Apprenticeship vs University: Which is Better?


  1. What’s the difference between degree apprenticeships and university?
  2. Are apprenticeships better than university?
  3. What are the disadvantages of an apprenticeship?
  4. Is an apprenticeship degree worth it?
  5. Is being an apprentice a good job?
  6. Why shouldn't you do an apprenticeship?
  7. Don't rush your decision


Deciding what to do when it’s time to leave school is always a tough choice. There can be a lot of pressure to choose a path that will impact the rest of your life. 

Whether you’ve been struggling in school and want to take on something more practical, or you’ve got your heart set on a university, it’s wise to carefully consider all the options available to you. 

The apprenticeship vs university debate has been going on for a long time, but which option might suit you best? This article looks at some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding degree apprenticeships to help you decide what might be the right road ahead.university cap

What’s the difference between degree apprenticeships and university?


Those who take on a degree apprenticeship will be holding down a job while also spending some of their time studying. A degree apprenticeship combines working and gaining a university degree – it’s an alternative route to achieving a degree qualification while also gaining important practical work experience.  

Many school leavers still opt for higher education, believing that it carries more clout than the apprenticeship route and will put them in better standing in the long run.

For a lot of young people, the apprenticeship vs degree decision is an important choice that shouldn’t be taken lightly – you should carefully consider your options before committing to an apprenticeship or uni. 

In recent years, attitudes towards apprenticeships have evolved, and more young people than ever now see them as a viable alternative to traditional university study. Both routes lead to a degree, but you will also gain hands-on experience with an employer if you decide to do a degree apprenticeship.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both options, and choosing an apprenticeship or university will likely have a big impact on your future and career. 

For many school leavers, the university experience is as valuable to them as the degree itself. In contrast, others would prefer to earn while they learn as opposed to leaving university and starting their professional life with debt. If you are unsure whether you’d like to go to university or take a different route, we are here to help!


Are apprenticeships better than university?


There are several reasons why a degree apprenticeship might be better than choosing to go to university. The government created apprenticeship degrees to inspire more young people to work and study in the science and tech field. These are booming industries that are set to grow in the future, with plenty of opportunities for career progression. 

Universities are racing to keep up with the fast-changing nature of these fields. A degree apprenticeship will give you on-the-job training as well as teach you theory, meaning you’ll be better prepared for your professional life when you reach that stage. 

As a degree apprentice, you will learn the latest in innovation and cutting-edge improvements to the industry as they happen. This means you’ll be bang up to date with the latest changes and trends in your field, and you’ll also be familiar with practical aspects of the work you’ll be doing when you’ve completed the degree. 🎓

Employers also value candidates who have work experience, so a degree apprenticeship could set you apart from other candidates. It shows that you have a strong work ethic and that you’re used to working in your chosen field or industry.

You come as a ready-made employee who doesn't need additional on-the-job training, whereas those graduating university with no work experience won’t be familiar with the day-to-day realities of working. 

Since degree apprenticeships are less common than university degrees, you may find yourself wondering, “Are apprenticeships worth it? Could an apprenticeship be better than university?”

The right choice for you is whatever you feel the most drawn to and what would make sense given your interests and future career goals – whether you choose an apprenticeship or university, you’ll be able to forge your own path ahead. 


What are the disadvantages of an apprenticeship?


One of the main reasons school leavers are reluctant to go to university is the cost. Opting for the apprenticeship route eliminates that factor, but it does have its own set of disadvantages, and these should be considered when you’re contemplating the university vs apprenticeship decision. 

  • Limited to a specific industry

The majority, if not all of the apprenticeship programs on offer are tied to a specific industry. This means that your degree will also be industry-specific. If you opt for an apprenticeship degree, it should be a vocation that you are passionate about and committed to. University degrees offer broader scope for employment upon completion of the degree since there are many different fields and industries you could go into afterward. 

  • Funding

Apprenticeships are funded mainly by the government. There are specific criteria that applicants have to meet to qualify for funding. These include: 

  • Aged 16-24
  • Not in full-time education
  • May be subject to qualifications such as A Levels

If you aren't sure about what path to go down after leaving school, there are plenty of options available beyond taking on a degree apprenticeship or university. For example, the Young Enterprise Scheme is a programme that might set you on the right path – or, alternatively, taking a gap year could help you decide what you’d most like to do in the future. 


