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Students - finding the right career path

Planning your future can be challenging, exciting and sometimes daunting...

There are many ways in which you can use your talents and abilities to embark upon successful careers but getting started can be difficult.

Our programmes and services are designed to help you to navigate the way through the maze of opportunities and choices and find the path which is right for you.

Click on the links below to find out more.



Aptitude tests
Centigrade Online


How it works - discovering your careers and HE potential

At COA our programmes analyse your interests, aptitudes and abilities to highlight a number of different careers areas that you will find interesting and in which you should achieve success. Listed within each careers area are a number of different jobs into which you can carry out further research in order to:

  • develop an in-depth knowledge of specific jobs and requirements for training
  • prepare by choosing appropriate courses in HE
  • get experience in the world of work
  • develop useful skills and keep records in readiness for writing Personal Statements and making job applications.

We help you to set about doing your research in a systematic way, so that you ask the right questions and use reliable resources. We also support the work which the staff at school do, by providing interviews so that you can ask other experienced advisers for help and guidance.

At each decision-making stage you are gathering together a lot of information about possible ways of achieving your aims. Eventually you have to choose what seems best for you, taking on board all the different factors!

Year 11 students

In Year 11, you will probably use the Preview programme. You will complete an interest-based questionnaire and may also complete a set of aptitude tests. This programme gives you access to all your feedback in a printed version of the Preview workbook and an online copy in MyCareersRoom.

What is in my Preview workbook?

  • An Interest Profile highlighting key careers areas to consider
  • Sets of Worksheets to give information on key career areas
  • Careers Analysis Forms to help you to do research into specific jobs
  • AS/A/PreU/IB Subject Selection Chart
  • A copy of The Careers Directory to help you obtain initial key information on jobs
  • In addition, a copy of the Personal Development and Work Experience Guide offers students an insight into skills development outside the school curriculum.

What is MyCareersRoom?

This is an area online, where you can access your feedback from Preview and see your workbook. You have a login and password. In addition, this is where you can do your research into careers and specific jobs, by accessing information online. There are spaces for you to make notes, and a portfolio section where you can record details of skills you have developed, work experience you have gained and your achievements. This record can help you to provide evidence and justification in your Personal Statement, if you are making an application to university.

You can access this space and continue to develop this record until you are 24 years old. If you have continued to update this record, it should provide useful support when you write or revise your CV.

Year 12 students

Your sixth form programme of study and extracurricular activities is only just under way when almost immediately thoughts turn to the next major decision, that of the way forward after the sixth form. Some of you hope to organise a Gap Year, some consider apprenticeships and direct application to training schemes and others will think about the HE options.

There is a wide choice of courses, and institutions offering them, here in the UK, in Europe and around the world. Trying to decide which one is best for you is not easy.  Courses may have the same title but differ in the way they are taught or are assessed. Institutions themselves may be based in cities or in campus locations; they may be steeped in tradition or be relatively new with facilities which vary in quality and attractiveness for you and your lifestyle preferences. The cost of the courses is also a very important consideration and does vary widely. Scholarships and bursaries are available, so this is another area to investigate.

It is very important that you receive the best advice for these life-affecting choices, and that the decisions you make are based on research which is undertaken carefully and thoroughly. Mistakes can prove extremely costly, in terms both of time and money, especially if you decide that your choice of course is not right for you.

Making Centigrade work for you

Centigrade is the programme which helps you to prepare carefully and make an informed choice about Higher Education.

Your responses to the questionnaire enable us to produce an Interest Profile. For the top course areas in your profile, you receive listings of courses and institutions.  Some courses may seem familiar, others less so. Your copy of Degree Course Descriptions will give broad guidelines about course areas and then, using university and departmental websites, you will be able to compare and contrast in greater detail the courses themselves.

The feedback we give, in the form of Overall Match and Cautionary Notes, should challenge you to think carefully about the demands of the courses; to think about aspects in which you appear to be less interested so that they will not become problematic if you choose that course area. Courses in certain subject areas are not all the same so these pointers should help you to find the courses best suited to you. From the listings, you should choose a selection to research in depth. Within the workbook, there are pages to help you to do this research thoroughly. It is very important to check carefully details of courses, assessments, teaching and lecture timetables as well as the choices of accommodation and facilities for recreation.  Details of Open Days are listed for the courses and institutions which appear in your selection. A number of useful websites are listed so do make good use of the wealth of information which can be accessed.

Do not try to cut corners, time spent doing detailed research is so important. If you are using myCareersRoom then remember to add your research findings to this area.

Thinking ahead

As you develop your understanding of different career areas and receive advice and guidance, you will no doubt have built up a picture of the highly competitive nature of the job market. It is therefore vital that you make the very best use of the opportunities you have both now and in the next few years, to ensure that you can eventually persuade the recruiter that you are the very person they wish to employ!

What do Employers look for?

Employers recruiting in the graduate marketplace look for a wide variety of skills and attributes.

Graduates need to be adaptable, with an ability to multitask, be flexible in their approach to working hours and willing to accommodate the demands of important deadlines. It is absolutely vital that they have a good understanding of the business itself, how it operates, what makes it competitive.

Good communication skills are essential in very many aspects of business life. Work demands an ability to express ideas clearly, produce written reports, present new ideas to others in a convincing way which persuades, motivates or reassures them.  Communication drives our knowledge economy, so excellent Information technology skills are vital.

In the world of work it is likely that, with progression, you will be given managerial responsibilities at varying levels. These require you to be able to motivate others, provide confident leadership, delegate and work well in teams.  An understanding of other cultures is increasingly important if you are working in larger teams or negotiating with companies based in other countries. Learning to prioritise, work under pressure, meet deadlines and solve problems are key skills required at every level.

Employees who show initiative and who contribute to the success of the company as well as demonstrating loyalty and commitment, are highly prized.

How can you do this?

The best way to show recruiters that you have the attributes they seek is to present evidence.

You need to think about jobs you may have had, voluntary or otherwise, about the roles you undertook at school and eventually at college or university and how you have used other opportunities to develop these skills and qualities.

If you visited an old person on a very regular basis for an extended period of time, possibly as part of a voluntary scheme, then you could use this to illustrate your commitment to a task. It can also show that you have developed an understanding of the issues that older people face, or that you have developed special communication skills or learnt to work in a team. If you organised the task yourself you may have had to negotiate and show adaptability. Part-time jobs undertaken whilst you are also studying can help to show that you can manage to work under pressure, and be capable of stacking shelves as well as writing your history essays or solving your maths problems. You will also be able to develop an understanding and knowledge of a commercial business, albeit not necessarily one in which you eventually hope to work.

At school there are usually many opportunities for students to show initiative, setting up fund-raising projects, helping younger students, becoming team leaders, taking part in Young Enterprise schemes. After school, tertiary education offers further chances for you to run societies or be creative. If you spend time abroad, living within the local community, learning about its culture or honing your language and communication skills is beneficial.

Opening doors of opportunity