What works best, Apprenticeship or University?

Apprenticeships and universities are popular higher education and training choices. Employers highly value both apprenticeship and degree programmes. These programmes provide experience and qualifications to remain desirable as your career progresses.

Understanding the critical differences between apprenticeship and degree allow you to make informed choices about your suitable path. This article explains the significant differences between an apprenticeship and a university degree.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a training programme you complete with your employer's supervision. It provides a tremendous opportunity to learn the job skills while earning. An apprentice earns a wage for work from the employer during apprenticeship training. Also, apprentices can supplement their work experience with tertiary education or evening classes.

Apprenticeships teach and train individuals for particular trades or skilled jobs. They practically help apprentices to learn practical job skills. Further, an apprenticeship provides a valuable chance to learn from suitable, experienced and qualified personnel.

At each apprenticeship programme completion, the endpoint assessment (EPA) examines your knowledge, skills and behaviour. You obtain certification or licensing after your EPA, which permits you to work in the trade properly. Here are some standard apprenticeship programmes examples:

  • Accounting and finance: These apprenticeship programmes require completion alongside academic training, providing a route to becoming an assistant accountant, payroll administrator, accounts or finance assistant, professional accounting technician, credit controller, and advanced credit controller.
  • Business administration: These programmes include highly transferable knowledge, skills and behaviour set, applicable across all sectors. A business admin apprenticeship involves an organisation developing, implementing, maintaining and improving administrative services. 
  • Sales and marketing: These apprenticeships help find people's needs and want, develop something that meets that need, and create a desire for it. Digital marketers, sales executives, travel consultants, and estate agents apprenticeships are famous.
  • Carpentry: A carpentry apprenticeship delivers structured on-the-job training in woodworking across various settings. A professional carpenter leads and directs apprentices' work.
  • Electrician: Electrician apprentices require examinations at a college or training provider. Also, they need an extended supervised work period with a qualified electrician.
  • Construction: Under foreman supervision, apprentices learn various construction skills on building sites.
  • Agriculture: These cover different farming aspects. It includes training in growing crops, livestock handling, and land management.

What is a university degree?

A university degree is about structured higher or further education form. An academic institution learning programme confers a degree when you complete all academic and administrative requirements satisfactorily. These programmes lead to an academic degree award.

Many universities offer higher and degree apprenticeships. It helps students gain equivalent qualifications, either a full undergraduate or master's degree while working or part of an undergraduate degree.

Students can select courses wide range; usually, they take two or more years to complete. University education can be undergraduate, leading to a first-degree award. Further, the postgraduate programmes complete a previous degree before a particular degree. A university degrees subject's examples include:

  • Medicine: This degree has an up to six-year programme completion. It provides the necessary qualifications to become a medical doctor.
  • Law: These programmes offer an in-depth study of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in domestic or international law leading to training as a barrister or solicitor.
  • Biology: A biology degree programme focuses on biological sciences studies. It prepares research scientists, biologists, ecologists, biotechnologists etc.
  • Mathematics: This degree course focuses on mathematics and computer science by providing an opportunity to study and participate in research.
  • Art: Arts degree programmes offer advanced study and technical training in art's broad range of areas across various disciplines.


Apprenticeship and degree comparison

Comparing apprenticeship with the university is not always easy. A university degree primary focuses on academic knowledge acquisition, while apprenticeships offer practical work-based job role training.

Both focus on in-depth learning and training towards verifiable qualifications. It means that employers evaluate your skills and qualifications in different ways. The following areas where a university degree and apprenticeships differ.

Training composition

A university degree courses provide a highly structured programme of learning. It builds your academic knowledge in your chosen field over two to several years. Usual in your degree's first year, you get a foundation traditionally. Then in the second or third year, a university degree offers the opportunity to build and extend understanding of the subject. It utilises research and dissertations authors.

Apprenticeships are job, trade roles, and responsibilities centric. An employer determines the working days, progression and apprenticeship period. An apprentice gains independent functional key competencies that an employer signs off until completion of the apprenticeship or relevant qualification.

University and apprenticeship learning experience

University students' life routine is very different from an Apprentice entering the workforce straightaway. Students attend lectures, tutorials, or seminars or utilise self-directed learning in their subjects. Also, universities provide a vibrant cultural and social participation in and outside their academic activities.

Apprentices gain work experience in their chosen trade or within a particular industry and work full-time like an employee within their employer's business hours. However, there may be group training or study outside working hours, but an apprentice remains with their employer. Also, apprentices learn various skills from other staff working there.

Financing requirement

University and apprenticeship learning has significant financing difference, which includes:

  • Apprentices earn a salary that meets the government minimum wage requirements. However, pay rates to vary for aged 16 to 18 and 19 apprentices. 
  • University students pay for their studies or tuition. A loan that is directly payable to the university facilitates your fees. It requires payback incrementally when your income reaches a certain threshold.

Post-apprenticeship | Job opportunities

Apprenticeships have high post-training employment rates. With an apprenticeship, an employer invests in ensuring that their apprentice is suitably trained that help carries out their job functions properly.

Most apprentices transit smoothly to full-time employees who can work independently and earn a higher salary. Also, you can work for any industry or sector in the public or private sectors.

Post-degree | Job opportunities

Employers place value on the academic degree. However, post-degree immediate employment varies widely. Nursing or medicine graduates directly enter work.

Other graduates sometimes struggle to find a career position in their field. They particularly struggle if they fail to join a graduate-entry programme. Some degrees require work-based training or internships for the job, on the other hand.

Career aims

Many professionals pursue a degree completion to start careers in marketing, accounting, finance, etc. An academic degree can be a career requirement like teaching; a research career requires a necessary degree like a PhD. You can only learn trade skills through sustained access to the practical work that builds expertise.

Apprentices start training as their academic study alternative to continue working in it long term once established in their trade. Further, university and college teaching have an increased integration with apprenticeship programmes, allowing them to earn credits towards their degree award.

Annual earning

Apprentices' and graduates' salaries exceed individuals' salaries without higher education or training. An apprentices' average wage is £19,485 annually, while a new graduate earns around £26,699 yearly.

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Teaching style

University or college studies are primarily lecture-based, with a tutor pastoral and academic support. Further, a university course's one-to-one support or small group tuition provision varies. 

Apprenticeships provide enormous one-to-one support. It properly enhances their workplace skills and knowledge and gains tremendous input for building their skills. Apprentices work in an organisation closely with their supervisor or a team.

Peer group

University students study in a class cohort or entrants to a particular course each year. The cohort style offers a shared learning experience that forms a natural transition from the college or school environment. On the other hand, apprentices usually work individually or in small groups, interacting daily with peers and other senior colleagues.

What works best for you?

According to the CIPD, the Professional Body for HR and People Development, around 52% of graduates said they would have selected doing an apprenticeship instead of a university degree.

Hence, it is crucial when choosing between degrees or apprenticeships that a higher education degree isn't the only pathway to succeed in your career. We recommend taking a reasonable time while selecting your options and finding out what works best for you.

If you're interested in joining an apprenticeship programme or want further information, contact the KBM team for prompt assistance.

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