Life in the UK
An overview of employment
There is a broad range of industries in the UK making it one of the best choices for work in Europe, with many cities transforming into international global business hubs.
The country boasts the 3rd largest economy in Europe (behind Germany and France) and a workforce of over 30 million people, and the 5th largest in the world.
The unemployment rate currently stands at 5.4%, a six-year low and according to a recent study by High Fliers, graduate employment is at a ten-year high with more graduate jobs on offer now than in previous years, however, competition for these roles remains fierce.
Language skills are becoming increasingly important, making many foreign nationals desirable candidates in the world of business. The international language of business is still predominantly English.
With the country’s diverse work sectors, good working conditions and numerous employment opportunities it’s no surprise that the UK is a popular destination for international graduates wanting to kick start their careers.
Job market in the UK
The services sector dominates the UK economy with banking, insurance and business services all key drivers of the country’s growth. Industries in decline include manufacturing, although it’s important to note that this sector still employs large numbers of workers and makes up a significant part of the UK’s output.
Growing industries include:
- financial services
- marketing and sales
The hospitality and retail industries often recruit all year round due to a high turnover of staff. The creative arts and design sector, although highly competitive, is often recruiting in London, while marketing and PR is thriving in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester.
In demand occupations exist in sectors such as:
- arts and entertainment
- agriculture for seasonal work
Get tips on how best to approach the job market and find a job.
Graduate schemes are available at many of the UK’s large and multinational companies in sectors such as:
For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you will have to apply directly. Research individual companies to find out what graduate positions and work experience is available at SMEs
For job listings in the UK, see:
- Graduate job search – for the latest graduate schemes, placements and jobs.
- Guardian Jobs – national news site advertising UK and international jobs.
- Indeed – job site listing vacancies throughout the UK.
- Telegraph Job Site – Search for a job and get help with your career.
Teaching in the UK
The main languages taught in schools in the UK are French, Spanish and German and some schools are now employing Mandarin teachers. This leaves room for many of the other languages now prevalent in the UK.
If you are coming from outside the UK and possess skills in one of these languages, you may be able to find teaching work as a modern foreign language (MFL) teacher.
Due to a shortage of professionals in these subjects there is a high demand for talented individuals. If you have a university degree or English equivalent, and a good grasp of the English language, you may be entitled to bursary support in order to complete the required postgraduate study.
For more information on teaching languages in the UK, available bursaries and training options, go to Teach Modern Foreign Languages.
Work experience and internships in the UK
To get a foot in the door of an organisation, many students in the UK look for work experience. Work experience opportunities will vary in length, depending on the organisation. In some cases a placement will be as short-term as one day; others may last for several months and lead to a permanent position.
It’s important to remember that all work experience is valuable and many students are successful in securing a place for several months.
If you are attending a university or college, the international office can help you find and apply for work experience and internships.
Internships and work experience, can be both paid and unpaid. Often pay will be minimum (or London Living Wage), but there may be a full time offer of employment at the end of the internship
Volunteering in the UK
There are lots of voluntary roles in the UK that can help you to develop your English skills and allow you to give something back to a charitable organisation.
If you can afford to work unpaid in order to gain experience, taking on a voluntary placement will be worthwhile and can help boost your CV.
- Do-it is the UK’s national volunteering database, listing opportunities from thousands of charities and social groups.
- Vinspired has a range of opportunities for 14-25 year-olds. Search by category, project and organisation to find a suitable project.
- Volunteering England is part of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
- Volunteering Matters works in partnership with UK organisations to deliver programmes that enable people of all ages and backgrounds to put something back into the community.
You can find further volunteering projects that are happening locally in your community by checking local newspapers and notice boards. Make sure you thoroughly research all volunteering opportunities and always check the terms and conditions before committing yourself to a scheme.
UK visas and immigration
The UK immigration system is currently undergoing changes so please find the most up to date information on the government website at GOV.UK
Visas and Immigration.
