So, GCSE pupils, you’re at a crossroads? Relax – we’re here to help.

If you want to go onto university, you’ll have to take A-levels first, but if you want to do an apprenticeship you have the choice to leave school after GCSEs and take up your training programme, or take A-levels before beginning a higher apprenticeship.


Not only will you avoid student debt, but you’ll actually be paid to learn: something almost unheard of these days. The minimum wage for apprentices is admittedly pretty low – just £2.73 an hour – and applies to all 16-18-year-old apprentices, and those aged 19 and over in the first year of their apprenticeship.

Luckily, employers tend to pay above this minimum, and apprentices earn on average around £170-£200 a week; although some earn less and others earn more.

Those who do get paid the minimum might be eligible to receive benefits from the government on top of their wage: it’s worth exploring the funding options out there.

Depending on which type of apprenticeship you do, you could also be qualified and in work before, or at the same time as, your peers emerge from university, looking around for their first proper jobs. You will already have worked in a proper job for a number of years alongside your training, making you super employable (as well as debt-free, of course).

Even if you take A-levels, you could still go down the apprentice route. Higher apprenticeships are the crème de la crème of apprenticeships, bearing many similarities to school leaver programmes (in fact, many school leaver programmes include a higher apprenticeship as part of their training programme) but tend to be shorter.

You can also get qualifications like foundation degrees, HNDs and undergraduate degrees as part of a Higher Apprenticeship. Apprentices can usually top up their qualifications after the apprenticeship too.

For more information, please click on the following links