Should You Do an Apprenticeship or Go to University?

Written by Calvin Bowers

Deciding what to do after completing A levels? We understand that this can be a difficult decision, especially as many students have been led to believe that going to university or finding a job are the only options available post A levels.

Many young people are misinformed about the different benefits that apprenticeships can bring to the table. With this in mind, it is our mission to provide some clarity and hopefully aid you in making a decision that is best for you.

What Courses are on Offer?

Universities up and down the country offer a wide variety of degree subjects. According to UCAS, there are over 50,000 undergraduate courses available in the UK, ranging from accounting to law and journalism to zoology. The opportunities that are available present combinations of subjects you would have never even considered.

On the other hand, apprenticeships also offer a large number of courses providing an equivalent qualification, including a degree. There are currently around 250 apprenticeship standards that provide this level of qualification and above, covering subjects such as civil engineering, animal care and social work to name a few. It is important to remember that each apprenticeship will be tailored to the specific role and organisation to ensure you gain the skills required to do the best job possible.

How Does Learning Differ?

University involves learning a lot of theoretical knowledge. You will be taught the necessary information for your future career, but you will also learn the concepts behind it. Teaching is delivered through lectures and seminars and is assessed (depending on your course) by essays, presentations and exams.

In an apprenticeship, you can learn on the job alongside gaining theoretical knowledge through attending a training provider, college or university. You will typically spend four days a week at work and one day at university/college/training provider, but this will vary from employer to employer.

What Costs are Involved?

Studying at university will cost up to £9,250 per year in tuition fees, plus living expenses. You can get a tuition fee loan which covers the full tuition costs, and a maintenance loan calculated on your household income. With this in mind, it is estimated that most students will leave university with over £50,000 worth of debt. Although this sounds like a super scary amount, it is essential to acknowledge that:

  1. it is unlikely you will ever pay it all back – all debt is wiped after 30 years
  2. you only begin to repay once you start earning over £26,575 a year
  3. it doesn’t impact your credit score
  4. your house or belongings won’t be repossessed if you don’t keep up repayments as repayments are taken straight out of your pay
  5. until you earn enough to pay it back, the rate of interest (ROI) is equivalent to inflation

In contrast, apprenticeships provide the opportunity to earn whilst you learn. You will receive the national minimum wage for your age group, and all training costs are covered by either the government or your employer. This means that once you have completed your qualification, you will have no outstanding debt as a result of the apprenticeship.

What Opportunities are There Afterwards?

Studying a degree at university may provide you with a broader range of career options, due to the variety of different modules you study, however like most things, there is no guarantee you will land a permanent role after graduation.

Apprenticeships tend to provide a little bit more security with most employers recruiting an apprentice to fill a job role after completion of their qualification. Again, there is no guarantee this will happen, but it is reported that 85% of apprentices stay in employment, with 64% of those remaining with the same employer.

If you would like to find out more about apprenticeships, read our guides on Employing an Apprentice; and if you would like to find out more about the opportunities undergraduate degrees present, visit our other site, Developing a Student.

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Last Updated: Tuesday February 14 2023
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