Choosing subjects

Ages 13-15

Time to decide

Whether you have a clear idea of your future career, or no idea at all, this is the first decision you have to make about your next steps. It’s an exciting moment, where you take more control over what you want to study.

But how do you know what subjects to pick?


Do what you love

For most people, studying the subjects they enjoy is the best bet. Don’t worry if your choices don’t ‘fit’ with a particular career or seem like a random mix. If you enjoy a subject, you’re much more likely to work hard and get lots out of it.


Do your research

Of course, there may be new subjects on offer, such as photography, or media studies, that you’ve never studied before. Your school should offer you a chance to explore these — maybe a ‘taster’ lesson — and you can also chat with subject specialists to find out more.


Don’t worry!

Every subject will provide you with worthwhile skills. Creative thinking, learning and adapting, working together, relationship building, problem solving … these are all useful in the world of work. Whatever you choose to study will give you valuable skills and attributes, which you can build on later.

How I chose my subjects

Technology apprentice Sophie pursued her passion when choosing her subjects. But how did that compare to her friends? And what did it mean when it was time for her to find a career?

Did I make the right choice?

Hear from...

George, 20

Assistant Relationship Manager, Hampshire

My job is to support relationship managers, who build and maintain relationships with clients. I help them with their day-to day work by recording, investigating and resolving customer issues.

My subject choices

SubjectHow it helped me

Computer Science - GCSE (Computing Science - National 5 equivalent)

This gave me a strong understanding of software and systems, which is helpful as I use a computer all the time in my job.

Geography - GCSE/National 5

A good understanding of reading graphs, data and statistics, something that’s important in my work.

PE - GCSE/National 5

Kept me fit and healthy, mentally as well as physically, and gave me baseline skills in teamwork and interpersonal skills that I use every day now at work.

In summary

I was pretty pleased with what I chose in the end. I took Business Studies, Maths and ICT for A Level, so my GCSE options were a good foundation. My parents didn’t want me to take PE, as they thought it wouldn’t be useful, but I really needed a lesson where I wasn’t sitting at a desk, and it helped me stay fit, happy and focused.

In the end I didn’t go to university as I realised I much preferred learning on the job. I did an apprenticeship at NatWest, and that led me to my job today.

Hear from...

Amar, 22

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Internship, Edinburgh

I’m currently working in a graduate job at NatWest within the HR department. Our team is focused on making NatWest a safe place for all employees to be successful and promoting diversity, equality and inclusion.

My subject choices

SubjectHow it helped me

Application of Maths - National 5 (Further Maths - GCSE equivalent)

This was really useful as a basis for accounting, and working in banking - helped me understand statistics, financial planning and maths in practice.

Drama - National 5/GCSE

I did this because I really enjoyed it, and it helped me with my confidence, presentation skills and teamwork.

Business Management - National 5 (Business/Business Studies - GCSE equivalent)

This was a really useful overview of how business worked, including customer relations and branding.

In summary

I think I chose well at the time, though I've ended up doing something completely different from my original plan, which was accounting! I went to Edinburgh University and studied Accounting and Business, but then this graduate job came up. I’m really pleased with how things turned out, and my advice to others would be just make the decision as best you can at the time and do what you enjoy.

Nothing is forever

Remember that whatever subjects you choose now, you can always change and do something completely different later. And it’s not just possible, it’s completely normal to change your mind over time.

Your choices today won’t decide what you’ll be doing in 10, five, or even two years’ time. So make the best choice you can, safe in the knowledge you can also decide on a different path later.