There has been a long-running debate about whether university education is the best higher education option when compared to apprenticeships, but both options have their advantages and disadvantages. It sometimes depends on your chosen career as to what is the best way to go, but if you are wondering ‘why choose an apprenticeship over a place at university’, let’s look at the pros and cons of both to find out.
Pros and cons of an apprenticeship
An apprenticeship is usually undertaken with a company that has an apprentice programme in place. They are training schemes designed to develop your skills on and off the job. You will be paid while you are an apprentice and will not have to fork out tuition fees to receive your qualification. With trusted names like City & Guilds behind many of the apprenticeships, they are often now considered to be at the same level as a degree. Apprenticeships traditionally tended to be for far more practical careers, but now they are available in many different sectors.
An evident con is that you won’t be able to experience University life. It that is something you are looking for. Other than that, they are a great way to learn a trade or profession while being paid to do so. You can find apprenticeship information from City & Guilds, including all the new apprenticeships standards and the sectors that have training places available.
Pros and cons of university
University study is more education and research-based and most of your learning will be done through lectures, seminars and self-guided study. You will probably have a broader choice of job opportunities with a degree, as employers are sometimes not concerned what your degree is; the fact you have one is enough. Then, of course, there is the financial side to consider. You will not be earning a living while studying at university and you will have to pay tuition fees, as well as accommodation and living costs.
There are some subjects you need a degree for, such as becoming a doctor, a vet, or if you want to work in a scientific field.
The government has schemes in place to help students get through their university years, but most of them graduate with debt and have to do some work while studying just to survive day-to-day.
Jobs where neither are needed
There are some jobs where neither a degree nor what would be classed as an apprenticeship is needed, but you still have to undergo training. For instance, if you want to be a police constable in London, you must complete the Certificate of Knowledge of Policing course before you start your training to become a PC. If you want to be a train driver you have to start as a trainee, and the main qualifications you need are GCSEs in maths and English.
Apprenticeships and degrees becoming similar
There are more degrees in practical subjects than ever, and more apprenticeships in things that at one time you would have needed a degree for, accountancy being a perfect example. As the two different forms of further education become more alike, is it possible that at some point they will become the same thing?
That is unlikely. It would need a total overhaul of the UK higher education system to be able to have all students and apprentices studying in the same way. There are also the differences in people to consider. Some are better suited to doing practical on-the-job training while others prefer the academic route.
With the standard of apprenticeships now so high, it is becoming a great way for students to get the qualifications they need, which explains why so many are choosing an apprenticeship over a place at university.