Your foundation degree... what next?
As they are usually focused on a particular industry and essential employability skills, after successful completion you can either enter employment with the knowledge and skills you have already built up or progress onto a final 'top-up' year to gain a full honours degree.
Because foundation degrees are a flexible option, students may already be working while studying and will continue in that job after graduating. Other options include changing career, self-employment, graduate schemes and further study.
Job hunting with a foundation degree
Foundation degrees are usually specific to a vocational area or industry, so a good place to start is by looking at the related jobs to the sector. If you are stuck for ideas you could ask your university what graduates of your course have gone on to do or use our advice on jobs you can do with your degree subject to see what would suit you.
Applying for jobs
Some job adverts may state that you need a good honours degree to apply. These roles may not be worth focusing your efforts on, as employers could use the fact that you haven't got the top-up qualification to sift out your application at an early stage.
Instead, take a look at employers that ask for a general degree or specifically seek a graduate. You could also contact the employer to explain what qualifications you have, to sell the benefits of your foundation degree and to ask whether you could be considered for the role so you know if it is worthwhile to make an application.
Do not assume that vacancies are not worth considering just because they do not specify levels of qualifications; graduates often find they have to take a position that does not necessarily require a degree for entry in order to get into the industry or profession of their choice.
Employers are often interested in the transferable skills you have gained rather than subject knowledge. Make sure that you highlight these key skills, such as organisation, time management, team working, communication, leadership, analytical, and research, in your CV and application forms to demonstrate how you fit the criteria for the job.
Marketing your foundation degree
Foundation degrees are widely recognised by employers as a sought after qualification, due to their focus on industry skills and employability.
You may have been assessed through work based placements, or have continued working part or full time with the same employer while studying. This is invaluable experience that you need to highlight on CVs, application forms, on your LinkedIn profile and at interviews.
Don’t forget to talk about any other work experience, such as volunteering, shadowing and any extracurricular activities you have been involved in, alongside the relevant details of your degree. This could include modules that stand out as being particularly relevant, assignments, placements and contact with employers and industry.
Further study options with a foundation degree
While some students go straight into employment after finishing their foundation degree, the majority continue at university to gain a full honours degree. Completing an honours degree opens up further opportunities, including:
- graduate schemes
- postgraduate study
- teacher training
- professional courses
There are various routes that can be taken to gain an honours degree:
- Top-up course: the most straightforward option is to continue onto the top-up course at the same institution as your foundation degree. It is also possible to go to another institution if you want a new experience. You can search and apply for top-up courses through UCAS.
- Join the third year of an undergraduate degree: this depends on how relevant your studies are to this course and how many credits you have gained. If you are interested in this option speak to the individual universities either by phoning or visiting them.
- Join the second year: this may apply if you want to study for an honours degree which is a different subject than your foundation degree with a slightly different pathway.
- Join the first year: this is mainly where no transfer is possible because the subject is completely different, possibly due to a career change or because of professional requirements.
- Overseas: completing your degree overseas can be a great way of gaining a completely new university experience, but lots of research is needed before studying abroad. UK NARIC is the national agency responsible for providing information and advice on vocational, academic and professional skills from over 180 countries worldwide. They will be able to help with comparing your qualifications in the country in which you wish to study.
If you studied for your foundation degree at a further education college, progression to the institution where your degree is validated may be the easiest option.
If you are looking for a more flexible and often a cheaper alternative for completing your degree then online or distance learning may be a good option. One of the best known institutions in this area is the Open University but many other universities have converted degree and postgraduate courses to these accessible formats.
Distance learning can be a good alternative if you wish to learn at your own pace. However it is worth remembering that you have to be self-motivated and manage your time effectively. This is also applicable if you are already employed and combine your work with studying towards your degree on a part-time basis.
Postgraduate and professional courses
The majority of courses require candidates to have an honours degree; however some are more flexible and may accept lower level qualifications along with relevant industrial experience.
- Graduate schemes. Completing a full honours degree opens up hundreds of graduate schemes that you can apply for, with opportunities in a wide range of sectors. Schemes are usually a minimum of a six month salaried contract alongside intensive training, often leading to recognised qualifications. You can start applying for schemes in your final top-up year, or any time after you graduate, but competition for these places are high. Most companies taking on graduates will ask for a minimum of a 2:1 honours degree, although there are some out there that would be flexible on this.
- Teacher training. This is a popular option for graduates. Teacher training is usually a one year (full-time) or two years (part-time) course at postgraduate level. This training can be fully completed in a school with the age group you wish to teach, or through a university where you will do short-term placements to gain classroom experience. Once complete, you are awarded qualified teacher status (QTS).
- Postgraduate study. Continuing on to level 7 and 8 study is a possibility after completing an honours degree. You can gain a masters level qualification, usually specialising in or continuing on from your degree subject. Taught postgraduate courses continue teaching in-depth knowledge through lectures and seminars, whereas research courses can be much more independent, allowing you to complete an extended dissertation or thesis on a specific subject through your own studies.
- Professional courses. Professional courses allow you to enter and practise a specific career. Professional bodies usually regulate their own qualifications and entry routes. If you need to have professional registration for your chosen career you should check whether your foundation degree will be accepted towards the programme requirements. Many professional organisations offer different levels of membership based on your qualifications and subject studied. Some do accept those with a foundation degree or offer credits or part exemption to exams.
If you have taken out a student loan for your foundation degree, you may be able to continue this funding for entry to an honours degree, provided you meet certain criteria.
Student loans are not currently available to fund postgraduate courses. This means lots of research is required to ensure you have the finances in place before starting. Sources of funding can include:
- working while studying
- bursaries and scholarships
- research council grants
- charity grants
- career development loan
Some employers may help with funding for postgraduate courses or professional qualifications, particularly where they are a requirement of the job.