Here’s a degree of job advice to help avoid A-Level gloom

The latest Dominic Cummings-led government clusterfuck, over centrally “assessed” (that means “guessed at”) A-Level results in England, has sent thousands of Croydon teens into a stressful panic over whether or not they will be able to start their planned degree courses this autumn.

But three years, sometimes more, of further study does not always suit everyone, and as teen magazine Future-Mag has recently reported, more than half of graduates, with their uni days behind them, now say that they’d think again about choosing university as the best way to find a job.

If you don’t fancy another three years of study, can’t face the debt (at least £27,000, plus interest charged by the Tory government), or didn’t get the results you were expecting, there are other routes into careers that don’t require you to have a degree. Including some which might surprise you.

These new opportunities are partly thanks to a rise in apprenticeships.

Here’s a Top Ten of possible opportunities from Future-Mag, with starting salary estimates provided from the National Careers Service (which is also a useful resource for further information).


The lowdown
If you’ve been thinking of becoming a nurse but don’t want to go to university full-time, the government has just announced a £172million investment, some of the money to allow healthcare employers to take on up to 2,000 nursing degree apprentices every year over the next four years.

Getting there
Nursing apprenticeships offer an alternative to full-time university courses, allowing people to earn a salary while their tuition costs are paid. At the end of the apprenticeship – which usually takes four years – apprentices are able to qualify as fully registered nurses.

You’ll usually need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship

Pay: £24,907

Advertising sales

The lowdown
Almost every media organisation in the country sells ads, and they need dedicated teams of sales people to fill their magazine or newspaper’s pages and websites, or their radio and TV station’s air time. It can be a tough environment, where market-trader abilities are often better-regarded than academic diplomas.

Getting there
It’s a tough economic environment out there at present, with some large media firms laying off staff. Others, which have been more agile in embracing the new digital business environment, however, are still out there pitching and will be looking for new talent. If you’ve can show an interest in marketing or advertising while at school or college, that will help. Good GCSEs, including English and Maths, are usually essential, while specialist qualifications, such as strong foreign languages, can help you go far.

Pay: £18,000, with basic salaries usually supplemented with commission if you hit your sales targets.

Air Traffic Controller

The lowdown
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in the pre-covid world they help to keep some of the busiest airspace in the world moving.

The work is challenging and demanding, but immensely rewarding, too. Air traffic controllers give information and advice to airline pilots to help them take off and land safely and on time.

Getting there
You have to be over 18 and have at least five GCSEs or equivalent at Grade 4 or above (previously A-C), including English and maths. As well as having a good level of physical and mental fitness, you must satisfy the basic medical requirements set down by the Civil Aviation Authority. The National Air Traffic Control Service has developed a series of online games to help gauge whether you’re right for this career.

Pay: £17,000


The lowdown
It’s not quite Better Ask Saul territory, and it may surprise some that a career in law is not a degree-only entry zone.

Solicitors advise clients about the law and act on their behalf in legal matters, and can specialise in a host of areas, including contract, criminal, as well as property law and conveyancing (helping house-buyers secure their homes), commercial and family law, and much more.

Getting there
You can now become a solicitor by training on the job, since new solicitor apprenticeships (Level 7) which were approved in 2015. This isn’t an easy route – you’ll need to pass a series of tough exams. You’ll need good A levels and it can take five to six years to complete.

Pay: £25,000

Visual Effects Artist

The lowdown
They help artists produce all the whizzy visual effects (VFX). They assist senior VFX artists and prepare the elements required for the final shots. Eventually, coould be employed by post-production companies working on commercials, television series and feature films.

Getting there
You could do a practical short course at London’s MetFilm School (based at the faous old Ealing Studios) and try to get into the industry that way, or do an apprenticeship via Next Gen.

Pay: from £18,000 once qualified

Computer forensic analyst (cybersecurity)

The lowdown
Investigate and thwart cybercrime. They might work for the police or security services, or for computer security specialists and in-house teams. They’ll follow and analyse electronic data, ultimately to help uncover cybercrime such as commercial espionage, theft, fraud or terrorism.

Getting there
Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand in both the public and private sector in the wake of high-level breaches and perceived terrorism threats. And there’s a severe shortage of qualified professionals. Cybersecurity higher apprenticeships (level 4) are offered by major infrastructure and energy companies, as well as the security services.

Pay: £20,000

Estate Agent

The lowdown
An estate agent’s lot isn’t quite as chaotic as Stath Lets Flats might lead you to believe.

In reality, estate agents market commercial and residential property, acting as negotiators between buyers and sellers, as well as manage rental properties for clients and tenants.

Getting there
Some estate agents offer an intermediate apprenticeship as a junior estate agent, or you may be able to start as a trainee sales negotiator and learn on the job.

Pay: Estate agents often work on commission, which means that you will have a low basic salary and be expected to add to that with a percentage of the sale or rental price of any property you sell or rent. £15,000

Police Officer

The lowdown
There is a recruitment drive for new officers. If you’ve been considering this as a career, now could be the right time to apply. Police officers keep law and order, investigate crime, and support crime prevention.

Getting there
There is no formal educational requirement for direct application but you will have to be physically fit and pass written tests.

Or you could start by doing a police constable degree apprenticeship. For that, you’ll usually need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels.

You can get a taste of what it’s like to work with the police by volunteering as a special constable. You could also get paid part-time work as a police community support officer (PCSO) before applying for police officer training.

Pay: £20,000

Public Relations officer

The lowdown
Public relations officers – “PRs”, or less kindly “Flacks” – manage an organisation’s public image and reputation. You might get involved in planning publicity or advertising campaigns, monitoring and reacting to the public and media, writing and editing press releases, speeches, newsletters, leaflets, brochures and websites, creating content on social media, even what is called “crisis management”, and much more.

Getting there
There is no set entry route to become a public relations officer but it may be useful to do a relevant subject at college, like a Foundation Certificate in Marketing. You can work towards this role by doing a public relations assistant higher apprenticeship for which you’ll usually need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

Pay: £18,000

Youth worker

The lowdown
Work with young people and help them develop personally and socially. They might work with the council’s local services, youth offending teams or voluntary organisations and community groups. They might help organise sports and other activities, or be involved on counselling and mentoring, or liaising with authorities.

Getting there
Many enter youth work as a volunteer or paid worker, but you can now qualify via a youth work apprenticeship.

Pay: £23,250

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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