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Options with your foundation degree

Foundation degrees aim to provide students with enough vocational knowledge to get a job in a certain field or embark on further study

They are the equivalent of two-thirds of a full honours degree and are normally offered by universities and further education colleges working in partnership. Students can study on a full- or part-time basis, with courses generally lasting two or three years respectively.

Foundation courses focus on building the specific skills that employers are looking for. This means that they can often provide a very strong platform for those wishing to enter the workplace.

Do I need to 'top up' to a degree?

Not necessarily, but many foundation degree students do. Around half of graduates were in further study six months down the line and it is likely that a large portion of these were 'topping up'.

Whether you decide to study for an extra year to convert your qualification into a full Bachelors degree rides on what job you wish to do. It's also the obvious choice if you're interested in furthering your education. You don't have to take this extra year of study immediately; you can return to university at a later date if you're unsure whether it's the right option for you.

Some specific vocations require you to 'top up'. For example, if you want to become a primary or secondary school teacher you will need a Bachelors degree followed by a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). To find out the level of qualification required for your chosen career, see types of jobs.

Can I get a graduate job with a foundation degree?

More than half (58%) of foundation degree students who were in employment in the UK six months after graduating were in professional or managerial roles, compared to 68% of first degree graduates.

Many foundation degree graduates continue to study in order to ‘top up’ to an honours degree, which makes them eligible for graduate schemes and graduate jobs which usually require a Bachelors degree.

To find out which graduate roles accept foundation degrees, search graduate jobs. If you're struggling to find vacancies suitable for you, take a look at how to find a job.

How do I sell my foundation degree to employers?

Emphasise the practical and skill-based benefits of your foundation degree in your CV and cover letter.

Foundation degrees are designed to give you the hands-on experience employers look for when recruiting. This means graduates are often very well prepared to enter the workplace. You'll have acquired a range of technical skills directly relevant to a specific job, so make sure you show these off. Transferable skills your degree will have honed include professionalism, discipline and organisation.

For example, if you've completed a foundation degree in social work, you will possess many hours of practical work experience with vulnerable groups in society, such as children and the elderly. It's this practical experience that employers value most highly. To discover what options are open to you see what can I do with my degree?

What are my options for further study?

Foundation degrees are at level 5 within the National Qualifications Framework (NQF); just below Bachelors degrees (level 6) and Masters degrees (level 7). Also at level 7 is the PGCE teacher qualification, a popular choice for foundation degree graduates. If you want to enter postgraduate study, you will be required to 'top up' by entering the second or third year of a Bachelors. You will then be able to go directly onto studying for a Masters or PGCE. You may also be eligible for some PhDs.

Even careers that don't demand postgraduate qualifications, such as engineering and IT, may view you more favourably if you hold one. If you want to see what options you'll have available to you after you 'top up', search postgraduate courses.

Will I get funding for further study?

If you're looking to 'top up', you may be eligible for student finance through the Student Loans Company. Foundation degree students are entitled to the same support as all other undergraduate students, so you could qualify for the government's Tuition Fee Loan. As with all methods of funding, you should check the terms and conditions out thoroughly as there are different arrangements for full- and part-time students. For example, only full-time students are eligible for the Maintenance Loan.

You may also be eligible for funding if you're a parent, have an adult dependent or have a disability. Some universities offer grants or bursaries to students too, but you'll need to investigate each institution more closely to find out how this could affect you.

Postgraduate courses aren't covered by the Student Loans Company, so if you want to stay in education past your Bachelors degree then you'll have to find funding yourself. This could be through private loans, scholarships or bursaries. Those completing a PGCE, for example, can apply for a Department for Education bursary. Again, conditions do apply, so research your options.

Find out more about funding postgraduate study.

What do other foundation degree graduates do?

More than half of foundation degree graduates were in some form of employment six months after leaving university, in a wide range of jobs. The top five most popular foundation degree subjects studied are:

  • academic studies in education;
  • social work;
  • subjects allied to medicine;
  • business studies;
  • sport and exercise science.

The most popular jobs held by foundation degree graduates who are in employment in the UK are:

  • teaching assistants;
  • nursery nurses and assistants;
  • sales and retail assistants;
  • other teaching and educational professionals;
  • paramedics;
  • nursing auxiliaries and assistants;
  • police officers;
  • other health associate professionals;
  • educational support assistants;
  • primary and nursery education teaching professionals.

To find out what you can do with your foundation degree, see options with your subject or what jobs would suit me?

Destinations of foundation degree graduates
Destinations Percentage
Employed 42.0%
Further study 30.2%
Working and studying 23.2%
Unemployed 2.1%
Other 2.4%
Types of work entered in the UK
Caring and education work 23.2%
Health professionals 10.9%
Technicians and other professionals 10.4%
Retail, catering and bar work 8.0%
Other 47.6%

Destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.


Further information

Written by Editor, Prospects
September 2015

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