first job!

Additional resources:

Key takeaways

Numerous options are available to school leavers in the UK, from further education and vocational courses to apprenticeships, internships, and entry-level jobs. It's important to explore different paths, remain open-minded, and be proactive in your search for the right opportunity. Staying positive and motivated as you navigate your future is crucial. Remember, the key is to stay open-minded, explore various options, and be proactive in your career search.

  • Tailor your CV and cover letter to specific jobs.

  • Create a master CV to streamline your job application process.

  • You could follow A-levels, apprenticeships, vocational courses, and internships.

  • A systematic approach to job search could reduce stress and make your job process smoother.

  • Quality outweighs quantity when crafting and sending out your CVs.

School leaver tips

Next steps?

If you need more support in your job search, we have compiled several resources to make it easier. First, our professional team of experts at the CV Writing Service can guide you through the entire process of a job search.

Take a look at one of our CV examples for more inspiration about different career paths you could pursue as a school leaver. Or see one of our related blog articles below to help you

We're on a mission to prepare students from all levels for career success through industry-specific education and training.

Every great job begins with a great CV!

Start writing yours now


What are the options for a school leaver?

School leavers have various options, including further education (A-levels and T-levels), work-based learning (apprenticeships, traineeships, and internships), vocational courses, graduation schemes, entry-level jobs, and part-time jobs.

Refer to the SEO (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity) London website for more information about pre-professional development and entry-level career options.

Can I work full-time after leaving school?

Yes, you can work full-time after leaving school. Many entry-level job opportunities are available for school leavers, and apprenticeships also offer full-time work combined with training.

How do apprenticeships differ from internships? 

Apprenticeships combine practical work experience and academic learning, leading to a recognised qualification. Internships are typically shorter and focus on gaining work experience in a specific field without necessarily leading to a qualification.

Are there specific resources for school leavers in Scotland?

Yes, school leavers in Scotland have access to specific resources and opportunities, such as:

How do I choose between A-levels and vocational courses? 

Choosing between A-levels and vocational courses depends on your career goals, interests, and preferred learning style. A-levels are a better fit for those aiming to pursue academic careers, whereas vocational courses are perfect for hands-on, practical careers. Think of what aligns best with your aspirations and strengths.

What are the best college courses for school leavers in the UK?

Some of the most in-demand college courses for school leavers in the UK include:

  • Business Administration and Management

  • Information Technology and Computer Science

  • Health and Social Care

  • Engineering and Construction Trades

  • Creative Arts and Media

Some of the best platforms for school leaver courses include Riverside College, City of Bristol College, West Herts College, Exeter college, Weston college, and many others. Alternatively, take a look at the best school leaver courses by Reed.

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Updated July 10 2024


Written by

Artöm is your go-to Content Specialist committed to assisting job seekers globally. Through his engaging blog articles and in-depth guides, he's on a mission to make your career journey a breeze. Artöm is passionate about SEO, design, and all aspects of marketing, delivering expert advice that resonates with diverse audiences. Beyond work, you can find him practicising Kung Fu, travelling, reading a book, or enjoying the company of his beloved black cat. Try it now

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