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Leaving school: your options

You can leave school at 16 years old in Scotland.

When you leave school you can:

You may be able to get an 'Activity Agreement' if you do not have a job, a place at college or university or a place on a training course. This is a plan to help you prepare for what's next after leaving school.

Support and advice

If you're still at school you can make an appointment to see your careers adviser.

My World of Work gives careers information and advice. The website can help you:

  • explore your strengths, skills and interests
  • find jobs, modern apprenticeships and industries which would suit you
  • think about further learning and training

You can also speak to a careers adviser directly on 0800 917 8000.

Find out about call charges.

You could also try speaking to:

  • your parents or guardian and other family members
  • your friends or classmates
  • your school guidance teacher

The Young Person's Guarantee's School Leavers Toolkit gives information on practical things you might find useful as you leave school.  

Additional support needs

If you have additional suport needs, you should have a 'transitions meeting' with your teachers and a Skills Development Scotland careers adviser.

The My World of Work website has more information about supporting your child if they're leaving school and have additional support needs.


If you go to university you will be studying to complete a course, also known as a degree.

You can study academic subjects or courses that prepare you for a job, called vocational degrees.

You'll need the right qualifications to get into a university course. You can get these at school or college.

Find out more about going to university.

The Open University

You do not have to pick a specific subject or course to study at the Open University. You can pick different courses and build up enough credits to get a qualification.

You may need qualifications to study at the Open University.

You can search and apply for courses directly on the Open University website.


Colleges offer different ways you can study including courses that you can do:

  • while you're working
  • to prepare you for a job
  • to help you get on another course at college or university

You may be able to get an Education Maintenance Allowance to help with your studying costs.

Find out more about going to college on the My World of Work website.

If you leave school before the end of term colleges and universities offer 'January-start' courses. These run for 6 months or a year.


There are a number of ways to find a job in Scotland and elsewhere.

Visit your nearest Jobcentre Plus for help with finding a job and for information about any benefits you might be entitled to. The Jobcentre Plus helps people who are unemployed and claiming benefits, though anyone can search for a job on the Jobcentre Plus website.

Once you're over 16 you're entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

If you're struggling to find work,

Work experience

Internships can help develop your skills. They can also be called work placements or work experience.

My World of Work has information on internships including:

  • how to find an internship
  • making the most of your time during an internship

By law any intern given a 'worker' role should be paid. The exceptions are if you're working for a charity or a not-for-profit organisation. Find out more about intern worker rights on the GOV.UK website.

Modern or graduate apprenticeships

With a modern apprenticeship you will learn on the job and get the experience you need. On a modern apprenticeship you'll work towards an industry-recognised qualification. A graduate apprenticeship helps you build the skills and knowledge that Scottish industries need. On a graduate apprenticeship you'll work, get paid, and achieve a degree – even up to masters level.

You can find out what's available and apply for vacancies on the website.

Start a business

If you've thought about starting your own business or social enterprise, you can get support from:

Armed forces

You can join the armed forces from aged 16.

The armed forces includes the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

Gap year

When you leave school, you might want to take time out before taking your next step. This is called a 'gap year'.

There are different things you can do in a gap year, for example travelling or volunteering.

My World of Work has more advice and information on gap years.

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