Apprenticeship Vs Degree: The Lowdown

Toby Green on 15 May 2019
Apprenticeship Vs Degree: The Lowdown

Deciding where to go after sixth form or college can definitely be confusing. By outlining the pros and cons of both apprenticeships and degrees, this information might help you decide the best route to get into your dream career! 

Leaving college can be a daunting prospect for most. Unless you're one of those students lucky enough to have a clear idea of what you want to do, it can be confusing to decide the direction you want to go in the future. With so many options available, from full-time degree courses, part-time courses, to apprenticeships, we've outlined the pros and cons of each path to help you make your decision.

University Pros

Social Life

Let's face it, as much as you're going to university to study a course which fascinates you, a big motivation for going to uni is often the social side of things.

This is a large aspect of why many people enjoy university so much, as through living in halls and spending time with your coursemates, you'll likely form friendships which last you a lifetime.


Finally, you're free! No longer do you have to do what your parents tell you, and you can stay in bed til 2 PM judgement free.

In all seriousness, living by yourself can be challenging as you no longer have the immediate support network that many people enjoy at home. Despite this, most people find it a valuable experience in preparing for adult life, and if you're looking for your own space then you'll surely appreciate the chance to live alone.

Expert Help

By attending university, you'll most likely be taught by experts in your chosen field. This gives you the benefit of being able to learn from the best, and also have an insight into a subject which might take you years to develop independently, if at all.

Apprenticeship Pros

Earn While You Learn

An obvious advantage of undertaking an apprenticeship, as opposed to a degree is rather than running up a seemingly endless debt, you actually make money. In many cases, this is advantageous, as this essentially gives you a 3 to 4-year head start in earnings rather than those undertaking an undergraduate course.

Of course, the counter-argument is that university graduates can pursue higher earning careers in the long-term: however, with apprenticeships available in most fields nowadays, this isn't completely true across the board. Indeed, many graduates do not go onto high paying jobs after university.

Real-World Experience

Getting months of actual experience and training in the profession you want to go into is incredibly valuable, and within some industries is actually preferable to a degree. This is, of course, dependent on the field which you want to get into, but having experience on your CV can be a powerful tool for securing that dream job further down the road.

The Head Start

While many spend their late teens and early twenties going through their undergraduate studies, taking up an apprenticeship can give you the advantage of getting familiar with the daily runnings of your field, networking with colleagues and being established in a career before students have even graduated from university.

University Cons


Ah yes, this one is always a hot topic! If you're reading this you're most likely already aware of the "crippling" debt students are saddled with. Unfortunately, for the most part, this is true, and university students in England and Wales can be expected to pay upwards of £9,000 per year for their course via Student Loans (the average student accrues around £50,000 worth of debt from tuition fees and loans by the time they graduate).

Living on a Budget

Eating baked beans at university is somewhat of a stereotype, but for the most part, it is also true (unless you're a classy Student Hut reader). Unfortunately living by yourself is not a good way to save money, and between forking out for rent, bills, food and those endless late-nights out, uni students tend to be pretty broke.

You'll Probably Do Less Learning Than You Expect

If you don't enjoy partying, you may find uni life difficult, to say the least.

With thousands of young people living on top of each other, there'll always be an excuse to have a night out. While this might sound ideal for some of you, the prevalent university drinking culture can prove challenging for those who actually want to study and are struggling with settling into a new environment.

Apprenticeship Cons

Social Life

Unlike the first year of university, which for the majority will mostly consist of partying and making new friends, apprenticeships can be long hours and hard work.

As you're going to be in for way more early mornings and late evenings than your counterparts in formal education, you can expect this to impact on any potential nights out.

No Crazy Holidays

Say goodbye to the possibility of those travelling dreams: once you undertake an apprenticeship, you're in for the long haul.

Typically your employer will give you a certain allowance of holiday days per year, but you're unlikely to be able to enjoy those months-long breaks that your uni friends are going on.

Added Responsibility

While university students have a lot on their plate in terms of deadlines, essays and other work to be done, none of them are working full-time for an employer. With this comes certain responsibilities, and overall you'll be treated like a fully fledged adult.

Remember if you're prone to being late or a no-show, you're not wasting your own time and money like you would be at university: you're wasting your employer's.

Overall, it's impossible to say one is better than the other when comparing degree courses or apprenticeships. In truth, this comes down to the individual, and what your own expectations and goals are for your career. Either way, do your research and take the time to make a considered decision. If you take your time and think it over properly, there's no doubt you'll end up making the right decision.

Toby Green
Toby Green on 15 May 2019