Is an apprenticeship degree worth it? 


Apprenticeship degrees are certainly worth the time and effort for people who believe they are well-suited to this type of degree. Most employers value an apprenticeship degree equally as high as they do a university degree. 

Also, the fact that someone with an apprenticeship degree also comes with work experience is a great bonus in the eyes of many employers. Apprenticeships give young people a nationally recognised, industry-leading qualification and make them a valuable recruitment candidate, so it’s a very viable option for many people. 

If you opt for an apprenticeship degree, working in your chosen field every day while learning will give you scope to hone your talents and distinguish which parts you’d like to continue or prefer not to work in. 

This means that when you finish your apprenticeship degree, you’ll have a well-rounded idea of the job you most want to do, which may put you a step ahead of university graduates who haven’t yet entered the professional world and gained practical experience. ✔️


Is being an apprentice a good job?


Traditionally apprenticeships were thought of as quite practical, “dirty” jobs, such as mechanic or building work. Nowadays, that couldn't be further from the truth. Being an apprentice can be a fantastic experience in which you get plenty of experience in your chosen field. 

During an apprenticeship degree, you will receive on-the-job support and training, both from your employer and colleagues and from your college or university. You will have the chance to work in different areas within your chosen industry and gain hands-on knowledge and experience. You’ll have the opportunity to hone your talents while working towards national qualifications that are industry-recognised by employers. 

If you choose to do a degree apprenticeship, you will get to do all of that while obtaining the same qualification you would receive at university. Apprenticeship pay is modest, but then again, you won't be putting yourself into levels of debt associated with taking a degree. 

Compared to university graduates who often leave their university with high student debt – the average student graduating from English universities in 2021 will have incurred over £45 000 of student loan debt –  those undertaking a degree apprenticeship may be far better off financially. 💰

If you choose an industry that you are passionate about, an apprenticeship could be the best job in the world for you, allowing you to earn while you learn and gain valuable experience. 


Why shouldn't you do an apprenticeship?


There are lots of reasons why pupils getting ready to leave school and plan for the future shouldn't rush into an apprenticeship program. The university vs apprenticeship decision is a big one, and it’s wise to consider reasons why an apprenticeship may not be right for you. 

It's important to remember that the choices you make now could potentially impact the rest of your life. Rushing into an apprenticeship you aren’t sure about just for the sake of it is never a good idea, so it’s crucial that you consider your options and try to make the right decision.

You shouldn't take on an apprenticeship if you’re unsure of the kind of job you want to work in. An apprenticeship will pin you to one specific industry (as do specialised degrees). If you aren't quite sure what type of job you’d like to have in the future, a broader spectrum degree is a better option. 

If you feel that you may not be ready to fully commit to the world of work yet, then an apprenticeship isn’t a good option. It may be a great way to get a degree without being weighed down by student loans, but you have to keep in mind that apprentices are paid less than their colleagues because they’re not fully qualified yet. 

You may find that this can become demoralising. If you aren't prepared to accept the fact that you’ll be working for less pay, an apprenticeship is probably not the best bet for you. When contemplating apprenticeship or uni, keep in mind that this is a commitment that will last for several years. 

Leaving school and going straight to the world of work can be a big shock to the system. The workplace expects apprentices to be accountable for their actions and responsible for their job and learning. If you have never had a job before, you may find it all a bit overwhelming, particularly when paired with a degree.

That's not to say that you can't do an apprenticeship if you've never held a job before, but it's worth considering whether you are mature enough to commit to it as a long-term, day-to-day reality. If you aren't quite ready to decide what you’d like to do, maybe a gap year in which you can gain experience by working or travelling could be a good option to consider.


Don't rush your decision


Apprenticeships are a great way to study for a degree and get hands-on training in the industry of your choice. They are practical, vocational and you will gain valuable experience that you can't get at university alone. Before you take on the responsibility of a degree apprenticeship or university, it's worth noting what's involved and researching it thoroughly

Jumping headfirst into an apprenticeship that isn't suited to you and what you’d like to do in the future could end up putting you back a step. There is no doubt that school leavers have a massive decision on their hands regardless of their chosen path. Degree apprenticeships could be the ideal solution if you would prefer to earn while you learn and feel that university isn't right. 

Whatever route you decide to take, make sure it is for the right reasons and that you’ve thought all your options through.