Deciding what to do after your A’level is a big decision. You might be asking yourself: “Do I enter the world of work through apprenticeship, or should I go to university?” The degree versus apprenticeship debate is long-running and choosing your next educational move requires careful consideration. Higher education continues to be a popular option despite the rise in tuition fees, with an all-time high of 241,585 18-year-olds across the UK accepted onto degree courses in 2017. However, attitudes to apprenticeships have also evolved and they are now recognised as an equal alternative to university. The main benefits of each option can be summarised as follows:
Going to university:
You will be able to pick from thousands of courses. A degree will leave your career more open-ended in terms of future opportunities and you’ll acquire a whole range of soft skills, transferrable to any job role.
Doing an apprenticeship:
You will be gaining valuable on-the-job experience and earning money as you study. You are likely to be exempt from paying tuition fees. Here we weigh up the benefits of each option in more detail to help make a good decision. If you are still unsure, be comforted by the fact that it isn’t a case of choosing university or apprenticeship – it is possible to do both.
What subjects are on offer?
If you choose to study at university you will be able to pick from thousands of courses. This variety can be useful if you are unsure of what to do after graduation as you can opt for a broader subject and keep your options open. You might also be surprised at the scope of apprenticeships on offer. They are no longer dominated by the manual trades and the engineering sector, and instead span a range of industries including accountancy, IT, law, media, publishing and journalism. Soon you will have even more choice, as the Government has pledged to create a further three million apprenticeships by 2020.
What will I learn?
Although vocational degrees are coming up, university is primarily focused on education and research. Following a theory-based approach, you will learn about your subject through lectures, seminars and workshops, and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. You will then head out into the world of work to test your knowledge and put into practice what you’ve learned. Apprenticeships appeal to those looking for alternatives to university as they take a more practical approach to learning. You’ll focus on training for a specific career and learn your trade by actually doing the job. You will gain hands-on experience and have the opportunity to apply your skills immediately. On completion you could hold an NVQ, HNC or HND, while higher apprenticeships can lead to a foundation degree and degree apprenticeships can result in a full honours degree.
University education allows you to target a broader range of careers than you can through an apprenticeship, but both will stand you in good stead when it comes to looking for a job. Apprenticeships are restrictive in the sense that the training and skills that you gain are specific to a particular industry or role. However, if you’re confident in your career choice, you will be well equipped to take advantage of apprenticeship opportunities. Bear in mind that in sectors such as healthcare, business and science, you will need a degree to enter certain professions. Other sectors benefit from the practical, on-the-job training that higher and degree apprenticeships provide, such as roles in engineering and manufacturing, property and construction and the media. Find out more about engineering apprenticeships, or browse our job profiles to discover whether you will need to go to university or an apprenticeship for your chosen career.
How much will it cost?
Apprenticeships undoubtedly win this round. In most cases, you do not have to pay anything. On the other hand, studying for a degree will cost you a few millions of shillings in tuition fees, plus additional living expenses. Then there are those who will have got a government education loan which they still must pay at the end of their study.
What do employers think?
Both methods of study are highly regarded by employers. University is respected for the depth of knowledge and transferrable skills it provides, while apprenticeships are valued for their practical nature and real-life work experience opportunities. A number of organisations are offering apprenticeship schemes as employers come to view this method of training as a viable alternative to a university degree. If you have ambitions to work for a particular company, it might be helpful to find out what they look for in a candidate — qualifications or experience? This could help when making your decision. It is a tough choice to make but be advised to consider what qualifications you already hold, what skills you want, your finances and what you’d like to do in the future. Do some research and choose the best option for you. You could work towards an apprenticeship and then go to university or similarly get a degree and then do an apprenticeship.
Adopted from Online sources