It’s a question that plagues thousands of school leavers every year and there’s no right or wrong answer. The question is particularly topical at the moment following the government’s plans to deliver 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.
The UK has also seen the creation of the Apprenticeship Delivery Board and the government recently announced their plans to create new apprenticeships in the TV and film industry, real estate and veterinary nursing.
But how do all these plans affect your career choices?
In this post, we’ll look at the benefits and drawbacks of both options to hopefully help you decide which is best for you.
What’s the difference between an apprenticeship and university anyway?
At university, you’ll have the opportunity to specialise in a specific area of academic study. Nowadays, the subject choice you have at university is huge and it’s not just about studying the core subjects you learn at school.
For example, did you know that you can study Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh? Or International Spa Management at the University of Derby? Or how does a module on Harry Potter sound at Durham University?
Don’t believe us?
Check out this post about unusual degree courses.
Apprenticeships however, are work-based training programmes, where you’ll learn practical skills in a working environment. One of main differences between an apprenticeship and studying at university is you can "earn while you learn", so you have to think about whether the higher cost and financial discipline are worth it for you.
With an apprenticeship, you’ll have the opportunity to earn money while you study your trade at college. You’ll also gain a relevant qualification that will help you apply for positions in the future.
It's also worth bearing in mind that apprenticeships are becoming more varied, and there are even apprenticeships which guarantee you a bachelor's or master's degree on successful completion of the course. But even with these apprenticeships, your academic study will directly support the practical experience you get in the workplace.
For some students, this is the perfect balance of learning work-related skills, studying and earning money.
Which is the right career move for me?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you have a particular career in mind. If, for example, you have your sights set on becoming a doctor, then you’ll definitely need to have a degree. However, if it’s your dream to be a graphic designer, you’ll probably find that this career doesn’t have any set path and that both university and an apprenticeship would be an option.
We’ve put together this list of questions to help you decide which move is best for you:
- Can I see myself studying full-time after having just left school?
- Do I need to start making money straight away?
- How competitive is the job industry that I’m considering?
- Would I be happy working for the same company for at least 4 years?
- At this stage, do I want to keep my career options fairly open?
- Is this industry definitely the right career choice for me?
Thinking about these questions can help you visualise what you see yourself doing in the future. When you close your eyes and properly think about it, do you see yourself sitting in a lecture theatre or in a work environment?
Which will improve my career prospects the most?
This is a tricky one to predict, but there’s every chance that both options could lead you to where you want to be.
On the one hand, taking the time to study full-time at university will show prospective employers that you’re knowledgeable in a particular area and have the skills required to complete a 4 year university course.
On the other hand, many employers prefer work experience over qualifications. Completing an apprenticeship shows that you have the practical ability to do the job and have also committed to studying part-time at college.
The question you really need to ask yourself is ‘will my qualifications or my experience be most sought-after in this job market?’
I still can’t decide what to do…help!
If, after reading this post, you’re still unsure what option is best for you, we recommend you talk to people you know who have pursued both paths in order to get the lowdown on what apprenticeships and university are really like.
You could also consider speaking with your school careers advisor to get more information on what university courses or apprenticeships are available for you.
Learning from the experience and wisdom of others can be a great way to help you decide which path to take.
Whatever you choose to do, remember, there isn’t one option better than the other. The right choice is the one that meets your needs.
How will you decide whether an apprenticeship or university is best for you? What advice would you give others who are facing this decision?
For more useful careers advice, check out our student careers blog.
Image credit: Mitchell Joyce - https://www.flickr.com/photos/hckyso/1226909377/