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

For teenagers, deciding what to do when it’s time to leave school is always a tough choice. There is a lot of pressure on young people to choose a path that will impact them for the rest of their lives. As parents, you’ll want to give your child the best guidance on what to do – whether they’ve been struggling in school and want to take on something more practical, or whether they’ve got their heart set on university, it’s wise to speak to your child about the options available to them. 

The apprenticeship vs university debate has been going on for a long time, but which option would suit your teenager best? This article looks at some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding degree apprenticeships to help you and your teenager 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 and esteem 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 – your teen should carefully consider their 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 your teenager will also gain hands-on experience with an employer if they 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 teen’s 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 your teenager is unsure whether they’d like to go to university or take a different route, it’s important for you as a parent to help them make the right decision


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 your teen on the job training as well as teaching them theory, meaning they’ll be better prepared for their professional life. 

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

Employers also value candidates who have work experience, so a degree apprenticeship could set your child apart from other candidates. It shows the candidate has a strong work ethic and that they’re used to working in their chosen field or industry. They come as ready-made employees who don’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 commonly taken on compared with a university degree, you may find yourself wondering, “Are apprenticeships worth it? Could an apprenticeship be better than university for my child?” The right choice for you and your teen is whatever they feel the most drawn to and what would make sense given their interests and future career goals – whether they choose an apprenticeship or university, they’ll be able to forge their 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 teenager’s degree will also be industry-specific. If your child opts for an apprenticeship degree, it should be a vocation that they 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 the graduate could go into. 

  • 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 your teenager isn’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 your child on the right path – or taking a gap year could help them decide what they’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 your teenager opts for an apprenticeship degree, working in their chosen field every day while learning will give them scope to hone their talents and distinguish which parts they like the most and what areas they would prefer not to work in. 

This means that when they finish their apprenticeship degree, they’ll have a well-rounded idea of the job they most want to do, which may put them 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 young learners will get plenty of experience in their chosen field. 

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

If your teenager chooses to do a degree apprenticeship, they will get to do all of that while obtaining the same qualification they would receive at university. Apprenticeship pay is modest, but then again, your child won't be putting themselves into debt either trying to get their degree. Compared to university graduates who often leave their university with high student debt, those undertaking a degree apprenticeship may be set up better financially. In fact, the average student graduating from English universities in 2021 will have incurred over £45 000 of student loan debt – and an apprenticeship will enable young learners to avoid being saddled with debt as they achieve a degree. 💰

If your teenager chooses an industry that they are passionate about, an apprenticeship could be the best job in the world for them, allowing them to earn while they 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 for a lot of teens, and it’s wise to consider reasons why an apprenticeship may not be right for your child. 

It's important to remember that the choices your child makes now could potentially impact the rest of their life. Rushing into an apprenticeship they aren’t sure about just for the sake of it is never a good idea, so it’s crucial that you talk this over with them and help them make a good decision. 

Keep in mind that while parents can guide their children and offer important input, the decisions regarding your teen’s future will ultimately be made by them – so avoid being a helicopter parent and empower your teen to make up their own mind! 💪

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

If your teenager feels that they may not be ready to fully commit to the world of work yet, then an apprenticeship isn’t a good option for them. 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. 

Your child may find that this can become demoralising. If they aren't prepared to accept the fact that they’ll be working for less pay, an apprenticeship is probably not the best bet for them. When contemplating apprenticeship or uni with your teen, 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 your teen has never had a job before, they may find it all a bit overwhelming, particularly when paired with a degree.

That's not to say that your child can't do an apprenticeship if they've never held a job, but it's worth considering whether they are mature enough to commit to it as a long-term, day to day reality. If your teen isn’t quite ready to decide what they’d like to do at their young age, maybe a gap year in which they can gain experience by working or travelling could be a good option for them?


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 your teenager will gain valuable experience that they can't get at university alone. Before your child takes 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 your teen and what they’d like to do in the future could end up putting them 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 your child would prefer to earn while they learn and feel that university isn't for them. 

As a parent, it’s a great idea to research the different options available to your child well and discuss the possibilities with them at length. Whatever route your teen decides to take, make sure it is for the right reasons and that they’ve thought it through. 

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