• By Check-a-Salary
  • Posted Tuesday 05 th October 2021

Apprenticeship or Degree

Having spent most of your life at school, what to do once you've completed your A-Levels can sometimes be a difficult decision.  Do you carry on in education and complete a degree at university, or do you head into the world of work and start earning some money?  Another option, and growing in popularity, are degree apprenticeships, where you learn on the job, whilst also earning money and also study for a degree on a part time basis.  These degree apprenticeships are increasingly seen as a valid, and equal, alternative to university and are therefore worth considering.

So, which one should you go for?

University Degree

  • Universities offer a sometimes, bewildering array of degree options.  Some of these are vocational, whilst others are more generalist degree options.  There is no shortage of degree options and universities giving you choice and opportunities.
  • Certain careers, such as law and medicine, require a degree in a specific field, which must be obtained through study at an approved university.  
  • Generalist degrees, such as English literature, are valuable to employers in other fields, as they teach planning and research, participation in discussions, independent working, research and analysis.
  • Studying for a general degree will enable you to keep your options open, with regard to future career opportunities.  
  • Having a university degree under your belt will enable you to target a wide range of potential future employers.  Some employers don't actually care what subject your degree is in, just that you've got one.
  • Having completed your bachelor's degree, you may have the option to study for a master's degree and post-doctoral degree (PhD).
  • Most students will need to pay up to £9250 per year for tuition at university.  If you're studying far from home, you will also need to factor in living costs, including rent and household bills.  You won't need to repay your tuition fees immediately if you apply for a government loan, which is then repaid at a rate worked out on your earnings.

Degree Apprenticeships

  • There are now more apprenticeships available than ever before, as employers have come to see the value that they can add to their business.  Degree apprenticeships are only available in vocational subjects, as you would expect, and sectors such as engineering, construction and nuclear are all prime degree apprenticeship sectors.  Other options are increasingly becoming available too though, and it's no longer unusual to find degree apprenticeships available in nursing, financial services and social work.
  • They are mainly aimed at school leavers and are therefore a comparative alternative to studying at university after you leave school.  However, mature students may also be considered.
  • If you are unable to get onto a degree apprenticeship course, perhaps because your school grades aren't high enough, you can study for a lower-level apprenticeship.
  • The structure of degree apprenticeships will vary enormously across the different sectors, and between different employers in the same sector, so it pays to do your research.
  • Degree apprenticeships will tie you somewhat to your employer for the duration of the course.  It's therefore important to be certain of your choice.  They will also tie you to the sector in which you are studying, which will be very specific.  Again, be sure to do your research before committing to a degree apprenticeship.
  • The great news is that you won't pay for your training or tuition as your employer will cover all costs.  
  • Whilst you will have to cover your living costs (and degree apprenticeships are not eligible for student loans), you will get paid for a degree apprenticeship and you will receive at least the minimum wage.  You will gain a good amount of independence doing a degree apprenticeship as you will have all the responsibility of a paid employee.
  • You won't be guaranteed a job at the end of your apprenticeship, but you will emerge with not only a degree, but also a huge amount of industry-specific training and experience.  This will make you an attractive candidate for other companies in your sector.
  • Degree apprenticeships offer you the best of both worlds, as you can continue studying, whilst also starting to earn money.

Whether you opt for a university degree course, or a degree apprenticeship, both are valued by employers, and degree apprenticeships are increasingly being seen as a feasible alternative to the traditional university degree courses.  Before you commit to either though, it's vital to take the time to fully investigate the pros and cons of both and ultimately consider the course that you would like your career path to take. Whilst we've highlighted many of the positives of each option above, there will be many more which are unique to your personal circumstances and career aspirations.  


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