Next Steps

Secondary education, skilled employment, advanced skills training, or postgraduate education. How far you decide to progress your education is entirely up to you!

Qualification routes

There are lots of different qualifications out there at a variety of different levels that may be available to you as you progress through your educational pathway. The route that you decide to take could be as individual as you are. It may be that you already have a future career in mind and will choose to follow the pathway that will help you to get there in the simplest way. However, if you don’t know what you want to do in the future, don’t worry. For now, try to stick with the subjects you enjoy and try to keep your options open – more than one pathway/qualification route can lead to the same career. If in doubt, speak to your subject teacher or careers adviser for more information.

Different countries have different qualifications at different levels so make sure you are checking the correct column. If you are currently living in one of the countries of the UK or Ireland but are intending to work in another, it may be worth cross-checking the appropriate columns to see which level of qualification in your working country compares most closely with the qualifications you have or are planning on taking where you currently live.

What you choose may depend on what is available in your local area or what your school offers. Download the document at the bottom of this page to view a table which shows the range of qualifications you can take across the UK and Ireland.

In England, your Local Area Prospectus will list all courses available for 14-19 year olds. To find the one for your area visit:

How long will I be studying for?

  • Doctoral/doctorates tend to be at least three years. [N.B. Bachelor’s degree required to progress to this level of qualification].
  • Master’s postgraduate certificates and diplomas last at least a year; others may be extended programmes integrating undergraduate study (e.g. MEng, MChem). [N.B. Bachelor’s degree required to progress to this level of qualification].
  • Honours/bachelor’s degrees with honours, graduate certificates and diplomas are the main qualification at this level and usually take three or four years (which may include a year in industry or abroad) to complete full time. You can also study for a Bachelor’s degree part time or through flexible learning.
  • Diploma of higher education is like a degree but with less content. You can often convert to a full degree by studying for an extra year.
  • Foundation degrees are employment-related higher education qualifications that provide professional development. They take two years full-time but many people choose to study part-time or by flexible learning, often while working.
  • Higher National Diplomas take two years full-time to complete or longer part-time. They may allow entry into the second or third year of an honours degree.
  • Certificates of higher education are academic rather than vocational. They are broadly equivalent to a HNC and usually take a year of full-time study to complete.

For more information talk to your subject teachers and careers advisers or check out the Direct Gov website. You could also look at the Ofqual or courseplus websites, to compare qualification levels.

Alternative routes

OpenPlus scheme – a flexible and affordable route to a physics or chemistry degree.

No previous qualifications are required, you start by studying two years part time with The Open University (OU) and then complete your degree by studying two years full time, face to face at one of the partner universities. Generous financial support is available from the OU for many students. For example, you could be earning up to £30,000 and still receive help with your fees, or a student earning £16,000 living at home with parents could be eligible for all their fees to be paid while studying with the OU.

For further details and information on how to register, click here.

Apprenticeships and technician roles

There are a range of routes and technician roles that use science and maths. Click on the examples below to see video case studies from young college students and apprentices who talk about their area of study or work, and have a clear career route in mind.