When you travel outside the UK, always make sure you have your most recent documents with you so that you can prove your visa status if you are stopped by immigration. If you are on a partner visa and not travelling with them, make sure you can easily phone your partner to confirm your relationship. Be particularly cautious about travelling if your visa is close to expiring.
In the UK the average working week is Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, although in an office you will have some choice about your working hours. Working hours should be set out in your contract of employment and unless you choose to, you shouldn’t have to work more than 48 hours a week.
Part-time and flexible work are also possible.
Adult workers are entitled to at least one day off a week, four weeks paid annual leave, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave. Employers are not required by law to allow days off on bank or public holidays, although many honour these dates.
In England and Wales there are eight bank/public holidays a year, in Scotland there are nine and in Northern Ireland there are ten.
In the UK if you are aged 16 or above you are entitled to receive the National Minimum Wage NMW
Income Tax is the tax you pay once you start earning a wage. Taxable income includes the money you earn from employment and any profits you make if you’re self employed. Most people get a personal allowance of tax-free income, which is usually around £11,000. The basic rate of Income Tax currently stands at 20%.
Finding a job
There are different routes to finding employment but most involve a process of written application followed by an interview process. Look at Applying in detail section for an indepth coverage of these topics.
1. Your written application
If you are looking for a job in a large company, they will have an equal opportunities policy, this means that all jobs will be advertised so that everyone has an equal opportunity to apply and succeed. They may either ask you to fill in an application form or to send a cv (Americans call them resume) and a covering letter saying how you match what they are looking for in the job description.
You need to work hard at both of these and make sure your cv or application shows what you have achieved in your jobs or in your education. Don’t just send one cv off to masses of employers, you will need to make it fit each employer.
Large organisations such as the NHS or Civil Service use one job site for all jobs and you can register your interests with them and they will let you know when a job for which you are suitable is advertised.
If you are looking for a job in a smaller company, you could try volunteering for a small period with them, working temporarily for them or as an interim. People often like to recruit people they know and trust. If you need experience and can afford to, volunteering is often a great way to start a career.
2. Your cv / Application Process
This summarises your career. You should start with contact details and a personal statement summarising your career and what you are looking for. Then summarise your career, starting with the most recent position. When you summarise, don’t say what you did, say what you achieved and if you can, use numbers. Finish with your qualifications, any publications and voluntary work.
Preparing for an interview
This needs practice. You need to do lots of things to prepare for an interview:
- Research the company
- Develop and practice your stories showing what you have achieved and how you achieved what you did
- Prepare what you want to tell the interviewers about you personally e.g your strengths and weaknesses – this is one the most likely questions you will be asked
- Prepare a question that you will ask the panel
- Think about what you will wear – you will need to dress appropriately for the company and sector you will work in
- Make sure you know where the interview will be held and how long it will take to get there
3. After you apply
If you don’t get the job, you might just get a letter. If you have had an interview, it’s worth ringing the the interviewer and asking for feedback. This might help you with your next interview. Always be charming when you get feedback, you never know if you might meet the person again.
If you are offered the job, now is the time to negotiate your salary or your hours etc. Don’t ever negotiate in the interview.
4. Starting your new job
Tips on how to be successful once you got the job
People will tell you a lot when you first start so make the most of this opportunity to find out as much information as you can. You have only a few weeks to find out the most basic information so if you are working in an office, make sure that you know the following: where the stationery is, how to claim expenses, how to book meeting rooms, the filing procedures, where the shared and personal drives are on your computer. Attend the induction, even if it’s boring, you will meet people who might be valuable to you later.
Do something – you need to work out quickly how you can make a contribution and take some action. If you make a mistake, it’s early days, no one will mind.
You need to start getting people on your side. Mostly, people like it if you are curious about their work and like to talk about it. Have some questions ready, ‘how can I help’, ‘what is it you want from me?’. Remember people are far more interested in the world around them, than your last employer.
5. Your manager
Here are some thoughts on how to work with your manager which should help:
Your manager hates being caught out by other managers with information that you have and you haven’t shared it with them.
