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Work options after exam results

So you've got your exam results - what now?

Lil Soph at computer Once you have received your exam results, do you know what you're going to do now? You may decide to work full time, or continue in education and work part time.

Do you know what the different work options are? Here's an overview.

Key points

  • There are a number of options for you to consider - from full time work to volunteering.
  • Your employment rights will depend on your employment status.
  • Being prepared before you start work can make things easier for you.

Watch our animated video about different experiences of starting a new job


Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes which will lead to a nationally recognised qualification. If you decide on an apprenticeship programme you will normally be expected to attend day release at a local college or specialist training provider.

Training can take between 1 to 4 years to complete, depending on the level of apprenticeship.

If you are under 19 years or 19 years and over in the first year of the apprenticeship you will be entitled to the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rate for apprentices. Once you reach 19 years and have completed the first year of your course the employer must pay the relevant National Minimum Wage rate for your age.

Many special protections in the Working Time Regulations for young workers under 18 will apply to you as an apprentice. For example, you:

  • must not exceed an 8 hour day or 40 hours per week.
  • are entitled to paid holidays.
  • are entitled to rest breaks of at least 30 minutes if your shift lasts more than 4.5 hours.


Interns are usually graduates or undergraduates who are often required to do internships as part of a further or higher education course. If you are an intern your employment rights will depend on your employment status, you may be classed as a worker, employee, or volunteer.

If you, as an intern, have been promised future work, you should be paid the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage as you will be classed as a worker.

If you're a student intern and are required to do an internship for less than a year as part of a UK-based further or higher education course you won't be entitled to the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage.


If you're doing volunteer work it will be unpaid usually for a charity, voluntary organisation, or a fundraising body. As a volunteer you should have access to appropriate training and development, and you will usually have a role description rather than a job description.

As a volunteer you will not be entitled to the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage as volunteers don't get paid other than travel or lunch expenses. Volunteers don't have a contract of employment but often have a volunteering agreement.

Full time employment

The number of hours that are classed as full time will be set by the employer. For example some employers may have a 37 hour week, or some may have a 40 hour week. You will be entitled to 2 days off a week if you're under 18 years old. In general, younger workers are not allowed to work for than 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

Working part time

You may wish to work part time if you're attending college or university. There is no set number of hours that makes someone full or part-time. However, part-time work is when you're working for anything less than the basic full-time hours set by your employer.

Part time workers have the right not to be treated less favourably than a comparable full time worker, for example you should receive the same pay rate and holidays (although your holidays will be pro rata).

Types of part time work include:

  • Job share - where a full time job is divided into two part time jobs.
  • Term-time work - where a worker can take time off or work reduced hours during school holidays.
  • Evening or weekend work.
  • Casual or "bank" work.

Zero hours contracts

A zero hours contract is generally a contract between an employer and a worker when the employer doesn't have to provide any minimum working hours, and you as the worker don't have to accept any work offered. A zero hours contract can be used if you need to work flexibly during your studies.

Zero hours contracts are often used to provide a flexible workforce to meet a temporary or changeable need for staff. For example to cover:

  • Unexpected or last-minute events (e.g. when a restaurant needs extra staff to cater for a large party when other workers have phoned in sick).
  • Temporary staff shortage (e.g. when a shop needs extra staff to cover the Christmas period).
  • On-call or bank staff (e.g. a client of a care-worker company requires extra care for a short period of time).

If you are on a zero hours contract you will still be entitled to paid annual leave and the National Minimum Wage.

What to expect from your first job

Starting work for the first time can make you feel nervous but excited, but being prepared can make things much easier for you. There are a number of employment rights all new workers have. Click on the link to find out more about what to expect on your first day at work. Why not take a look at the Starting Work e-learning module to find out more about your rights and responsibilities at work.