Apprenticeship vs. University

University or an apprenticeship. Decisions, decisions. One isn’t “better” than the other; you just need to figure out which suits you. Here are a few pointers to help.


Going down the apprenticeship route doesn’t mean turning your back on a university education. Apprentices can go on to university and study for higher qualifications.

And apprenticeships aren’t for those who “don’t have the grades” to go to university. There are some challenging apprenticeship schemes out there, with tough application processes and fierce competition for places.

They are a genuine alternative to university for those who want to go straight into work.

Many companies want bright school leavers eager to head straight into the world of work - so even if you get top grades, don't feel obliged to go to university.

Consider your career aspirations

Remember there are certain careers only accessible via a degree. If you’re desperate to be a doctor, there’s unfortunately no apprenticeship for that.

Other occupations are just as accessible via apprenticeships. An accountancy school leaver programme could comprise two years of a higher apprenticeship, followed by study for the ACA.

This way takes five years to reach chartered accountancy status, where a graduate might take six.

If you don’t know what career you want to pursue, studying at university can help keep your career options open, while gaining a qualification.

There’s also the issue of missing out on the full university experience. Not just the social side of things, full-time academic study for three years – which can be very fulfilling.

Money matters

Money is another important factor. Apprenticeship training is free, and you are paid while for your work.

University is (famously) not free: fees can be hefty, and you also have to factor in living costs.

There’s plenty of financial support in the form of loans, grants and bursaries from the government, but it isn’t the same as earning a wage as an apprentice.

What’s the rush?

If you’re doing A-levels, you can apply to universities and apprenticeship schemes simultaneously; you don’t have to narrow down your options yet. 

This gives you a bit of breathing space to make a decision. 

Remember, it’s your choice. Don’t do something just because everyone’s telling you to.

Take time to do your research, talk to people who’ve done an apprenticeship and to those who’ve been to university, and consider your own personal motivations.


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