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Apprenticeship Vs University

You’ve just left school, college or sixth form and are uncertain what to do next. You can’t decide between going straight into employment and choosing a route to further education. You might have received your A Level results and achieved enough UCAS points to go to University, or maybe you didn’t do as well as you thought and are wondering what your options are. Regardless of your situation, you should read the below facts before making the decision that is going to shape your future. 

There is no right or wrong choice, you just need to figure out which route suits you.

Don’t turn your back on a university education

Going down the apprenticeship route doesn’t mean turning your back on a university education. Did you know that there are various levels of apprenticeship you can undertake and higher level apprenticeships hold the same weight as a degree? explains, ‘After completing an apprenticeship, you could continue to train for an advanced, higher, or degree level apprenticeship, or a related vocational qualification. Alternatively, you could go on to university, or take a professional qualification that leads to a specific job role.’

Check out our Progressional Status which explains all the different apprenticeship level and how you can experience a profound education.

Forget the myths

There is a myth that apprenticeships are for people who ‘don’t have the grades’ to go to college or university, but this isn’t true. Apprenticeships have entry requirements, and functional skills in English and Math must be complete before being offered an apprenticeship.

Typically, for an Intermediate Apprenticeship you will need a number of GCSEs grades A* to C with, ideally, English and Maths being two of those subjects. If you require help with English and Maths, you can opt-in for Functional Skills tuition while undergoing your apprenticeship.

For an Advanced Apprenticeship you will need at least 5 GCSEs with grades A* to C with, ideally, English and Maths being two of those subjects and some employers will prefer you to also have some for of Level 3 qualifications such as A Levels or a BTEC.

Your career doesn’t have to stop after an Advanced Apprenticeship. If you want to go on to study at a higher level you will find many Higher Education institutions and colleges will value your skills and knowledge.

More and more employers are also now offering Higher Apprenticeships which are equivalent to the first year of university level study, and you might find there is an opportunity at this level in your sector. For more information on Apprenticeship levels, visit Career Pilot.

Avoid debt and earn while you learn

Apprenticeships mean you can earn a salary and gain a qualification at the same time. All apprentices receive the national minimum wage, paid holiday, and bank holidays.

The apprentice minimum hourly rate is £3.50 for those under 19 or in the first year of their apprentice. That’s £105 per week for someone who typically works 30 hours. And because wage is down to the employer’s discretion, many employers choose to pay significantly more!

Once you have completed the first year of your apprenticeship and are over 19, you will be entitled to the minimum wage of your age.

On the other hand, for home/EU students the maximum fee chargeable by an English university is £9,000 per year in 2016. You can apply to Student Finance England for a loan to cover your tuition fees, which you will start re-paying once you earn more than £21,000 per year.

With media headlines shouting about £50,000 student debt that is only getting bigger and bigger as living loans increase, it’s no wonder people are rethinking their options!

Don’t struggle to secure a job after graduating

According to, ‘Young graduates are struggling to find work that matches their skills with figures showing more than one-in-three in low-skilled jobs.

‘Official figures have revealed a 2.2 per cent drop in the number of 21 to 30-year-old graduates in skilled work compared with a year earlier. About one-in-five graduates were in low or medium skilled jobs on average across the whole of the working population.

‘The unemployment rate for graduates was 3.1 per cent, 2.3 per cent for workers with a postgraduate qualification and 6.4 per cent for non-graduates.’

On the other hand, apprentices are guaranteed to be placed with an employer for the duration of their apprenticeship. A typical apprenticeship lasts 12 month, and for that duration you’ll be working closely with a top quality employer. You’ll gain job specific skills whilst working with experienced people, and the possibility of being kept on and progressing further is high if you impress.

Never waste valuable time studying for a question that might never appear

University, in so many ways, is not like school. To a certain extent, you have the freedom to study when, where and how you want. There are no assemblies, no uniforms and no need to ever touch an A-Level maths book again (unless you want to become Maths Teacher). However, the way you are assessed for your efforts isn’t so different.

Depending on your degree, university courses are generally a mix of lecturers, seminars and tutorials. You’ll need to back up everything you learn through coursework, essays, exams, work strategies and a lengthy dissertation, all which take a lot of time and effort.

If you’re fed up of revising for something that has a small chance of coming up in an exam, you should think about becoming an apprentice.

Apprenticeships are assessed via a range of methods which could include direct observations in the workplace, electronic portfolios, guided discussions and written assignments (a lot less than a 20,000 word dissertation).

It’s time to make the decision!

Apprenticeship training is specifically tailored to ensure you develop the skills the employer wants, giving apprentices a real advantage in the workplace. This means that apprentices not only have better long term salary prospects, but they also have excellent progression opportunities, whether looking to study further or climb the ranks within the workplace.

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.

If you want further information on the options available to you, chat with a member of our Learner Engagement team on 0191 587 4570 or email They’ll work with you to explore your interests and find the best option for you! 


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Profound Inspiration: "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall." - Ralph Waldo Emerson