A Future in Chemistry - Your career starts here

Options at 14

Choosing your options at 14.

Around the age of 14 you will have to make some important decisions about your future studies. If you like chemistry and are considering taking it further, the best advice is to do as much science as you can.

What do I need to do?

  • Find out what science courses are available at your school.
  • Ask your teachers what the various courses involve.
  • If you are interested in a career using chemistry, and/or would like to study the subject at a higher level, find out the entry requirements. You are likely to need good grades in at least two sciences, and maths is also an important subject. Even if you decide not to continue with science in future, it is useful for a wide range of careers.

What science courses are available?

GCSEs are offered in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (although there are some differences, such as in the way that they are assessed).

Students in Scotland will study the new National Qualifications.

Students in Republic of Ireland study for their Junior Certificate science courses aged 13-15. Subjects available depend on the school and subjects can be taken at higher or ordinary levels.

Single GCSE science gives an introduction to chemistry, physics and biology and may be combined with one or two other science GCSEs, including:

  • Additional science and further additional science – these will build on your knowledge of the three sciences and will give you double or triple science respectively.
  • Additional applied science – this focuses on the application of science in the workplace.

Instead of taking GCSE science, you may be able to take chemistry, physics and biology. Triple science will keep your options for the future wide open. In Scotland you will take National Qualifications. Chemistry, physics and biology can be taken at National 3, 4 and 5; science is available at National 3 and 4. Some schools offer international qualifications called IGCSEs which are mainly exam based and often used to prepare students for the International Baccalaureate.

Certain schools and other institutions (e.g. University Technical Colleges and studio schools) offer more vocational programmes, such as:

  • OCR Level 1/2 Cambridge National Certificate in science
  • BTEC Level 1/2 First qualifications in applied science
  • WJEC Level 1/2 Awards in applied science or science for work.

These may appeal to you if you prefer a more practical approach to learning and assessment. Whilst vocational qualifications can be useful for certain careers in science, check that they will be acceptable for any higher-level courses you may consider.

students in classroom      © Shutterstock

Where can I get help with my choices?

Your teachers can tell you more about the science or chemistry courses at your school.

Find out whether there are any special events that will give you information about careers in chemistry.

For information on which GCSE/National subjects you will need for any careers that interest you, see:

Remember that if you want to continue with chemistry, keep your options open by taking as much science as possible. Take time to consider all your options – they can impact on the choices available to you in the future.

Higher Apprentice

Rebekka Willcocks

Laboratory technician and higher apprentice
Read profile