2 months ago

University vs Apprenticeships

Which is right for you – university study or an Apprenticeship? They’re very different animals, so here are some essential things to think about.

University vs Apprenticeships pros and cons

Cost

University

Fees at UK institutions are at least £9,000 a year, and on top of that, there’s food, accommodation, equipment and having a nice time to pay for. You can get loans to cover a lot of this, but they contribute to an average debt for graduates of over £40,000.

Apprenticeships

Apprentices are paid an average of £170/week according to the National Apprenticeship Service. Some earn more than this, and others a lot less – it varies according to the employer. An Apprenticeship does have costs: transport to work, for example, or rent and bills if you relocate for your job (or if you contribute at home).

Earnings

University vs Apprenticeships earnings

University

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reported in 2015 that grads earn £32,500 a year on average, compared to £22,000 for non-grads. Job site Adzuna even suggested that over a lifetime, grads might earn as much as £500,000 more than non-grads. You’ll need to take into account student loan repayments, of course.

Apprenticeships

Apprentices may have lower starting salaries and lower average earnings, but they may also have less debt. Plus, higher level Apprenticeships bring higher rewards: the Sutton Trust says that completing a Level Five Apprenticeship could put you on a path to earning £52,000 more over your lifetime than grads from universities lower down the league tables.

Qualifications

University

A university degree is valued by many employers all over the world, and for some careers – like medicine – it’s pretty much essential. The value of uni isn’t just in the high level subject knowledge you gain, either: you learn how to think critically, how to communicate well, how to research and how to present arguments. They’re all pretty handy skills to have in life, and at work.

Apprenticeships

The new Apprenticeship standards mean that Apprenticeships are even more focused on preparing you for a specific career, so they offer relevant, practical training and lots of workplace experience. At higher levels you get the same in-depth subject knowledge as university students, particularly on Degree Apprenticeships; the clue’s in the name.

Levels of apprenticeships

Work

University

A good degree programme will equip you with subject knowhow, but should also give you what employers call transferable skills: writing well, analysing problems and working independently. They make you an appealing employee, whatever your degree was in.

Apprenticeships

An Apprentice trains for one thing only: to be able to do the job. They start working on the specific skills they need for their role right away, alongside learning about work. It’s a much more practical, hands-on approach to developing skills for the workplace.

Job opportunities

It’s very hard to predict what the job market will be like when you complete your Apprenticeship or graduate from uni. Some studies suggest that up to 60% of jobs in big cities like London will demand degrees by 2020; others that less than a third of job roles will be graduate ones by then. Similarly, the figures vary a lot about the number of Apprentices who are taken on once they complete their training – it depends on the industry, the employer, the location and the individual. So you’re probably better off focusing on the subject, skills and training route you want to take and making yourself as employable as possible, rather than worrying too much about precisely what the working world will have to offer in a few years’ time. Hey, maybe the robots will be doing everything by then anyway. Beach, anyone?

Learning and assessment

University

Students have lectures, seminars, workshops, lab sessions and so on (depending on their course), but they’re also expected to do a lot of independent study. An assessment could be by coursework, dissertation or exam – or some combination of the three – and there will often be other assignments throughout the course. Plus, many universities will help you study abroad for a year if you fancy it.

University learning and assessments

Apprenticeships

There will be some variation depending, but the majority of Apprentices will be assessed at the end of their training, once their employer thinks they’re ready. They may be observed at work, or have to complete projects or sit exams – or perhaps a mixture of all three. Higher level Apprenticeships in areas like business or law are more likely to have written assessments (like exams) at the end.

Getting a place

University

Students apply through UCAS and submit an application form and personal statement. They may be interviewed, asked to sit additional tests or (for performance courses) audition. Usually, universities look for qualifications including A Levels, IB or Scottish Highers, so they look at students’ predicted grades for their exams as part of the application process.

Apprenticeships

Similar to university, candidates submit an application form and personal statement, but also a CV listing their work experience and relevant skills. There’s more likely to be an interview. Depending on the level of Apprenticeship they’re applying for, they may need a Traineeship, GCSEs, A Levels or other relevant qualifications/experience.

Life

University vs apprenticeships differences

University

Students may live on campus, in halls of residence, or in private accommodation near their university. Time in lectures etc. varies between courses – anything from a few hours a week to more than 40. Outside of studying, institutions offer a range of social and sporting clubs and the ‘student life’ really is a big part of the experience, in whatever form it takes.

Apprenticeships

Apprentices are working, which means regular work hours and taking responsibility for their schedule. They also study alongside their day job, often at night. Everything else – socialising with colleagues, hobbies, travel – is up to them, just as it is for anyone else at work. The experience varies with the employer – a company might have a single Apprentice, or a team of 50.

The X Factor

University

University study is a chance to dig deep into a subject you love and immerse yourself in student life for a few years. It’s an opportunity to explore, experiment, challenge yourself and perhaps discover a direction or passion that you never expected in an environment where that sort of thing is actively encouraged. That might just mean doing weird stuff with your hair for a while; or it might mean totally altering the course of your professional and personal life.

Apprenticeships

An Apprenticeship gives you the chance to take your first steps out of school and into the working world with a solid foundation beneath you. It’s an opportunity to learn about a particular job, sure – whether that’s plastering, accountancy or hairdressing – and earn some money, but you never know what you might learn about yourself. You might discover skills and abilities you never expected, meet new people and expand your horizons, and set out on a path that surprises you.



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