Make sure you take the lead in giving them information – have a weekly or fortnightly meeting with them – even if you sit opposite them. Think of lots of things to put on the agenda. Tell them what you are doing, what you are thinking about and ask for their insights. If they know what you can do and you are working to create a relationship with them, they will think about interesting projects for you.
Don’t bend the rules e.g. take more annual leave than you should, never exaggerate on a time sheet and fill in absence forms once you get back. For some of these things, you could lose your job and even if it’s not that serious, your boss will stop trusting you.
Follow instructions. If you don’t understand what they are asking you to do, check back with them. It’s fine to say, ‘I don’t understand, can you explain again?’ It’s better than irritating them by getting it wrong or looking at them blankly.
If you disagree with a decision your boss is making, do it politely, you could, for instance, say ‘may I challenge that?’ or ‘I would like to make a different argument, is that ok?’ So don’t just make a challenge but give it an introduction. Make sure you know when it’s time to stop arguing and your boss has made the final decision.
Your boss writes your reports, gives you reference and speaks about you so make sure you work well with them.
Indeed.co.uk is one of the largest job site in the UK and hosts listings from various employers small and large. You can also access company reviews there.
National Health Service
NHS is one of the biggest employers in the UK and recruits staff of various domains and levels of expertise.
An overview of education in the UK
Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 18.
FE is not compulsory and education colleges and HE institutions (HEIs). The fifth stage, HE, is study beyond A levels and their equivalent and, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and colleges.
Education in England may differ from the system used elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Differences Across the UK
Basically, there are two systems: one covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland and one covering Scotland. The two education systems have different emphases. Traditionally the English, Welsh and Northern Irish system has emphasised depth of education whereas the Scottish system has emphasised breadth.
Thus English, Welsh and Northern Irish students tend to sit a small number of more advanced examinations and Scottish students tend to sit a larger number of less advanced examinations. It should be noted that local English practice can vary from this general picture.
Choice in Education
All parents have a choice in which school their child goes to, both at primary and secondary.
There are a variety of schools that you can choose from. Factors you will want to take into account when choosing a school are:
- Its OFSTED report – this is a report based on a government mandated review of schools
- Its academic results and where it is in the league tables
- Transport – how easy it is to get there and how much time it will take
All of these reports you can find online and are published by your Local Authority.
You should also attend an open day at the school. Most people say that the quality of the headteacher is everything so try and meet them.
Secondary schools teach the full curriculum but will have specialities. Some might be known for the Performing Arts, others for Science. You will want to look at what your child’s talents are and therefore which school you want to apply for.
Beware, there will be competition for places at the best schools and you may not get your first choice so make sure you have checked out the schools that look good and have put in a good application.
There are lots of resources to help you make the right choice, start here: https://www.gov.uk/schools-admissions/admissions-criteria
Most importantly, make sure you know the closing dates for application and that you have done all your research a long time before the closing dates
Primary or elementary education is the first years of formal, structured education that occurs during childhood. In most Western countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education (though in many jurisdictions it is permissible for parents to provide it. If you wish to home school you will need to check the approvals needed with your Local Authority).
Primary education generally begins when children are four to seven years of age. The division between primary and secondary education is somewhat arbitrary, but it generally occurs at about twelve years of age (adolescence); some educational systems have separate middle schools for that period.
Secondary education , or secondary school , is a period of education which follows directly after primary education, and which may be followed by tertiary or “post-secondary” education. The purpose of a secondary education can be to prepare for either higher education or vocational training. At secondary education children will be required to take GCSE and A-Level exams. These exams are used for applications to universities and also for job applications, so it is important for children to do well in these exams. For GCSE grades are awarded between 9 (the highest) and 1 (the lowest). At A-level grades are between A*-F, with A* (the highest) and F (a fail).
Higher education is education provided by universities and other institutions that award academic degrees, such as university colleges, and liberal arts colleges.
