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Degree vs Apprenticeship vs Apprenticeship Degree

Choosing what to do post school, sixth form or college can be an overwhelming and intimidating decision. Three excellent paths to consider pursuing are: a degree, an apprenticeship, or an apprenticeship degree. In this guide we are going to outline exactly what these options are, and some pros and cons of each, to try and make the decision a little easier, or at least make the distinctions between these options a little clearer!


  • The “traditional” option, an undergraduate degree, is likely the clearest path to take as a school leaver.
  • Taking place at a university, which is an institute of higher learning, a degree is an academic qualification assessed throughout the duration of the course using methods such as examinations, coursework, and research. An undergraduate degree can be a door-opener for many job opportunities and many employers require their new employees to hold an undergraduate degree.
  • Most degree courses cost £9,250 per year, with courses being three years long on average. This cost can be covered through a loan from Student Finance England, which is paid back in proportion to your earnings post-graduation. For more information: Repaying your student loan: Overview - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Pros Cons
There are thousands of degree subjects out there and hundreds of institutions in the UK in which to complete said degree. As mentioned above, you do have to pay tuition fees as well as maintenance fees and, although you can take out loans to cover these costs, they will still need to be paid back one day!
You will gain transferable skills. You can apply the general skills obtained through your studies, society involvement, work experience, etc. to your future career. Although a degree is a fantastic qualification, it is important to note that you may still have to complete additional job training in your post-graduation role as you may not be trained in specifically what your employer needs you to be.
The lifestyle! University lifestyle is well-known for being fun and exciting, as well as a chance to live away from home, likely with friends, and gain important life skills such as cooking, cleaning, money management, etc. A degree is unfortunately not a guarantee of employment. Many graduates struggle to find a job post-university, especially depending on the job market.
There are many fields and jobs that require a specific degree-level qualification that you couldn’t access via an apprenticeship, i.e. dentistry, veterinary medicine, etc.


  • While a degree is sometimes considered by some to be the more “traditional” path to take, apprenticeships are becoming a more popular, recognised, and viable option.
  • With an apprenticeship you will learn the skills of a specific vocation, while earning a salary and completing “off-the-job training”, which includes teaching theory, practical training, and learning support and time to write assignments.
  • What is an apprenticeship? (apprenticeships.gov.uk).
Pros Cons
As mentioned above, one of the standout benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship if that you will earn a salary straight away, and you also will not have any student debt as you will have no tuition fees.
An apprenticeship will be focussed on a specific industry, and a specific vocation within that industry. If you know exactly what you want to do then that’s not a problem, but if you are unsure then this can be limiting.
With an apprenticeship you will gain hands on, practical, and relevant training from the get-go, meaning you will have applied knowledge in your chosen field from the start.
If you choose to take an apprenticeship, then you would likely miss out on the opportunity to experience the “university lifestyle” which is a drawback for some individuals who are particularly keen on this.

Apprenticeship degree

  • As the name suggests, an apprenticeship degree is a degree that is achieved while simultaneously completing an apprenticeship with an employer. This employer covers the tuition fees of the degree course you are enrolled in.
  • Alongside the practical work of the apprenticeship, which makes up around 80% of your time, you will also complete off-the-job training, as well as your university studies, which are part-time.
  • Degree apprenticeships: How you could get a degree for free – The Education Hub (blog.gov.uk) .

Pros Cons
You will be able to experience what many consider to be the top benefits of either a degree or an apprenticeship. Specifically, you will come away from an apprenticeship degree with an undergraduate degree, no student loan debt, years of work experience and a relationship with an employer who may well keep you on at the company following your graduation.
As this is a relatively new construct, there are less of these opportunities available, making it somewhat competitive to gain a place for many degree apprenticeships.
You get the practical and applied knowledge and hands on work experience of an apprenticeship straight out of school or college, making you more experienced than your peers taking the same university course but as full-time students.
With an apprenticeship degree you would not be entitled to a student maintenance loan, so you would need to cover your own living costs, transportation, etc. This is, of course, offset by the fact that you would be earning a salary which can contribute to these costs.

You would likely miss out on the traditional “university lifestyle” that many young people want to experience following school or college. As you will be working most of the time, you will not necessarily be able to have the same freedoms afforded to full-time students.

Posted in 18 Plus Options, Advice, Apprenticeships & Careers on Apr 12, 2024 by

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