In England, young people have a range of options at the age of 18. If they decide to get a job, many employers offer training programmes and apprenticeships which will enable them to learn while they earn. If their chosen career means they need to get certain qualifications first, or they want to continue studying, they will usually do this at an education provider such as a Further Education (FE) college or Higher Education provider such as a university.  

Whatever they choose at 18, young people have lots of opportunities to continue learning – including getting a higher education qualification, such as a degree or higher technical qualification – throughout their career.

What to consider

While employers will usually have certain skills, knowledge and behaviours that they expect from employees, most jobs are open to people with a wide range of qualifications and experiences.

Though there are exceptions, it’s generally true that obtaining higher levels of qualifications improves the chances of a bigger salary later. These include higher technical qualifications (such as Higher apprenticeships), as well as degrees.

As with most stages of education, there are usually entry requirements for each post-18 option, such as needing to have studied particular subjects and/or achieved certain grades, in order to be accepted onto a course. For some occupations, for example in healthcare and construction, your child may need to do a specific technical qualification to get a job or move forward in their career.

Exploring the options

With so many education and employment choices available, it’s worth taking time to explore the best sources of information and advice that can help you and your child discuss next steps together.

A good place to start is by talking to your child’s school or college about what support they offer and attending their careers events and activities.

If your child is going to continue in education at 18, colleges and universities have lots of information about courses on their websites, will have open days, and will also have people (including current students) who can talk to parents and their children about the courses available.

You can also carry out your own research or your child can speak to a specialist careers adviser through their school or college, or through the National Careers Service. If your child has special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), your school or college can help you find out what support is available in your area.  You can find other sources of information about the options on the Talking Futures Resources page.

Expect a lot of detail and for different sources to explain things differently. Whilst it can feel confusing, exploring with your child and learning about the options together is just as valuable as having the answers yourself.

To help you get started there is information below on three of the post-18 options available and a link to more details about each one.


  • Apprenticeships combine practical training in a paid job with study.
  • Apprentices spend most of their time at work, with at least 20% studying at a training provider.
  • Apprenticeships are offered at all levels, from Level 2 right through to Level 6 or 7 (which is bachelor’s or master’s degree equivalent). ‘Advanced’ apprenticeships are set at Level 3. Some will include a qualification.
  • Apprenticeships are offered by employers and they will advertise when they have vacancies. Vacancies are also advertised locally, for example through colleges, or on national websites.
  • After their apprenticeship is finished, most young people carry on working in the industry their apprenticeship was in.


  • There are a variety of different employment options available from age 18.
  • Schools and colleges should be able to provide access to information about the best job prospects locally.
  • Many employers offer opportunities for training to help young people build their careers.

Higher education

  • Higher Education includes:
    • bachelor’s degrees
    • master’s degrees
    • higher technical qualifications (e.g. HNC/HNDs and foundation degrees).
  • Higher education is delivered in universities and some FE colleges.
  • Study can be full-time or part-time and combined with a job.
  • A loan is usually taken out to pay the course fees, but many colleges and universities offer additional support for those in need.