Post-16 career routes  


According to the DfE document, ‘Careers guidance and access for education and training providers’ 2018, all schools will be required to have a dedicated careers leader in place by the start of the 2018/2019 academic year. The aim of the requirement is that all pupils will have access to up-to-date and expert careers advice.

Post-16 pupils have to remain in education or training until they are 18-years-old. When pupils have completed their GCSE exams, they have several routes that are available to them – these are explained in this guidance document.

Full-time study

Pupils have the option to remain in full-time study; for example, at a college or sixth form. There are two main pathways in regards to full-time study – these are:

  • A-levels: Where pupils are given a selection of subjects from which they choose to study. A-levels are a good option for pupils who have an interest in a specific subject area and who may wish to further this subject knowledge through attending a university in the future. Pupils normally require at least five GSCEs at grades A*-C (or equivalent) and sometimes, the college or sixth form may require pupils to have a certain grade in the specific subjects that they wish to study. A-Levels are linear and pupils will be assessed via coursework throughout the two years and will sit exams at the end of the two years.
  • Work and job-related courses: These include National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) diplomas and others. These courses relate to particular jobs, sectors or subject areas, such as hairdressing or catering.

Apprenticeships, traineeships and supported internships

Pupils can choose to take on an apprenticeship, traineeship or supported internship.

  • Apprenticeship: This is a good option for pupils who already have an idea of the career that they want to pursue. In an apprenticeship, pupils will be employed and trained for a specific job, and there are numerous apprenticeships on offer, ranging from engineering to accountancy. For further guidance and information, click here.
  • Traineeship: This refers to the step before an apprenticeship, as traineeships get pupils ready for an apprenticeship. They can last anywhere from six weeks to six months and provide essential work preparation training, literacy and numeracy skills, and work experience to get an apprenticeship or other job.
  • Supported internship: This option is specifically for pupils with learning difficulties or learning disabilities who want a job, but require additional support. They last for at least six months and are unpaid. The pupil is trained and receives work experience –  there is also an option to study for qualifications or other courses in the meantime.

Work or volunteer while studying part-time

Pupils also have the option to combine work and training. The jobs that are undertaken can either be paid or voluntary. Colleges and training providers offer a range of training courses that are part-time alongside A-levels and work-related qualifications such as NVQs and BTEC diplomas. To find out more, click here

Career days

A good way in which pupils can gauge what the best route is for them, is by making the most of career days. Career days allow pupils to learn about the different jobs that exist in their community, giving them the opportunity to explore ideas that may not have occurred to them. Pupils will have the opportunity to speak to professionals in many different careers, allowing them to ask questions in the areas of their interest.

At the career day, there will likely be representatives from local colleges, apprenticeship providers and local businesses who can advise the best route that pupils could take to succeed in a particular industry; for example, a business owner might encounter a pupil who envisages themselves being an entrepreneur and would be able to advise a good pathway for that pupil.

What’s next?

Post-16 career routes can be daunting to pupils – pupils will likely feel pressure and anxieties when coming to their decision. When supporting pupils with their choice, teachers and parents can help pupils decide the best route for them by:

  • Discussing their grades – asking pupils what grades they are likely to get can sometimes be a good indicator as to what route would best suit them.
  • Interests – discussing a pupil’s interests with them can often indicate as to what career route will suit them most; for example, if a pupil is particularly interested in reading, taking an English Literature A-level may be a good route. 
  • Skills – establishing the skills that a pupil has can often indicate what career a pupil would succeed in; for example, if a pupil is a confident public speaker, the pupil may consider public relations, marketing, sales or hospitality – this can then sometimes point to a suitable career route.
  • CV – encouraging pupils to start writing a CV can often help, as it will outline their skills, interests and achievements. Writing CVs in PSHE lessons and then comparing these to job descriptions, apprenticeship opportunities and college requirements can indicate a pupils’ natural route. When pupils have finished their CVs, they should ask themselves what careers their CVs suit.


Career Pilot (2017) ‘The different pathways you can choose at 16’ <> [Accessed: 25 January 2018]

DfE (2018) ‘Careers guidance and access for education and training providers’

Tes (2017) ‘Every school to have a dedicated careers leader’ <> [Accessed: 26 January 2018]

UCAS (2014) ‘What are my options?’ <> [Accessed: 25 January 2018]