Your foundation degree... what next?

Pick up tips for job hunting with a foundation degree and explore options for further study, including taking a top-up course to gain a full honours degree.

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Employers will value the vocational focus of a foundation degree, and the practical skills and experience you can bring

Combining both academic and work-based skills, your foundation degree is a gateway to some exciting options. If you've enjoyed your course you might decide to top up your degree with another year's study, or you may prefer to take your skills straight into the workplace.

If you've already been working while studying for your foundation degree, you might decide to continue in that job. If your employer sponsored you, then this might have been part of the agreement. Other possibilities include graduate schemes or further study, though you are likely to need to top up your foundation degree first. You could also consider setting up on your own.

Job hunting with a foundation degree

Foundation degrees focus on a particular profession, so it's sensible to begin looking for jobs in the sector relevant to your course. The careers service at your college or university will be able to advise you about the local market and companies who've previously employed course alumni. Professional bodies and organisations within your industry may also be able to give you advice on where to find vacancies.

If you are considering a change in career, many employers will value the vocational focus of a foundation degree, and the practical skills and experience you can bring.

Applying for jobs

You might find that employers who've specified a good honours degree, usually a 2.1 or above, will be relatively firm about that requirement. Times are changing though, and more employers are rethinking their traditional hiring criteria and taking a more flexible approach.

Consider employers that ask for a graduate, or a general degree. You could also contact employers directly and explain your qualifications to them. Foundation degrees were introduced by the government in 1991, so you might be getting in touch with someone who didn't have that option open to them and isn't as familiar with the benefits of a foundation course. You'll then find out whether it's worth making an application.

Don't exclude vacancies that don't specify a degree or particular qualification. Numbers of graduating students have substantially increased over recent years and often people find themselves in a job that doesn't necessarily require a degree to being with. That might not seem an obvious choice, but it's a chance to increase your experience in the sector, broaden your network and get your foot in the door.

Marketing your foundation degree

The vocational focus of a foundation qualification gives you skills that are appreciated and valued by employers.

If you've undertaken work-based assessments or worked for an employer while taking your qualification, make sure that you highlight your experience on your CV and to employers.

Remember to mention any other work experience you've undertaken, including volunteering or work-shadowing and any relevant extracurricular activities. If your course had any modules or projects that you feel would strike a chord, mention those as well.

Further study options with a foundation degree

A foundation degree is a great option if you aren't sure whether you'd like to commit to a three-year course. Most students who've found that they've enjoyed the experience go on to top up to a full honours degree.

If you decide to take that extra step you'll be rewarded with a number of other options. including professional qualifications (such as those for teaching or law), postgraduate courses and graduate schemes.

Flexible learning options

If you'd rather not take on the extra expense of another year's living costs away from home, distance learning or online learning cqn help manage those costs.

Several universities offer the option of studying flexibly, which can also be a great way to study if you're thinking of combining work and part-time study.

To complete a top-up course takes a year full-time, or two years part-time, along with strong self-discipline and good motivation skills when you're a distance learner.

Graduate schemes

If you decide to top-up your foundation course to an honours degree, you'll become eligible for a wider range of graduate schemes.

Graduate schemes are offered in most sectors and offer a good salary along with professional training. As a result, it can be a very competitive process. Employers often expect applicants to have, or be on track, for a 2.1 or higher at undergraduate level, though there are exceptions.

Postgraduate and professional courses

Universities are often willing to consider vocational experience as well as academic qualifications.

You will have a wider choice with at least a 2.1 honours degree, but whether you choose to top up your foundation degree to an honours degree or not, you could meet the entry requirements for some postgraduate or professional courses. If you have a course in mind, contact the admissions office to find out more about their admissions policies.

Postgraduate courses

If you take a masters course after topping up your foundation degree course, you will generally choose a similar or related subject to study. Taught masters courses are the most popular, with seminars and lectures looking the subject in greater depth.

If you'd like to continue research, or take a PhD, a research masters like an MRes, or MPhil could be a better option. You will have more independent study with a research degree, culminating with an extended dissertation.

Professional and vocational courses

You need a professional qualification to teach or practise law. There are a few other routes, but a clear majority of teachers take a PGCE or PGDE to become newly qualified teachers and work in state schools. Our advice on how to become a lawyer explains the qualifications you need to work as a solicitor or barrister.

In other professions, having a qualification accredited by an industry-recognised professional body can help put you on the promotion track, or allow you to use a professionally protected title.

Funding for further study

If you have already received funding while on your foundation degree, you could also be eligible for funding for your top-up year. Contact Student Finance England (or your national student funding body) to find out about eligibility criteria.

Postgraduate loans are available for masters courses, with a scheme for PhD students for release shortly. Teaching bursaries are available in certain subjects, with loans for others.

Other funding sources include:

  • scholarships and bursaries from at university or departmental level
  • Research Council funding
  • career development loans
  • commercial loans for students
  • becoming a student ambassador
  • charity awards and grants.

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