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Investing in your future

At some point in your life, you may choose to invest in a form of further or higher education. For some, this means going to university and studying for a degree in their chosen subject. For others, it means getting a formal qualification at a technical school or a training certificate in a field related to their preferred career (for example: catering, building trade, beauty, or wellness).

Alternatively, you might decide to apply for an apprenticeship position, which combines paid work doing the job that you want to do, on-the-job training, and studying for a qualification, usually at a college or training provider. At the end of your apprenticeship, you will have secured the equivalent certification and qualification as other, more traditional college or university courses.

If further study is not for you, then a third option is to go straight into the workforce.

If you are not sure about which route would suit you best, try asking the following questions:

1. Do you have an end goal in mind?

Is there a particular career or job you want to do? If so, then you may find that a university degree, or a specific further education qualification is essential (e.g. a degree in veterinary science for a career as a vet).

There are other career options that might appeal to you, for which a higher education qualification is not essential. For example, you might be able to secure an apprenticeship, or apply for a job where formal training is provided while you work.

2. What is motivating you?

If you are considering further or higher education as a school leaver, then your motivation may simply be to give yourself the best chance of securing a job in your preferred field or sector. However, you may be considering investing in further or higher education some time after finishing your secondary education. For example, you may have gone straight into employment after school, or taken time out to travel, set up home or start a family. Your motivation might be to retrain for a different career, or to bring your knowledge and skills up to date in order to return to the workplace.

3. What are the alternatives?

If you decide not to continue into some form of further or higher education, what would you do instead?

You might choose to:

  • Go straight into the workplace, perhaps in a trainee position designed specifically for entry level candidates.
  • Join an apprenticeship scheme in a sector or industry that interests you.
  • Start a business or enterprise yourself.

4. How much will further or higher education cost?

For many young adults, going into further or higher education is one of the biggest financial commitments they will ever make. However, tuition fees and living costs are not the only financial considerations to consider before deciding whether or not to go.

An important consideration is your future earning potential. With the right degree or qualification, you may be able to access more specialist job roles, commanding higher pay or salary. Studies throughout the world also indicate that over a lifetime, graduates earn more than people without further or higher education qualifications – and they are more likely to be employed as well.

Deciding whether or not further education is for you can therefore involve comparing what your studies might cost you, with additional opportunities that will be available to you, and the extra earning potential you might achieve.

Further and higher education can be expensive, and some are put off by the thought of starting their working life in debt. There is no single solution that is right for everyone.

5. What's right for you?

Ultimately, it's a personal decision that only you can make. If you already know exactly what career path you want to follow, and have researched the qualifications that potential employers expect, your choice may be straightforward. However, you may be feeling ready to start working, and keen to start earning an income. Both of these options have merit, and are worth taking time to consider carefully.

Financing higher education

If you decide that further or higher education is for you, the next consideration is how you will fund it. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to finance all, or part, of your studies from:

  • A government supported student loan, which you can delay repaying until after you secure employment.
  • A bank loan, which can be repaid in instalments while you study.
  • Sponsorship, from a current or future employer.
  • Bursaries, scholarships and awards - usually from the college or university where you plan to study.
  • Support from parents or other family members.
  • Part-time or casual work (e.g. bars/restaurants/cleaning) during evenings and weekends to fit around your studies.
  • Self-financing your studies from your current employment, while you complete your course or qualification part-time.

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