“Go to school, do your work, get a job, and have a family”

That’s what parents have been telling their children for generations and generations, stressing the importance of education and hard work in advancing in the world. In recent years however there seems to have been a change in outlook from some teenagers. Dropping out of school and spurning university was once seen as a disastrous choice, but it’s one that more and more teenagers are making with confidence in the modern age.

One of the dangers around this topic is that it’s often dominated by anecdotal evidence rather than cold hard facts. Everyone knows a friend of a friend who left school at 16 and built a thriving business from their bedroom by the time they were 17. Here we take a look at 3 differing career paths for teenagers who turn their backs on education.

Apprentice Tradesman (Plumber, Electrician, Carpenter)

Entry Qualifications: None

Starting salary: £170 per week

Average salary once qualified: £26,000 - £30,000 per annum

If traditional education isn’t your thing, then one of the most common routes to take is picking up a trade. In this example, we’re talking exclusively about electricians, plumbers and carpenters, all of which are well-respected trades.

In 2017 the UK government passed a law encouraging trade companies to hire more apprentices, in recognition of the falling numbers of young adults opting to complete tertiary education.

However the recent government legislation seems to have failed in its aim, in November 2017 apprentice start-up rates were around 27,000 which was a significant drop from over 40,000 in November 2016.

Trade apprenticeships are full of good stories about people with limited educational qualifications making their lives a success. One person doing just that is Gemma from London, who studies at college one day a week and works as an apprentice electrician the other four days, speaking recently she said;

“I’m very optimistic about the future, as long as I keep putting in the hard work. I’m three years into a four year apprenticeship with my final exam coming up. I hope to be a manager running my own business in the future”

Professional Poker Player

Entry qualifications: None

Starting salary: ?

Average salary once qualified: ?

As you can see from the information above, this career choice isn’t nearly as secure as picking up a trade. There are a plethora of stories out there from people who have dropped out of education and gone on to make a small fortune from playing poker.

Take Matt Vengrin for example, he dropped out of school to play poker in America when he was just one month away from completing his BA in psychology. Why? Because he didn’t like the path he was on and wanted to take up his one true passion, poker.

Matt has since gone on to become a well-known name in the poker world has bagged an estimated $971,000 in winnings since he took his leap of faith. Sounds good right?

Unfortunately, this career-path falls into the anecdotal evidence bracket. For every Matt Vengrin there are hundreds of people who have taken the same leap of faith and landed flat on their face.

Poker is a game of skill, and you need to be incredibly good at it to even contemplate dropping out of school to pursue it as a career. It’s the equivalent of dropping out of school to become a professional footballer. If you’re more Lionel Blair than Lionel Messi don’t jeopardise your future to pursue a pipe-dream.


Entry qualifications: None

Starting salary: ?

Average salary once qualified: £95,000 per annum

If you have an idea that you think will change the world or help to make things easier for people, then entrepreneurship is for you. As with poker, the risks are great and the rewards may not be instant. It’s estimated that 40% of businesses in the UK fold before completing 5 years of trading.

However, if you find a niche, develop a good idea, work hard and get that all important slice of luck then it could be a good career path.

Ben Jeffries has done just that, the 21-year-old recently attained a £200,000 backing to set up his own influencing company. Jeffries bridges the gap between companies and social media and offers his expertise to promote brands online.

Whilst the future looks bright for Jeffries, there are no guarantees that his venture will go on to be stable and fruitful in the long-term.


Dropping out of school and becoming an instant success might seem like a glamorous option, but there are no guarantees of stability, money and glamour. For every story you hear about someone dropping out of school and making loads of money, there are 10 times more that you’ve never heard about people failing.

If further education really isn’t for you, then have a look at an apprenticeship that offers you a clear career path with future stability. Otherwise look to education, as it really does give you a head start in future life.

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