Apprenticeship vs degree: which one should you choose?
Bekah Leonard

Apprenticeship vs degree: which one should you choose?

Apprenticeships vs degrees

First published date March 16 2015 Amended date March 16 2015

National Apprenticeship Week shines the spotlight on this way of studying and preparing you for the workplace. We asked Bekah Leonard from unisnotforme to give her stance on which is better – an apprenticeship or a degree – and though we predicted she’d be a bit biased (the clue was in the name of the website she worked for), she actually reveals why both have their merits...


The first thing I have to say is that it’s important to understand that doing a degree isn’t for everyone, just like doing an apprenticeship isn’t for everyone either! I can spend time chatting about them both only for you to think, ‘Actually, I don’t fancy either,’ so it’s worth looking at other options too. However, if you’re debating between the two, I hope this advice will help you figure out which you’re best suited for, and which will get you into your chosen career path.


Becoming a pro

Going to university means you’ll become an absolute pro in your chosen subject, and you’ll have a qualification to prove it. You’ll learn from experienced lecturers and professors who will lay out their wisdom a few times a week so you can go back and study it until you know it inside out. This requires a great deal of self motivation, study skills, and time management. Not to mention the passion you should have for the subject you’ve chosen so you can handle the amount of time you’ll spend focused on it.

Apprenticeships are not dissimilar to degrees in that you’ll become an expert in something. However, rather than becoming an expert in a subject and the theory of it – you’ll be a pro at a specific trade and know your way around that workplace. This will make you extremely employable, and cuts out a great deal of time when moving up in your career. Rather than having to learn the trade and skills required after spending three or four years doing a degree, you’ll be able to start straight away because while gaining a qualification you’ve also familiarised yourself with the job.


Motivation and time management

An apprentice will have to be motivated, but there will still be mentors and bosses to push you to work. On the other hand, at university, a lot of the learning is up to you and lecturers will only be interested in the work you hand in, not how much you’ve been teaching yourself.

As a result, time management is key for university students. Time management is an important part of an apprenticeship too, though not quite in the same way. At university you have to be able to meet deadlines or you’ll lose marks off your overall grade. When it comes to an apprenticeship, you have to juggle a full time job alongside coursework for any added qualifications you’re doing at the same time. This means setting aside time every day to do the additional work which may mean staying late or taking it home.


Theory vs practice

University is very much theory based, whereas apprenticeships are known for being much more hands on and practical. This is certainly true, it’s a much more active and learn-by-doing role. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean manual labour. It means you would be actively involved in the industry of your choice, doing work and having your own responsibilities while you learn. University is much more about learning the facts and theory surrounding one subject before then looking to test your knowledge in a career.


Which is best?

So which one is right for you – an apprenticeship or a degree? It’s important that you bear in mind the fact that you can return to either choice later on in life. You can easily do an apprenticeship first and university at a later date. This is also true of apprenticeships, many graduates enrol in apprenticeships having completed a degree. There are obviously financial considerations in doing this, as the same funding might not be available, but nothing is impossible.

So while I might write for a site all about alternatives to uni, I’m actually quite on the fence with the apprenticeship vs degree debate. When it comes down to it, both have their plus points and both have compelling reasons for people to do them. It really comes down to the individual though and how and what you want to learn. One thing’s for sure though, either will be a great stepping stone to start your career. Best of luck deciding!


Thanks Bekah! Whether you’re keen to earn while you learn on an apprenticeship after reading this, or want to hit the books and start a degree, there are plenty of options here on Hotcourses. Start your search today and who knows where it could lead...

Bekah Leonard

Unis not for me is an organisation with one aim – to educate the young people across the UK about all their post school options. We want school leavers to make an informed decision that suits them personally when it comes to university, and they may well be alternative routes into their chosen career paths.