Higher education includes both the teaching and the research activities of universities, and within the realm of teaching, it includes both the undergraduate level (sometimes referred to as tertiary education) and the graduate (or postgraduate) level (sometimes referred to as quaternary education). Higher education differs from other forms of post-secondary education such as vocational education. However, most professional education is included within higher education, and many postgraduate qualifications are strongly vocationally or professionally oriented, for example in disciplines such as law and medicine.
The costs for a state funded education in the United Kingdom are as follows:
• Primary: No Charge
• Secondary: No Charge
• Further (Secondary) Education in either a sixth form or college: No Charge if under 19 in that particular academic year or on a low income.
• Higher / Tertiary Education (University): A tuition fee per year (varies from £1,000 for vocational training to £9,200 for universities).
State funded schools are paid for from taxation.
Primary and Secondary education can also be charged for, if a fee-paying school is attended by the child in question. It’s called private school at primary and often, public school at secondary school. The most famous public schools charge about £30,000 per year.
For private schools and universities it is possible to get bursaries or help with funding, look at their websites for more information on this.
Work for Chopping and updating if you know if any of its out of date – not expecting you to do any research, of course, Just if you happen to know.
You have a lot of choice of universities but it is now expensive. It costs £9200 a year for tuition plus you have to live. You will want to choose a course that you enjoy, will do well in and will help you into the career of your choice.
You will want to know:
- What your course includes and whether there is a work placement as part of it
- University ranking
- Student reviews
- Rate of graduate employment
The top two universities in the country are Oxford and Cambridge which are very hard to get a place in. There is also a group of 24 universities known as the Russell Group which describe themselves as world-class.
You might want to study a vocational course in which case there are a variety of places to choose from.
The UK has lots of openings for qualified professionals and in many areas, a skill shortage. So, to work as professional, you need to make sure that your qualifications are recognised in the UK as equivalent to the UK standard.
Most professions have their own professional body known as Institutes so you will need to find the right institute for your profession.
However, they are not all called the Institute, sometimes they will start with Royal or Chartered, e.g. the Chartered Institute of Surveyors or the Royal College of Midwives so in your google search try all 3 words. Your professional body should be able to provide guidance on how to have your qualifications accredited so that you can practice in the UK.
For some professions, membership of your institute is mandatory in order to practice and if you are found to be incompetent they can revoke your membership. For other professions such as Human Resources, it is advisable to join but not mandatory. It’s a really good idea to join though. Institutes give you access to a specialist library, networking opportunities and often support such as a helpline.
If you come from outside the European Union, you need to know about Naric.org.uk. Naric provides a service that accredits your qualifications. You will need them translated by an official translator.
Dealing with money
The UK works with cash, credit and debit cards. You can’t survive in the UK without a bank account. Having a bank account is vital for securing accommodation, allowing people to transfer money into your account and, transferring money home. At the moment, if you are in credit, your bank account should be free. Make sure you understand what it means if you take out more money than you have in your account.
Credit cards are also helpful for purchasing online – the UK is one of the most online economies in the world. They work well if you pay off every month and if you don’t, make sure you know the interest rates. Set up your account so that you always pay the minimum payment.
Increasingly, we are asked to pay for small purchases, up to £25 with ‘contactless’. This means rather than entering a pin code you simply ‘touch’ the card on the card reader.
There are things you have to pay by contactless but if you want to keep an eye on your money and know if items are too expensive for you, pay cash.
Health in the UK
In this section, you will discover:
- An overview of the NHS and how it works
- How to register with a GP
- Who to call when you need to speak to someone
- Health sites for more information
How does the health service work?
The NHS is a publicly funded health service paid for from taxation – so on the whole, its services are free to everyone. This means that it works extremely hard and is short staffed, but no one is going to fall into huge debt because they are ill and need medical care. Your entitlement to health service treatment depends on your residency status but if you have British citizenship, you are entitled to care, which is free to you. Some services such as prescriptions are charged for.
You need to register with a GP for your healthcare, for any prescriptions you need. Your GP should be near where you live. If you need to see a consultant for specialist advice, your GP will refer you. You cannot refer yourself.
