Apprenticeships vs University Degree, Which is Better?

man in black suit standing beside woman in black blazer
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Students face a significant decision when deciding between an apprenticeship and higher education. There are benefits and drawbacks to both choices;

careful consideration is required to determine which one suits your needs best.

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast apprenticeships and universities from the perspectives of five key differences, as well as three additional perspectives: job prospects, financial investment, and professional growth.

Practical vs. Theoretical Learning

Apprenticeship programmes allow students to gain real-world experience by working alongside seasoned experts.

College education, on the other hand, is typically more theoretical and classroom-based.

One may be more appealing than the other depending on the learner’s preferred method of instruction and ultimate professional objectives.

The practical aspect of apprenticeships allows for a shorter time spent learning formal material, and a longer time actively working or shadowing working professionals. This can truly beneficial effects when it comes to looking for work later on.

Study Duration

Three to four years is the average time spent earning a bachelor’s degree at a university, while an apprenticeship can last anywhere from one to six years. 

Apprenticeships can be a great way to get your foot in the door of the working world quickly.

Since there is great variability in the duration of apprenticeships it is somewhat unfair to compare.

However, on the whole, apprenticeships typically have more vocationally geared curriculums whereas university degrees are largely based on lectures and course content.

Certification differences

With a degree from an accredited university under their belt, graduates will have an academic credential that is valued by businesses of all kinds.

Apprenticeships, on the other hand, provide training that leads to credentials only accepted within a given industry/sector.

This is not always the case but generally, this is so.

When deciding which path to take, it is crucial to think about the certification’s worth.

For instance, a degree such as engineering would have certain accreditation depending on the university and its curriculum, however, apprenticeships may only gear you towards working for rail engineering, or for a certain company.

This can benefit you in a way since you have a predetermined path and won’t have to worry about finding work later.

On the downside, apprenticeships may limit your options in terms of applying to the same roles available to university graduates.

Leave a comment if you want me to expand on this further!

Cost of apprenticeship vs degree

University degrees are notoriously expensive!

Tuition, living expenses, and other associated costs make higher education a difficult choice for many school leavers.

On the other hand, the cost of training is often covered by the employer in an apprenticeship, making it a more affordable option.

Apprentices also receive a wage to help with day-to-day expenses while they are learning which is a huge bonus!

For the fact that university degrees are very expensive, and students often struggle to live comfortably with their student finance, the apprenticeship may be more favourable in terms of cost since most employers are willing to cover the cost of your training (which means no debt)!

One may argue that university students don’t directly take on debt the normal way, since it is written off eventually and only constitutes a small proportion of your income above a certain liveable amount.

This is certainly true however debt is still debt, and with apprenticeships, you are unlikely to need to borrow large amounts of money to enrol on one.

Entry Requirements

High school/school leaver students who wish to enrol in university must, for example, earn passing scores on standardised tests, achieve sufficient GCSEs and pass A-levels (in UK that is).

In contrast, some entry-level apprenticeship positions require only a high school diploma or its equivalent.

This means even without a degree, you can enrol on an apprenticeship and find a job in a related sector which in many cases is high paying!

This exposes job opportunities to individuals unable to access university for one reason or another.

this is always a good thing since university is not for everyone.


Besides the similarities and differences, opportunities must be compared to help decide which option may be best for you.


The ability to find gainful employment is a major consideration when deciding between an apprenticeship and a university education. 

College grads have better employment opportunities, starting salaries, and job options than high school grads generally speaking. 

It’s not always the case, though, because apprenticeships can teach you skills and knowledge that are in high demand – especially those that have job positions guaranteed at the end of the apprenticeship period.

Of which there are many!

The issue is, there are only a limited number of apprenticeship spot available, and once you do a degree, you are unable to do an apprenticeship at the same level – however, the opposite isn’t true.

Leave a comment if you want me to expand on this further!

Since there are more university spots available generally, and more job opportunities to look for after doing a degree, the university is still the best option for most people in terms of employment.

Career Development

Apprenticeships and university degrees both provide excellent training for future careers. 

However, you should give serious thought to your longterm career options and prospects for advancements in your chosen field.

A bachelor’s degree may be necessary for some fields, while an apprenticeship may be necessary for others.

Do your research into what you want a career development to look like for yourself, how much money you would like to earn, and what field interests you most.

Submit a student voice with this information and I will answer you personally and contact you to provide some further guidance.


In the end, it’s up to the individual’s goals, finances, and preferences to determine whether an apprenticeship or university degree is the better route. 

One must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each choice carefully before making a final call. 

In the end, it’s most important to take the road that best fits your unique set of skills, interests, and professional goals.

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