What options are there if my child is not interested in University?

University isn’t the only way to become a successful professional. In fact, many of today’s professionals have ‘accidental careers’ – rather than setting out on a specific career path, they have stumbled upon their ideal profession through various work experience. In our Career Videos section you can find real life examples of professionals who have followed unusual career paths, and inspire your child to consider careers he/she has never dreamed of.

In this section we look at different ways to enter into a profession, including non-academic and vocational routes, and provide links to helpful resources for those of you with children who aren't interested in following traditional routes.

For children keen to ‘earn while they learn’, Apprenticeships offer a valuable opportunity. The National Apprenticeship Service offers a vast range of information on the different types of apprenticeships, the opportunities that are available, top tips for applying, and access to mentors (both current and former apprentices) for interested students. Information is also available through DirectGov.

NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) offer opportunities for school leavers to learn ‘on the job’ the necessary skills and knowledge for their chosen profession. DirectGov NVQs Explained provides a detailed guide to NVQs, a search facility for courses and information on where a NVQ can lead. The Qualifications and Curriculum Agency provides information on each NVQ level and the assessment process. Learn Direct provides advice on choosing a NVQ.

Edge is an independent education foundation, dedicated to raising the stature of practical and vocational learning. They provide a very useful Know Your Options resource covering courses, careers and other areas. Use it to check out the alternative routes into a professional career.

Below you will find routes, including the necessary professional qualifications, into the professions categorised by sector.

Routes and Qualifications (including Non-academic and Vocational) by Sector

Accountancy and Finance Information Technology
Actuarial and Statistics Insurance and Banking
Administration Internal Auditing and Risk Management
Animals and Plants Law Enforcement and Protection
Built Environment Legal
Charity and Voluntary Work Leisure, Sport and Tourism
Construction, Property and Land Surveying Management
Creative Arts and Design Marketing, Advertising and PR
Education Media and Broadcasting
Energy and Mining Medical
Engineering Publishing and Journalism
Environment Purchasing and Selling
Health and Safety Sales and Customer Service
Healthcare Science
Hospitality and Events Management Social Care and Guidance Work
Human Resources and Employment Social Science
Information Services Transport, Logistics and Distribution


Accountancy and Finance

Association of Accounting Technicians qualifications are open to people irrespective of age, experience or previous qualifications. One in 12 chartered accountants now qualifies via this route. Study can be full time, part time or at home. Course requirements explained. Further information on qualifications and routes. How long will it take to qualify?
Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants offers routes for school leavers and provides information for those with no qualifications to those with a relevant degree. View their route map. Find information on learning/training providers here.

ICAEW offers various routes, from school leaver to graduate, to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.  Find out more about the ACA qualification and choose your route.

Institute of Credit Management professional qualifications in credit management – further information on the diploma pathway. How to achieve – home study, supported study or evening classes.

Management accountancy from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountantsqualificationsentry routes and training providers.

Public Finance qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

Actuarial and Statistics

It is possible to become an actuary with A levels, but most entrants have a degree, often in subjects like maths, actuarial science, economics, statistics, or physics.

Training combines work with part-time study for the Institute of Actuaries or the Faculty of Actuaries examinations. It usually takes three to six years to qualify.

Information on what qualifications are necessary to become an actuarial student.

Whether you are a student, undergraduate, graduate or looking to change your career, details on how to become an actuary can be found here.

Tips on what types of suitable studies needed to enter into a statistical profession can be found here.
Tips on how to find and apply for the perfect job in statistics can be found here.


Graduates generally enter management in administration in three main ways:

  • through a graduate management training scheme (apply in the autumn term of your final year) 
  • by joining an organisation in an administrative capacity and working their way up 
  • by training in a specific function (HR, finance, marketing, sales, etc) and then moving into a specialist or generalist management role.

Here is more general information on how to get into a career in administration. More information on qualifications can be found here.

Animals and Plants

Training to become a vet typically requires a very good set of A levels results or equivalent, and then five years training at a specialist Veterinary School such as the Royal Veterinary College - part of the University of London.

Read here for more information on how to become a Veterinary Surgeon.

However, you don’t have to have a degree in veterinary medicine to work with animals. For example, degrees are available in bioveterinary sciences and nursing.

There’s also a work-based route into animal nursing.

Read here for more information on other careers working with animals.

If you fancy working with horses, note that the British Horse Society offers guidance on everything you need to know about riding, caring for horses and working in the industry.

Various colleges, such as the RAC and Harper Adams Agricultural College also offer degrees in agriculture and land-based industries.

Built Environment

Qualifying as an architect in the United Kingdom involves a combination of academic studies and professional experience within a practice, and takes a minimum of seven years to complete. Visit the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to see how to train as an architect. A non-traditional/alternative route is also available into this profession.

