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With A-Levels on the horizon, most students will have made their applications for university. For many, it’s the obvious next step after sixth form. But with fees rising beyond £9000 this year, is university really the only way to get a good job?

University isn’t the only valid option, says a new study from credit comparison site TotallyMoney.com. A wide range of careers are available to those with a vocational qualification – and what’s more, only 33% of those with a vocational qualification spent up to 6 months unemployed after finishing, compared to 48% of graduates.

Degree or not degree

The survey found that not only did 47% of respondents wish they had looked into other options before pursuing a degree, 46% felt the debt they had incurred as a result made it hard to see the value of the qualification. And 55% of respondents between ages 31-35 (the oldest age group surveyed) still had outstanding student debt.

Among those who pursued a vocational qualification rather than an academic degree, 43% didn’t have any regrets about their choice, while 19% felt they missed out on the social experience, but felt the degree itself wouldn’t have been worthwhile.

The easy guide to vocational qualifications

The study is supported by a visual guide to the 30 best careers available with a vocational qualification, as well as a comprehensive tool to help the user browse the world of education outside of university.

The user can use the tool to look at their chosen career to see the vocational qualifications they might need, as well as information relating to costs and times required to earn them.

Or, they can look through the qualifications available and see which careers they can lead onto, and filter by how many jobs are available across the country, as well as how much an entry level position in that career pays on average.

The best jobs without a degree

A degree isn’t necessary to get a good job. But what are some of the best-paid, most-available starter positions for those with a vocational qualification? Check out the top five:

  • Service Engineer – service engineers often visit client sites to install or repair hardware. They have a starting salary of £28,138 and are in high demand across the country.
  • Maintenance Engineer – maintenance engineers optimise equipment to make sure it’s more reliable and safe – and have a starting salary of £31,848, though only half as many jobs available as service engineers.
  • Assistant Manager – retail positions have the benefit of being in steady demand, and working as an assistant manager offers a starting salary of £21,190.
  • Business Analyst – with the highest starting salary found in the research – £43,796 – business analysts assesses company business models and ensures they’re integrated with the latest technology and procedures.
  • Customer Service Assistant – a common starter position for many, working directly with customers is a good entry position for a longer career, and has a starter salary of £17,310.

“Most people think university is the only way to go,” said Joe Gardiner, TotallyMoney.com’s Head of Brand & Communications, “But this research shows that just isn’t the case. There are lots of opportunities out there that don’t need a degree – and vocational qualifications can be much more relevant to the work. And with so many still in student debt, it can even be the cheaper option.”

Could you have got your current position with a vocational qualification? Do you know someone who’s planning out life after college or sixth form? Or are you wondering what other jobs you could pursue? Whatever your career plans, make sure to check out the best jobs you can get with a vocational qualification, and try out the intuitive tool here.


We used the Government’s official list of approved apprenticeship schemes to create our list of qualifications and potential careers. We then found what levels were available for the apprenticeships, as well as NVQs, BTECs, A-Levels, diplomas and certificates.

Costs and times for these courses were found through government and student sources – as most courses had no fixed time requirements, the usual time taken was used.

We used Indeed.co.uk to find the number of relevant entry-level jobs available across the UK, as well as the average salary for careers with those titles.

All information was sourced as at 23rd November 2016.