Further education and professional development


What is it?

Further education or studies is something a person may choose to do at any stage in their life to gain skills and knowledge. This could include anything from deciding to do a short course or embarking upon a university degree.

Training opportunities are available to help you build skills and experience in your chosen area or interest.

Check out NotGoingtoUni  and the  National Careers Service to discover your options

Why do it?

  • To get a higher-level job.
  • To be able to access the jobs that require further education qualifications.
  • To gain extensive knowledge in a career field.
  • You have a personal interest that you want to pursue.
  • To build skills and knowledge.

Ten top tips

  • Get advice – don’t commit to a course if you aren’t fully informed that it is the best use of your time.
  • Look into alternatives such as job shadowing and in-house training available in your workplace.
  • Take some time to work out what sort of learner you are. Match your development choices with what suits you.
  • Be sociable – you would be amazed at the opportunities that come from talking to the right people.
  • Try volunteering – choose something that is challenging and which will give you fresh and relevant skills for your CV.
  • Check out the internet for free learning opportunities.
  • Take responsibility for your own development and ask for what you need.
  • Check out your local community institutions and colleges for classes in your area.
  • Plan ahead – what do you need to take the next step and the step after that?
  • Consider vocational qualifications and ‘earn while you learn’.


Going into further education is likely to be of benefit to you in the long term. Depending on what you study, a qualification could make more opportunities available to you. Some jobs require applicants to have certain qualifications, so completing these studies will give you a better chance against a candidate who doesn’t have them.

You could choose a subject you enjoy and that you are good at, as this will be easier to spend a lot of time studying. However, ask yourself if it is relevant to your career goals. You should spend time researching the course guides for the subjects you are interested in and see if you have any specific entry requirements and work from there.

If you are leaving school and thinking about college, attending open days can help you make your decision. Sixth forms are much more like a continuation of school so you are likely to be surrounded by friends and teachers you already know.   You may prefer the greater independence and freedom you will gain from a college. The downside is that you may not be pushed to do your work and turn up, and you may find college impersonal and a challenge in terms of meeting new people. You can find out what sort of learner you are with Reed.co.uk and the Open University’s free psychology app here.

Things to think about…

Look out for what courses are run in your local area. Usually run by the council or local college, some courses may even be free!

The difference between accredited and non-accredited courses/training

Accredited training is training which provides a person with a nationally recognised qualification on completion.

Non-accredited courses do not carry national recognition, however they carry several advantages if gaining a qualification is not a key reason for the training.

Is further education right for me?

Depending on what stage you are at in your career and what your career goal is, further education may be the only option to help you achieve your goals – or it may not be relevant at all!

If you did not get the grades you wanted or needed in school, you may choose to study A Levels – particularly if you want to go on to university. Alternatively, you may choose a more vocational avenue such as an NVQ or BTEC course or an apprenticeship. Find out more about Circle Housing’s apprenticeships here.

The National Careers Service can provide you with a wealth of information and discuss you options, including funding with you at length.

Developing while in work

“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” – Thomas Huxley

You may be in a job already but looking to take the next steps to boost your salary and enjoy new challenges. It’s great that you have found a career to commit to  and can really start to hone your skills and become an expert in your field.

Professional development doesn’t necessarily mean undertaking further qualifications.

Not everybody can go back to college or school; often we have home commitments or need to stay in full-time employment but that doesn’t mean that the learning stops here.

Volunteering in your spare time can be a great way to meet like-minded people and take on more responsibility outside your job. Volunteering can really give you the opportunity to challenge yourself, it looks fantastic on your CV and shows real commitment to your goals. See our Volunteering section for more info.

When you decide which direction you would like your career to move in, try talking to senior people in the business or your HR department and ask what you could do to enhance your CV. Chances are, you are less likely to be seen as a usurper and more likely to be perceived as a dynamic and ambitious employee.

You might want to try approaching someone who is three or four grades above you on your chosen career path and ask them if they would mind being your mentor. A good mentor will give you guidance and help you to achieve your career goals. Most people would be flattered at the suggestion they could be a mentor, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Ask for extra responsibility – everybody has a job description and it is important that we fulfill it but, if you are doing so and would like to learn more, try asking your manager if you can learn something new. Suggest that this might be beneficial in the case of staff absence.

Ask your HR department or manager if there is any in-house training you can attend. Be prepared to tell them what sort of training you are looking for. Ask to be put on the waiting list for training sessions that are not mandatory to your role, and fill a space that has already been paid for if someone pulls out at the last minute.

Be sociable – attend social events connected to work and talk to people you wouldn’t normally do. It can feel a bit cringe-worthy starting up a new conversation with someone who does not know who you are, but you can prepare for it by making sure you know what is happening in the company and in your sector.

Become affiliated – joining your industry institute shows you meet a certain criteria of competency and grants you access to colleagues and learning across the sector. You can also put it in your CV and application forms.

You can find a list of professional associations here.

You can find a huge amount of free support for your development online. Sites such as Alison, Open University, Open Culture, Learning Space and BBC Learning should get you started.

If you are keen to undertake a qualification, The Open University is a great choice if you need serious flexibility. You can call, email or write to them here.

You may also be able to attend night classes at your local college – contact the National Careers Service to find out more.

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