Exploring apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships vs university: which is best for you?

By Sarah Chisnall Jul 16, 2019

Attitudes towards apprenticeships have evolved significantly over the past few years. Despite university still being a popular further education choice, more and more alternatives are appearing. Degree apprenticeships can offer the same level qualifications as a university degree, but the style of learning and the experience they offer can be quite different.

As the government has pledged to have created an additional 3 MILLION apprenticeships by 2020, the possibilities really are endless. However, universities also offer thousands of different courses that can suit many different career paths and interests. 

All these options can make choosing just one a very tough decision; how do you know which is the best option? 

Weighing up the different factors involved in further education can help with getting started.

FACTORS - Uni vs. Degree Apprenticeships


UNIVERSITY: Usually, starting uni means relocating to another city, which means independent living! If you go to uni, you’ll most likely move into some form of hall accommodation. There are different types of accommodation that can help you ease into independence; catered accommodation is ideal for those who don't feel too confident in the kitchen! 

Another aspect of university is how you end up living with other people in the same boat as you. Uni halls normally also have designated older students whose job it is to take care of you and help address any problems you may be having. University is a gentler way of gaining independence while still having a support network to fall back on if things get tough.

DEGREE APPRENTICESHIP: It can be harder to relocate or move out for an apprenticeship as they don’t offer the same accommodation support that uni does. Therefore it is common for apprentices to stay living at home, at least for the first year. However, earning your own money definitely grants you independence in other ways.



UNIVERSITY: You’re probably sick of hearing about the massive amount of debt uni students get stuck with by now. Sadly, it is true that University is a hugely expensive endeavour. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy (lucky you!), you won’t be able to get through it without racking up some kind of debt. To learn more about student finance, THIS is a great link to start with. All this being said, it is still very possible to get through university and life beyond without your student debt causing much grief. You only have to repay your loan once you earn £25,000 a year or more. HERE are all the guidelines on repaying your student loan.

DEGREE APPRENTICESHIP: The ‘earn as you learn’ aspect of apprenticeships is one of the main factors in why people choose to do one. You start earning a living from day one and your employer pays for tuition. The average salary for a degree apprenticeship is about £18,000 per year which is certainly not bad!


Social Life

UNIVERSITY: When it comes to social life, university comes out on top. With even the most contact hours-heavy courses, lectures only take up a fraction of your weekly timetable, leaving you to manage your own time. Societies and living with hundreds of other people your age also means you’re constantly meeting new people and there is a constant stream of fun events aimed specifically at students to enjoy. You can easily be out every night of the week as a uni student.

DEGREE APPRENTICESHIP: Apprenticeships immerse you far more into the ‘real world’ and that means interacting with people from a variety of walks of life and ages. Though degree apprenticeships don’t offer societies and nights out every day of the week, there is still a social element to be had; many companies have their own socials and pub nights.


Career Development

UNIVERSITY: Many people will drill into you that you can get any job with a degree. Whilst this is stretching the truth a little (There are many different factors that determine what jobs you can get), it is true that holding a degree does keep your employment options pretty open. Of course, certain degrees strongly point in the direction of one career (i.e. nursing leads to.. well, nursing), but generally speaking, you develop many transferable 'soft' skills in university that can be applied to lots of jobs. 

In terms of career development, however, it’s what you make it. University does give you the chance to get work experience and the long summers are a great chance to do some internships… but it is certainly the case with more traditional academic courses that you don’t really learn many hard skills that will help with any career development. The financial strain of university often means taking on a part time job, but it’s unlikely it will be something related to your desired future career.

DEGREE APPRENTICESHIP: In a degree apprenticeship, you’re working from day one! Another benefit of an apprenticeship is the support you’ll gain from your colleagues, who can coach you through your course. Learning on the job means you are fully immersed in the job you're training for and gaining many employable skills. In terms of career development, it’s undoubtedly that degree apprenticeships have much more to offer!

When considering career progression opportunities, however, it’s also important to choose wisely. The freedom in options that a university degree offers is a stark contrast to what a degree apprenticeship offers. As they are vocational qualifications, apprenticeships often take you down a specific career path.



Weighing up the factors between university and degree apprenticeships may help, but it’s ultimately down your own preferences to decide which option to go for. 

Some aspects you might want to consider are:

What Is Your Working Style; How Do You Learn?

Are you a more theoretical or practical learner? If you learn best by doing and struggle to focus on learning anything theoretical, an apprenticeship might be the better option for you. On the other hand, if you like essays and prefer a more traditional style of learning, University might suit you better.

  • Did You Like School?

Whether you did or didn’t, can you pinpoint the reasons why? Although University is different from school in a lot of ways, it still follows a similar structure in the way of classes, teaching and learning. If you didn’t enjoy the institutionalised setting or just feel ready for a change of scene, an apprenticeship may be the one for you.

  • What Are Your Priorities?

Look back over the factors listed above. If you’re keen to start earning money and want to get stuck into a job as soon as possible, an apprenticeship is the way to go. On the other hand, if your top priority is academic-related and you don’t mind living off a budget, or you just don't feel ready to enter the world of work yet and want the 'uni experience' uni might be the better choice.

  • Do You Know What Job You Want?

This is an important question to ask yourself regardless of what choice you make. If you’re unsure of what career you want to pursue, then the adaptability of a university degree will keep more options open than a vocational qualification such as a degree apprenticeship.

  • Are You Ready To Start Work?

Finally, another thing to consider is whether you’re ready for work. For a lot of people, going to university gave them that extra few years they needed to grow and develop as a person. If you don’t quite feel ready, university will be a much gentler way of entering world of work. On the flipside, a degree apprenticeship is perfect if you just can’t wait to get stuck into the start of your career!

In Conclusion: Put Your Own Needs First

No matter which path you choose, nothing will ever be final. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to change your mind. It’s never too late to have a change of heart and no matter which option you choose, there is a lot you can do to steer yourself towards the career that you want. It’s equally important to note that you are in control of your own employability; whether you take a degree apprenticeship or go to university, you can take action to get the career you want!

If you did choose to go for an apprenticeship, check out our guide on how to apply!


You may also like
Exploring apprenticeships

Why uni was never right for me

By Dom Cowley Nov 10, 2020
Exploring apprenticeships

Apply for an apprenticeship, but expect to get it wrong (at first)

By William Pearce Sep 17, 2020
Exploring apprenticeships

Your A level results day kit list

By Sarah Chisnall Aug 10, 2020
Exploring apprenticeships

Work it!

By Fraser Graham Jun 3, 2020