Gap Year - Taking a Break from education or work

Whether you are leaving education and considering a gap year or already in employment and thinkng about a break from work, you'll find practical information here about things to think about when planning your gap year or career break. 

Gap Year

A gap year is usually time taken out by students who have finished their education in college or sixth form. But they can be taken by anyone at any stage of life. 

Some examples of how Gap Years are spent include:

  • Work experience – gaining relevant experience to help with deciding on a career path or to gain a better understanding of what a career you’re interested in is like. It’s a good way to make new contacts, develop skills and meet new people 

  • Travel – travelling the world, meeting new people and experiencing new things. Traveling on your own will improve confidence and independence

  • Work – earn money. This can be in the UK or abroad. It’s a great way to experience the world of work and develop skills. Earning a wage could be a way to save money  before you return to education

  • Volunteer – you could volunteer in the UK or abroad. It’s a great way to get experience whilst helping others
  • Gap Year Pros

    • An opportunity to relax a little and forget about the stresses of studying

    • A chance to work and earn money to help with the cost of higher education in the future

    • It will allow you to gain valuable work experience to help you decide on a career path or develop further skills to add to your CV

    • Travel will broaden your horizons, allow you to meet new people and experience and learn new things

    • It will increase your confidence by doing new things such as meeting new people, experiencing a place of work or planning your travel arrangements
    • Making new friends and contacts could benefit you when you’re looking for work in the future 
  • Gap Year - Cons

    • A year out can be too long for some and a distraction from your long term plans

    • Earning a wage can make it difficult to return to education as you’ll be used to a routine and having money

    • Unless carefully planned a year out may be wasted 

    • Changes to student finance may happen so it’s worth looking into this before deciding on a gap year 
  • Things to consider before taking a gap year

    To get the most out of your gap year it’s important to plan. You need to consider:

    • Costs
    • What you want to experience on your gap year
    • When you need to apply for work experience
    • How long you wan to be away from education 

    Make sure you give yourself enough time to plan. Try and speak to someone who has been on a gap year, look for inspiration on social media and forums and fully research your options by looking at the websites below.

    It’s worth remembering that some companies will arrange a Gap Year for you but this will come at an additional cost. 



    If you are certain you want to return from your gap year to University then it’s important to contact your chosen university to explain why you want to defer. Each university will assess differently. Take a look at UCAS's guide to deferred entry



    If you are thinking about a gap year before you go to university you need to know that from September 2018 important changes to student finance are planned that could affect the financial support you get. Find out more about the changes in student finance.

Career Break


A career break is taken for different reasons; to change careers, to go travelling, family commitments or studying. Some people find themselves taking a break after being made redundant or because they’ve left a job.

A career break will vary in length of time off from a few months to a number of years. Knowing why you want a career break can help you effectively plan a constructive and worthwhile career break.

During a career break you could:

  • Travel
  • Work abroad
  • Volunteer
  • Do a course or qualification
  • Concentrate on family commitments
  • Think about a new career

Take a look at our Career Break - Common Questions article 

Start your research here:

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