There are broadly two routes into surveying:

  • by way of a degree
  • through an HNC/D and then work experience.

Find out about routes into

How to become a

Charity and Voluntary Work

There are many routes into Charity and Fundraising. Internships are often a good way to gain experience and get a foot in the door. Charities, such as Barnardos, also offer internships.

Institute of Fundraising offers courses on how to fundraise.

Construction, Property and Land Surveying

It is not necessary to have a qualification for all jobs associated with construction. 
However, the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building) offers educational qualifications, designed to help increase professionalism within the construction industry.

The BIFM has much advice on how to get into the property industry, including information on apprenticeship schemes, qualifications and diplomas.

The RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) has information on how to become a surveyor. More information on career development and courses.

Creative Arts and Design

Although it is often unnecessary to have a formal qualification, many institutes do offer courses and training:

Apprenticeships are also often a good way to get into a profession within the creative arts and design.


There is a wide range of advice on how to enter into an educational profession, for example the College of Teachers and the IfL.

Watch this video to see how teachers, tutors and trainers have benefitted from undertaking structured work placements to update their vocational skills.

What qualifications are needed to become an Educational Assessor?

Energy and Mining

There are many training opportunities available within the energy profession. The Energy Institute offers details on courses aimed at professionals, young professionals and school pupils.

The Institute of Quarrying provides information on approved qualifications and training within the quarrying profession. 

The Cambourne School of Mines also offers courses on mining and other related fields, including geology, minerals processing and applied geotechnics.


Aspiring engineers can register with the Engineering Council as a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Incorporated Engineer (IEng), Engineering Technician (EngTech) or Information and Communications Technology Technician (ICTTech). Find out more on the Engineering Council’s site, who also offer a flexible work-based route to gaining either an MSc Professional Engineering for those aiming for CEng, or a bachelor level award for those aiming for IEng. Read about these work-based pathways, supported by a range of professional bodies. 

Take a look at the many different careers available in Building Services Engineering on this careers map.

A Chemical Engineering degree opens many career paths across industry, commerce and finance. IChemE are the only body able to award the international professional qualification Chartered Chemical Engineer. Read more about starting this pathway while studying.

Learning Whilst Earning is a scheme set up through the government’s ‘Gateways to the Professions’ initiative. See engineeringGateways’ site for more information about getting qualified whilst working as an engineer, or about training as an engineer whilst in your current employment through the Working Engineers scheme.

Headstart is a well-established education programme whose aim is to encourage students interested in mathematics or science to consider technology-based careers. It provides an opportunity for those in Year 12/S5 to spend up to a week at university prior to making their UCAS application.  Download a brochure and register.

The Year in Industry (YINI) recruit students onto paid placements relevant to many areas of engineering in their gap year before or during their degree course.


A very good source of information for all land-based jobs is Lantra – the Sector Skills Council for the environmemt and land-based sector. However, if you’re interested in becoming a farmer, Business Link is also well worth a visit.

If it’s environmental health you’re into then a huge amount of detailed information is available from the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

Similarly, the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management has an excellent, easily accessible site about all matters connected with waste management.

Health and Safety

IOSH offers a wide range of courses and information on training to become a Health and Safety Professional.

The IIRSM (International Institute of Risk and Safety Management) also gives information on training for its members.

Find out more information on training courses and further education relevant to the health and safety industry via the APS.


Most professions within healthcare require formal training. Costs and requirements vary between institution and course.

How can students get into Physiotherapy?

What is Counselling?

What is it like to be a counselling student?

Courses on Reflexology.

Hospitality and Events Management

It is not essential to have a qualification to enter the hospitality industry, but there are courses and training options for those looking to develop their career. The Institute of Hospitality also offers careers guidance for its members.

There are also courses and qualifications in areas such as Beer and Cellar Quality, Customer and Drinks Service and Responsible Alcohol Retailing.

The events industry is extremely competitive.  It is often the case that unpaid internships are a good way in and provide essential experience, but there is no guarantee of a job at the end of it. For a greater chance of kick-starting your career, entry into the ABPCO (the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers) and other professional bodies can provide opportunities for networking.

Human Resources and Employment

It is not necessary to have a specific qualification to work in HR or employment.  However, courses and training are often a good way to develop and refresh your career.

There is a lot of information on HR related qualifications, including what courses to choose, where to study and student benefits.

Read tips on how to excel in your HR career.

Information Services

Professional development, for example a formal qualification, underpins every successful career in Information Services. Find out more about qualifications.

Find out more about Graduate Training Opportunities offered by CILIP, including opportunities for voluntary work.

The SoA (Society of Archivists) also offers careers training and development for those looking to enter into the profession and those hoping to progress in their career.

