When you finish your foundation degree you'll need to consider whether you will look for a job or 'top up' your qualification to an undergraduate degree

A foundation degree is the academic equivalent to two-thirds of a Bachelors degree. Created in partnership between universities, higher education colleges and employers, courses focus on developing skills sought after in the workplace.

For these reasons, foundation degrees provide a strong platform for candidates seeking employment - but also open doors for those looking to study for a full undergraduate qualification later on.

Foundation degree or foundation year?

Note that a foundation degree is not the same as a foundation year. A foundation degree is a standalone qualification equivalent to two years of a three-year degree, whereas a foundation year gives you access onto a degree course. Find out more about foundation years.

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

Not necessarily, although this is a popular route to take. Most candidates who studied a foundation degree full time extend their studies to a full degree the following academic year. Many students return to their studies at a later date - there is no time limit on topping up a foundation degree.

Gaining full-time status at most universities requires studying 120 credits per academic year, which makes the entry requirements onto top-up courses of 240 credits at institutions such as the University of Sheffield and the University of Warwick unsurprising.

Despite the fact that most UK graduate schemes ask for a Bachelors degree of at least 2:1 standard, alternative routes into these structured programmes are emerging. PwC, Deloitte and KPMG now have more flexible entry requirements for their schemes, gearing their focus towards critical thinking tests, relative work experience and other merits not related to a degree.

Whether choosing to top up will increase your chances of finding a job or not depends on the type of job you're looking for. For instance, to become a primary or secondary school teacher, you'll need to obtain a Bachelors degree in order to be accepted onto the teacher training Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. Find out more about how to become a teacher.

Search our job profiles to discover whether you can pursue your chosen career with a foundation degree.

Can I change my subject for my top-up degree?

You can, although in changing subjects you may need to complete more than one year's additional study in order to graduate with the right amount of credits.

If you're hoping to transfer to a subject with little or no relevance to your foundation degree, you may not be allowed to transfer and be required to start a Bachelors degree from the first year. However, depending on the modules you've studied and credits you've gained, you may be able to enter the second year. Transferring to a programme within the institution that validated your foundation degree is the easiest way to make the switch.

Can I get a graduate job with a foundation degree?

If you're looking to enter an industry directly related to your degree, the rounded skillset a foundation degree provides could be what you need to kick-start your career. However, be aware that many graduate employers will ask for a Bachelors degree as an entry requirement, so be prepared to top up.

Despite this, many sectors are suffering from labour shortages in light of Brexit - with many migrant workers leaving the UK to look for work elsewhere. The hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing industries have faced significant setbacks, so if the skills gained through your degree benefits these sectors you could be a desirable candidate.

If you have a career path in mind, check whether foundation degrees are accepted as you search graduate jobs.

How do I explain my foundation degree to employers?

As foundation degrees are designed to give you the hands-on experience employers are looking for, explaining your credentials in interviews shouldn't be a problem.

Foundation degrees give you a range of sought-after qualities as an employee. As well as the role-specific skills you'll gain, studying for a foundation degree requires motivation, high levels of organisation and the ability to adapt to different working environments.

Emphasise all of the assets you've developed through your studies in your CV and cover letter.

Can I do a Masters degree?

To enrol onto a Masters course in the UK, you need a full Bachelors degree. Once you have this, you'll be able to head straight into postgraduate study, and may even be eligible for some PhDs.

You won't be able to make the leap from foundation degree to Masters due to the structure of the Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree Awarding Bodies (FHEQ), designed to define and link the credit levels of different qualifications in the UK.

In this framework, a foundation degree is a level 5 qualification, while a full undergraduate degree ranks at level 6 and all postgraduate study starts at level 7. To qualify for a level 7 course, whether that's a Masters, PGCE or other postgraduate certificate, you must first hold a level 6 qualification.

Employers in fields that don't require postgraduate qualifications to succeed may still view you favourably if you have one. Postgraduate study demonstrates commitment, high standards of organisation and specialised knowledge.

To see what options you'll have after topping up, search postgraduate courses.

Will I get funding for further study?

Foundation degree students of recognised UK institutions qualify for funding from the government. However as with all undergraduate courses, tuition fee loans through Student Finance usually only apply to your first higher education qualification. Funding for top-up degrees as part of your first degree is not unconditional, so check with Student Finance and your university to see what's on offer.

You may be entitled to additional funding if you're a parent, carer or have a disability. Universities also have their own grants and bursaries to offer to students with additional needs. See GOV.UK: Funding and finance for students for national funding opportunities.

Postgraduate courses aren't covered by Student Finance, so if you're looking to further your study beyond Bachelors level you'll have to fund the experience yourself. Candidates completing a PGCE should consider applying for funding from the Department for Education.

Visit funding postgraduate study for more information.

What do other foundation degree graduates do?

More than half of foundation degree graduates from 2015/16 were in some form of employment six months after graduation. A large proportion of total graduates were furthering their studies, either full-time or alongside employment.

Popular foundation degree subject fields include:

  • academic studies in education
  • others in subjects allied to medicine
  • social work
  • nursing
  • sport & exercise science
  • hospitality, leisure, sport, tourism & transport
  • business studies
  • animal science
  • management studies
  • drama
  • general engineering
  • design studies

Foundation degree graduates enter a variety of professions each year. They may become:

  • paramedics
  • teaching and other educational professionals
  • nurses
  • health associate professionals
  • primary and nursery education teaching professionals
  • sports coaches, instructors and officials
  • health professionals
  • welfare and housing associate professionals

For ideas on what to do with your foundation degree, search what can I do with my degree?

Working full time32.3
Working part time7.8
Further study34.2
Working and studying21.0
Destinations of foundation degree graduates
Type of workPercentage
Childcare and related personal services16.1
Health associate professionals12.2
Teaching and educational professionals6.5
Caring personal services6.2
Engineering professionals4.5
Welfare and housing associate professionals5.3
Types of work entered in the UK

Destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

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