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Career Options in Science: School Leaver

What’s the best thing about school? The Bunsen burners? Bang on. If that’s true for you, then you’re possibly destined for a career in the sciences. But what’s available for you if you leave school right now (with GCSEs, A-levels or the equivalent in tow, of course)?

School leaver opportunities in Sciences

- Advanced Apprenticeships

- Higher Apprenticeships

All things science research require a high level of academic knowledge and ability. As such, there are limited options available for school leavers in the sciences.

However, there are a handful of opportunities out there for Advanced Apprenticeships and Higher Apprenticeships in different science areas. Sciences apprenticeships often relate to one specific area of science, such as chemistry, biology, aerospace, or science manufacturing.

You’ll be eligible to apply for an Advanced Apprenticeship if you have at least five GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, science and maths. Not all Advanced Apprenticeships will ask for you to have a science AS- or A-level in the bag too in order to apply. Higher Apprenticeships will need at least two A-levels (or the equivalent) in at least one relevant science subject.

But what will you do on one of these scientific schemes? Well, you will be involved in work-based learning, gaining practical lab experience and supporting senior scientists with research and administrative tasks. In addition, you’ll be studying for a foundation degree if you’re on a Higher Apprenticeship (either with some spells at university or via e-learning), or a similar industry-recognised qualification.

Setting the school leaver record straight

School leaver opportunities in the sciences give a solid foundation for some lab roles and science manufacturing roles. The work environment can be pretty unconventional and requires a lot of maturity from anyone who’s in it. Any school leaver who therefore works in somewhere like a lab certainly can’t be sniffed at!

The coupling of training and work experience along with academic study also makes school leavers who complete a Higher Apprenticeship in the sciences a force to be reckoned with. They will be in the position to take on degree study, which could potentially be supplemented by an employer, and will possess a number of skills which will allow them to progress in their specialist area of science.

Formal education: Should I stay or should I go?

The majority of roles in the sciences will mean that you will definitely have to go onto university to gain in-depth scientific knowledge. Postgraduate study, including a PhD in the long run too, is a distinct likelihood and it’ll be essential if you want to head into academia and research. With this in mind, at this point it may still be worth going to university if you want the widest range of career opportunities in the sciences, though more school leaver opportunities could pop up in the future.  

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