Read about qualifications in bookkeeping.

The SI (Society of Indexers) offers information on courses and training.

However, work experience and internships are also a good way to gain essential experience and highlight your interest in Information Services.

Information Technology

There are many qualification options available from the BCS (Chartered Institute of IT), whether you are a beginner, or IT professional.

SOCITM, the membership association for all ICT professionals working in Local Authorities and the Public and Third Sectors also offer courses to help develop your career in IT.

The ACTIP (Association of Certified IT Professionals) also provides information on IT related qualifications, divided into courses on Computer Maintenance, Website Design and Desk Top Skills.

Insurance and Banking

A formal degree is not needed to work in Insurance or Banking, however, training and qualifications can help progress students’ career.

The CII (Chartered Insurance Institute) offers insurance qualifications, learning materials and professional support to help with career progression. Read about the benefits and framework of the CII’s general insurance qualifications. Apprenticeships are also offered to people over the age 16 who do not hold a formal degree.

The CIOBS (Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland) offer qualifications designed to help banking and financial services professionals maximise their career development potential.

Find out more about qualifications for the securities and investment industry.

The SII (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment) also offers information on qualifications, graduate schemes and apprenticeships.

Internal Auditing and Risk Management

The Pensions Management Institute offers seven nationally recognised qualifications covering the various disciplines that support pension scheme management.

The Institute of Risk Managers (IRM) runs an International Certificate and Diploma in Risk Management. The Certificate is a broadly based introductory qualification for anyone with an interest in risk management and takes 6-9 months to complete. The Diploma is at post-graduate level and takes three-five years. Information about RM qualifications is available here.

The Association of Insurance and Risk Managers (AIRMIC) does not run its own suite of programmes. However, it would be worthwhile visiting the Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) if you were interested in the specialist areas of either financial or energy risk management.

Routes into internal auditing can be found at the Institute of Internal audit.

Law Enforcement and Protection

The route into almost of these jobs is direct, in other words no particular professional qualification is needed before you start work; training and, in some cases, qualification arise from doing the job.

However, for many of the roles in this sector students will have to meet certain ‘eligibility criteria’. See the eligibility criteria to join the Metropolitan Police (London) or the Armed Services for example.

In the police service every police cadet goes through the same basic training and a two-year probationary period working on the beat as a patrol constable.

See what’s required to join the UK Border Agency responsible for securing the UK borders and controlling migration in the UK.

If students are interested in working in security in the private sector they might want to visit this Home Office/Security Industry Authority site.

See the routes into the prison service and into becoming a store detective.


Aspiring lawyers need to have a formal qualification in order to practice law. The Law Society has information on how to qualify.

The Law Society of Scotland also has more information on how to become a solicitor and career opportunities.

If you want to become a solicitor, information is available on courses and institutions, conversion courses, and the LPC.

How do students become a Will Writer?

Leisure, Sport and Tourism

There are many courses and development programmes aimed to keep professionals up to date with the latest developments in the leisure industry.

Courses on Physical Education, designed to help you continue your professional development. Courses in Sports and Exercise Science. There are internship opportunities to help build up experience and show interest in Sports and Exercise Science.

Watch the ITT’s (Institute of Travel and Tourism) video on Education and Training. Further careers advice from the ITT.


There is no single route into management although the right aptitudes, attitude and qualifications certainly help.

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) is committed to helping people develop a career in a fast growing business area and offers specialist qualifications at different levels. Details of the qualifications can be found here BIFM also provides insights into the career profiles and backgrounds of some of its members.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has conducted extensive research and produced a map of the profession that “captures what HR people do and deliver across every aspect and specialism of the profession and it looks at the underpinning skills, behaviour and knowledge that they need to be most successful”.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing offers a range of internationally recognised qualifications, based on research and feedback from employers. These include introductory courses aimed at those coming into the profession, as well as strategic-level qualifications for senior managers. More information about these can be found here.

The qualifications needed for other managerial roles may include success in school and college based examinations as well as those taken from the National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership and accredited on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

It’s possible to become a Chartered Manager.

An alternative route to management qualification can be found through the Association of Business Executives (ABE). ABE offers a range of progressive and flexible business and management qualifications at Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma and, in the case of the Business Management programme, Postgraduate Diploma level (Levels, 3, 5, 6 and 7 respectively). Read about these courses

The Association for Project Management (APM) also has a range of specialist management qualifications and all their qualifications, apart from the Certificated Project Manager qualification, are delivered through APM Accredited Training Providers. Click here for more information.

Marketing, Advertising and PR

It is not necessary to have a specific degree in Marketing, Advertising or PR, however, training and qualifications might provide you with useful skills, networking opportunities and fresh ideas.

The CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) offer qualifications and training courses. The CIM also offer information on how to get into marketing, career guides for those already in the business and career advice on how to keep on progressing.

How to get in to Advertising? What about work experience?

The IPA (The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) also offer courses to help train and develop professionals in advertising.

Work experience is often essential as PR is a very competitive profession. Read about the benefits of taking a course in PR. What courses are available? Read more about qualifications from the CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations).

Media and Broadcasting

Hands on experience can be vital in finding and securing a job.  Networking, searching for local opportunities and contacting media employers for work experience is a good way to start your career.  Doing freelance work is also a good way to build experience.

Read more about how to get a job in media.

How can you progress in your career?

Although it is not necessary to have a formal education as work experience is probably more important, postgraduate degrees and courses are available.


If students are interested in Pathology, they can find out about training and education, assessment and examinations on the Royal College of Pathologists’ website and on the Pathological Society’s website.

For information about careers in psychology for undergraduates or postgraduates and for other careers resources visit the website of the British Psychological Society.

Post-graduate courses are also available in surgery in conjunction with the ASGBI.

How to become a Radiographer?

Publishing and Journalism

Most journalists go to university to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level.

Thinking about becoming an accredited Editor or Proofreader? Read about the qualifications and training courses you can take that will lead you to accreditation.

Interested in picture research and editing? Read about courses available on the Picture Research Association’s site.

Find out what it takes to become an indexer through the Society of Indexers’ distance learning programme.

Purchasing and Selling

Although it is not necessary to have a specific degree to enter into a Purchasing and Selling profession, qualifications may help to increase employability and job prospects. The CIPS offers many courses and qualifications to help students develop their career.

The ISMM (Institute of Sales and Marketing Management) also offers qualifications to people at every stage of their selling career, whether you are a beginner or Sales Director. Read more about what qualifications are on offer.

The IOE also offers professional qualifications and examinations relevant to international trade. They also offer training in international trade. Read more about the training programme and what it entails.

Sales and Customer Service

There is no need to have a specific qualification, however, if you're new to stores and warehouse management or lack formal training built around the changing role of modern store operation and management the CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) offers courses and training in areas such as Storekeeping.

The ICM (Institute of Commercial Management) also offer courses for students wanting to pursue a career in business and management.


Read more about training and resources for those in a chemistry profession who want to stay up to date with all the advances in their field.

Learn about training to increase your biomedical knowledge and help maintain professional standards.

The IEEM (Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) also offer courses and workshops.

Like all professionals it is essential for food scientists and technologists to keep their skills and knowledge constantly updated. Read more about courses offered by the IFST.

Social Care and Guidance Work

The General Social Care Council sets the standards of conduct and practice for social workers and for regulating their education and training in England. In Wales the Care Council for Wales has this responsibility. The Scottish Social Services Council has responsibility for Scotland. And in Northern Ireland you’ll need to contact the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.

Professional qualifying training for social workers in the United Kingdom is now by way of a degree in social work.

In England, these courses are approved by the General Social Care Council (GSCC). A list of approved universities and colleges is available.

Find out how to train as a social worker. Train in Wales or in Scotland or in Northern Ireland.

No specific qualifications are needed to become a social care worker.

From 2011, some roles within the counselling profession will become regulated by the Health Professions Council, which means that these counsellors will have to join a professional register in order to practice. The training process for counsellors is likely to change as a result of this.

Other types of counselling, including psychotherapy, remain unregulated although this situation is also likely to change.

If you are interested in training as a psychotherapist visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).

Become a careers adviser.

Social Science

For information about careers in psychology for undergraduates or postgraduates and for other careers resources visit the website of the British Psychological Society.

Find out about routes into politics and vacancies in any government department. Other useful sources of information about working in politics include the British Politics Page and the Political Studies Association.

Although it is not essential, many market researchers have at least a first degree. For graduates, or those with a diploma, subjects they may have studied at University include statistics, mathematics, psychology, economics, business studies, and marketing. The Market Research Society features jobs and career information on its website.

Routes into sociology can be found here.

Transport, Logistics and Distribution

Whilst it is not necessary to have a degree, as you can enter the profession directly from school and obtain the necessary skills through a combination of experience, short courses and private study, many professionals within this sector do have formal qualifications.

The ICS (Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers) offers the internationally recognised qualification - the Foundation Diploma. Read more about the education offered by the ICS. The ICS also offers a series of bespoke training courses for people already in the profession.

The CILT UK (Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport) offer courses and skills to enhance your career, including online courses and information on where to study. The CILT UK also offers graduate training programmes.

The TPS (Transport Planning Society) offers information on degrees, qualifications, professional development and training.

The IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) also offers courses to people at every level within the food and grocery industry.