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University vs Apprenticeships - Pros and Cons

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University Vs Apprenticeships

University vs Apprenticeships - Pros and Cons

Making a decision isn’t always easy...especially one as big as this. The knowledge that your choice will affect years of your life makes the process even harder. 

But, when you’ve set yourself a goal to get the right qualifications for the job of your dreams, you must eventually reach a tipping point.

A decision has to be made, that's not to say you won't go down a different path later in life, but this is a big step towards the career of your dreams!

Whether you’re hoping to create a progressive career for yourself in either marketing, digital, or technology, here’s everything you need to know about university vs apprenticeships.

The Pros and Cons of Apprenticeships

What was the school experience like for you? 

  • Did you hate it? 

  • Did you feel stifled in a classroom environment?

  • Did you hate the times when there was only one correct answer? 

Would you prefer a little more freedom?
Apprenticeships are great for anyone who needs an engaging and challenging environment to thrive. So, if you consider boredom your greatest enemy, and the idea of spending hours in a lecture hall sounds like your worst nightmare, consider an apprenticeship.

Pro: Earn while you learn

Apprenticeships are a great option for someone who would like (or needs) a consistent source of income as they study. 

Con: Low national minimum wage

The UK’s national minimum wage for apprentices starts at just £4.81 an hour. Though technology, digital and marketing all have higher averages than this (at around £16 according to UK Talent), depending on your age and background, you may struggle to make ends meet.

Pro: No debt

If you are able to cover all of your expenses, you’ll have no need to borrow large amounts of money just to complete a course. Average student loans for university, on the other hand, total around £45,000, which realistically the majority of people will have to take out to complete a degree. (Source: Commons Library) However, repayments are automatically taken out of your future earnings usually at an affordable percentage depending on your salary level, but the more you earn...the more you pay.

Con: Lack of external support

But, through university, there’s a structure of support channels. In an apprenticeship, you’re “on your own” (depending on the companies individual apprenticeship scheme)

Pro: High flexibility

The majority of mandatory apprenticeship modules can be completed at a time convenient to you. 

Con: Less accountability

At university, if you miss a deadline, your grade suffers. With apprenticeships, it will be up to you to make every moment count (with a little help from a mentor). 

Pro: Achieve nationally recognised certifications

There are hundreds of different options for apprenticeships in the marketing, digital and technology industries. All are nationally recognised by the UK government. 

Con: Job descriptions request degrees

In 2022, many employers still have a university-bias. They may prioritise candidates with a degree over an apprenticeship course they are unfamiliar with.

Pro: Real-life experience

Apprenticeships are a wonderful opportunity to build up a portfolio of your work. Over time, you’ll be able to build confidence in the value you have to offer to a company and present yourself better as a result.

The Pros and Cons of University

On the other hand, perhaps you loved the structure of the school day. 

  1. You knew what was expected of you and when.

  2. You completed your greatest work when under pressure.

  3. You loved having clear deadlines to work towards.

  4. You were motivated by grades. 

  5. You took detailed notes that you revised in your own time.

If this sounds like you, a degree from university could be calling your name.

Pro: Become an expert

University allows you to become an expert in a subject matter. As a result, you’ll then benefit from an above-average salary and a 35% higher lifetime earning potential (Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies).

Con: No experience

Some graduates report a divide between the knowledge they’ve generated and the opportunities provided to apply their skills in real-life situations. Unless you’re willing to take a 4-year course with a placement year, this could be you. 

Pro: Personal responsibility

Only you can control how well you do at university.

Con: Be one of many

Resources (including the lecturers themselves) have to be shared with hundreds of different university students. In apprenticeships, you’ll have direct access to a mentor who has your success in their best interest.

Pro: Gain entry into a career path

Degrees are arguably the best way to score entry-level positions. Through university, you’ll have the chance to network with professionals and develop the skills required by many jobs.

Con: No guarantees

Graduate schemes are often very competitive, and there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to find a position. However, the marketing, technology and digital sectors are all currently facing a skills shortage, so don’t let this con set you back too much. 

Pro: Part-time commitment

Studying doesn’t have to take up 100% of your time. If you wanted to, you could attend an Open University to get into a specific field while still working a full-time and rewarding job elsewhere.

Con: Burnout

Even though university isn’t a full-time commitment, it still requires a lot of self-regulated study. Don’t put too much on your plate.

Pro: Social

Many people are drawn to the wider social side university life, and many say they 'find themselves'. Living away from home with peers, having access to just about every type of free sports/social/like-minded clubs and societies (and of course the nights out) can have a huge positive impact on you, help you to build confidence and gain wider social skills to help in your future life/career. Although in an apprenticeship you will still have your friends and lots of fun, you won't have the same opportunities to try out different activities and sports for free or mix with such a wide variety of people

Deciding on University vs Apprenticeships

Balancing the pros and cons of university and apprenticeships can be a minefield. You need a deep understanding of how you learn best and decide what course of study sounds the most appealing.

To narrow down your options and make the best decision for the career you want, ask yourself:

  • What was my schooling experience like? 

  • How do I learn?

  • What is the current state of my finances?

  • What time commitments do I have?

  • What does my field prefer?

The answers will point you in the right direction. 

For some extra help, feel free to reach out to our team at Forward Role. Check out our brand-new Candidate Hub for the latest career advice, and have a look throughour latest blogs! Our expert recruiters can help you decide the best course of action to stand out in your industry. 

Working with Forward Role

For help expanding your horizons and driving change in your industry through intelligent recruitment, contact us!  At Forward Role, you’ll find genuine marketing, digital and tech experts who care passionately about delivering for their clients and candidates.

If you're a candidate, we'll treat you the way we'd like to be treated when making an important life decision like moving jobs. If you're a client, you can expect exceptional delivery and communication as a matter of course.