Thinking About College

Lots of people go to college after school. Do you know why? Find out what it involves and why it might suit you.

Study group outside in the sunshine

What is college?

 After school, many people decide to continue their learning at a college. 

Sandra, 19, Musical Theatre student:

"Being a student at a college is so much better than being a school pupil! You get so many more opportunities, you meet so many new people, and you have so much more freedom."

In some ways, college is similar to school – you’ll choose a subject you’re interested in, learn about it in classes, and produce work of your own. However, at college you’ll focus on one subject, learning the skills and the knowledge you’ll need to pursue a specific career. 

By completing a 1 or 2 year course, you can gain a qualification that will help you either get a job in that area or move on to university to study at a higher level.


What kind of subjects can you study?

You can study a huge variety of subjects at college. You can study them at different levels too. Some courses offer practical training for jobs in things like construction or cookery. Others will give you the qualification you need to get a job in a specific area, like Beauty Therapy. Unlike universities, most subjects at college are linked directly to specific careers.

Here’s a few examples of subjects you can study at college. Have a look and see what they involve…

Some tradespeople, like joiners and electricians, go straight into work after school by gaining an apprenticeship with an employer. They will be trained in the skills needed to continue as professionals. However, many people try to develop their skills by doing further training on a college course, like Carpentry and Joinery. This will open up more job opportunities for them.

Some people get jobs in jewellery or fashion design after gaining a degree at a university like the Glasgow School of Art. Many others begin their career at college. A college qualification in Jewellery Design will give you the practical skills needed to enter the profession.

Today, most beauty therapists begin their careers by taking a one or two year college course in Beauty Therapy. On this course they will learn about facial and body care, treatment techniques, and business skills. With this training they’ll be ready to seek a job in the beauty industry.

Colleges offer a huge variety of subjects that can help prepare people for jobs in a range of areas. If you are interested in a career in the travel industry, perhaps as a travel agent, an airline crewmember, or a tour operator, a qualification in Travel and Tourism would be a good start. These college courses will give you the knowledge and the skills that many employers in the travel industry are looking for.

Many sound engineers and music producers enter the industry by gaining a college qualification in Sound Production. These courses give them all the training they need in recording, mixing, and producing sound to enter a career in music or radio.

If you want to pursue a career in Photography, a college qualification is an excellent way to get started. By practicing with different equipment, in the studio and on location, you’ll learn the skills and gain the experience needed to work as a photographer in any field, from the media to advertising, from sport to fashion.

For many people, college is a route to university. By getting a college qualification first, you can then move up to university to study your subject at a higher level. A good example is Accounting. Some people can study it at university straight from school. Others take a college course first. Whichever way you do it, a qualification in Accounting is necessary if you want to work as an accountant and is a good starting point for any job in banking or finance.

A college course in Media and Communication will introduce you to the skills needed to pursue a career in the media industry, from video production to research and writing skills. Some people go straight into work after college. Others will use their college qualification to move on to a university degree in Journalism or Media Studies. This is a popular path for those seeking a career as a journalist or a TV/radio presenter.

If you want to work as a nursery nurse, you’ll need to complete a course in Early Education and Childcare at college. You’ll spend 1 year learning the theories, laws and practices that you must know in order to pursue a career in this area.

What kind of jobs require a college qualification?

College qualifications are useful for a lot of jobs. Many employers want their staff to have completed some kind of relevant college course – it shows that you have the skills and the knowledge to do the job well. For some jobs, in fact, you’ll need a specific college qualification before you can start.

Here’s some examples of jobs you could do after college…

If you want to work as a dental nurse, assisting dentists with patients and helping to run a dental practice, you must complete a Dental Nursing course at college.

Most beauty therapists complete a college qualification in Beauty Therapy before beginning work in the industry.

Electrical engineers design and maintain electrical systems and equipment. Most people enter this career by completing a course in Electrical Engineering at college. Some will also go on to study this subject at a higher level at university.

Many sound engineers and music producers begin their careers by completing a course in Sound Production at college. Some will also go on to study audio engineering and music technology in more depth at university.

There are different ways into a career in catering and restaurant management. However, many people find jobs in this area by gaining a college qualification first in subjects like Hospitality or Business.

People take different routes into the travel industry. However, many of those who become travel agency managers or tour operators - managing travel companies or organising package holidays - now study a college course in Travel and Tourism first. This improves their chances of getting a good job.

A route to university?

For a lot of jobs like the ones above, a college qualification is all you need to get started. For others though, you’ll need a university degree. Universities are a lot like colleges but they offer subjects at a higher level. You can read about them here.

The good news is that college is an excellent stepping stone to university. With a college qualification in the bag, a lot of universities will let you jump ahead into the second or third year of a university course. Loads of people take this route every year. 

We spoke to Hannah, Katie and Sandra about the paths they took through college.

Hannah smallKaty smallSandra small Have a look at what they had to say here.


Have you looked at Thinking About University?