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

The equivalent of two-thirds of a full honours degree, foundation degrees 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'.

If you are 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.

The number of credits you need to ‘top up’ will depend on the course you’ve done and the amount of study completed - although students typically enter the third and final year of a full-time degree programme.

Whether your chances of getting a job are increased by converting your qualification into a full Bachelors degree depends on the job. For example, to become a primary or secondary school teacher you will need to ‘top up’ to a Bachelors degree so that you can do the essential Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). Find out more about how to become a teacher.

To find out if you can get into your chosen career with a foundation degree, take a look at more than 400 job profiles.

Can I get a graduate job with a foundation degree?

If you're planning on entering a specific area - for instance, hospitality, tourism, engineering or construction - a foundation degree could be for you. However, be aware that many graduate schemes and jobs ask for a good Bachelors degree meaning you will be required to ‘top up’.

This is further emphasised by the fact that 58% of foundation degree graduates in employment in the UK were in professional or managerial jobs six months after graduation, compared to 71% of first degree graduates.

To find out whether foundation degrees are accepted for specific roles, take a look at the qualification requirements as you search for graduate jobs.

How do I sell my foundation degree to employers?

As these qualifications are designed to give you the hands-on experience employers look for when recruiting, you should be well prepared to enter the workplace.

In addition to the academic knowledge gained, you'll also have acquired a range of technical skills directly relevant to a certain type of job, so make sure you show these off when looking for work.

UK industries such as manufacturing are currently suffering from workforce skills shortages, meaning that your subject-specific proficiencies should be highly regarded by recruiters.

Particular transferable skills your degree will have honed include professionalism, discipline, communication and organisation.

All the practical and skill-based benefits of your foundation degree need to be emphasised in your CV and cover letter.

Can I go on to postgraduate study?

If you want to do postgraduate study, you'll be required to 'top up' by entering the second or third year of a Bachelors degree. Once you have your undergraduate degree, you'll be able to go directly onto studying for a Masters or PGCE. You may also be eligible for some PhDs.

To help you understand the structure this is the qualifications framework. 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 postgraduate level is the PGCE teacher qualification, a popular choice for foundation degree graduates interested in teaching.

Even careers that don't demand postgraduate qualifications, such as engineering and IT, may view you more favourably if you hold one. To see what options you'll have available to you after you've 'topped 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 on GOV.UK - Student finance 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, you'll have to find funding yourself. This could be through private loans, scholarships or bursaries. Those completing a PGCE can apply for a Department for Education bursary, but conditions apply, so be sure to 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. The most popular foundation degree subjects studied are:

  • academic studies in education;
  • social work;
  • sport and exercise science;
  • subjects allied to medicine;
  • hospitality, leisure, sport, tourism and transport.

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

  • teaching assistants;
  • nursery nurses and assistants;
  • paramedics;
  • sales and retail assistants;
  • other teaching and educational professionals;
  • nursing auxiliaries and assistants;
  • police officers;
  • nurses;
  • educational support assistants;
  • other managers and proprietors in services.

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

Further study33.4
Working and studying21.2
Destinations of foundation degree graduates
Type of workPercentage
Childcare, health and education occupations23.2
Health professionals11.6
Other professionals, associate professionals and technicians11.2
Retail, catering, waiting and bar staff8
Types of work entered in the UK

Destinations data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Find out more

Search for foundation degrees at UCAS Foundation Degree Course Search.