To find a GP practice, go to NHS Choices, look up GP practices under services near you. You have the right to choose the GP you register with so check the services they offer and see if you can find out their reputation. Register with a GP as soon as you can. Don’t wait until you are unwell.
GPs can diagnose illnesses and conditions,prescribe medications, refer you on for specialist care and tests and manage chronic conditions. They can also carry out minor surgeries such as removing tags or cysts, clean up infected wounds, change dressings and administer injections for complaints such as painful joints.
This is for when you urgently need medical advice or help but its not a life-threatening situation. You will be put through to a fully trained adviser who will assess the symptoms. Depending on their assessment, the adviser might connect you to a nurse or a GP, give you self-care advice, connect you to a local service or if they judge it to be serious, send an ambulance for you.
Accident and Emergency
This is for genuine life-threatening emergencies such as severe illness, bleeding, a loss of consciousness, chest pains, breathing difficulties, poisoning or major trauma. Ambulance crews will take patients to A&E but you can also go yourself if your condition requires it. The waiting time is the same whether you go by ambulance or yourself.
What must you do?
It’s really important that you keep any medical appointment or rearrange it once you know you can’t make it. If you fail to attend a hospital appointment, you will fall out of the system and your GP will need to refer you again. Hospitals are supposed to see everyone within 18 weeks of a referral. This is for your first referral, they do not have to meet a target if you fail to keep your appointment so you may have to wait a long time for the next referral.
The NHS has a fantastic website which will give you lots of information on how it works, descriptions of different conditions and their treatment and advice on how to stay healthy.
Go to http://www.nhs.uk for more information.
Finding a home
The most important factor to know about living in the UK is that there is a serious housing shortage. The population has grown rapidly and house building has not kept up. This makes finding good property difficult. The most prosperous area of the UK is London and the South East where 25% of the population lives, this, of course, makes it expensive. House prices have risen by over one-fifth in London and the South East since 2008 and fallen by more than 5% elsewhere in the UK (Economist, p27 Sept 17th 23rd, 2016). ThisisMoney.co.uk says that Londoners spent between 45-59% of their income on rent and in the North East, it’s 25%.
If you are living in a big city, the quality of accommodation may not be what you might expect. Living in a city like London, it’s likely that to stay anywhere and not spend all your money on rent, you will have to share with more people than you might want to. If you see somewhere suitable, you are going to have to be quick about securing it, handing over the deposit and producing your I.D. You also need to be careful, there have been some scams with people pretending to tenants that they own a house, showing them around, taking their deposit and then disappearing with their money.
To rent a house, you need a bank account and references. This can be complicated as for some bank accounts, you need an address. One way round this can be to pay 6 months rent in advance, which is a lot!
Different kinds of landlords
As property is so expensive, for lots of British people who have been fortunate enough to buy, their main asset is their house. Sometimes people have bought on what is called a ‘buy to let’ mortgage which means that their tenant pays their mortgage, through their rent. These properties will be advertised on websites such as:
You may also find property advertised by letting agents.
When renting, you are likely to have to move quite frequently as landlords want their property back, put up rent etc.
Housing Associations qualify as social housing and may have particular groups of people that they provide housing for. They will provide rented accommodation at a reasonable price but to get a place in one is quite hard.
You can find more information on https://www.gov.uk/housing-association-homes
There is a very limited supply of council housing and in one London Borough, the waiting list is 35 years. Councils are likely to prioritise people who have lived in their borough and those most in need.
You can find more information on www.gov.uk/council-housing
Buying a property
If you can afford it, this will give you the most security in your accommodation. You will need some savings as you will need to come up with a deposit and to be able to show that you can pay the bank back the money they will lend you. To find out more about organising the finance go to: Mortgage Calculator website.
Costs vary hugely across the UK and you can find out more about prices on the major accommodation websites:
You will always need to be aware of the risks when you buy, that property prices could fall and you could end up paying for something that is not worth the price you paid, this is called negative equity.
For a discussion on finding properties and what works best when sharing with groups of people go to https://www.facebook.com/TogetherintheUK/.