Apprenticeships OR University... Which One?

Publish Date: 2023-08-23

Hey there, my name is Ben and I am part of the events and marketing team here at Young Professionals. I have just finished my A Levels and am currently taking a gap year with Young Professionals. 


I'm sure that many of you are returning back to school in the upcoming few days and have been thinking about whether to go to university or look for an apprenticeship as an alternative option. But don't worry if you haven't decided yet, I was feeling the exact same this time last year!


So here is my guide into choosing the right option for you. Here are 5 of the most important things that I would be thinking about when considering university and apprenticeships.



1 - Don't feel forced to go to university

At my school, all the talk at this time of the year was around university. My teachers were telling us to have our personal statements ready to sign off by the time we returned back after the summer holiday, and make sure to book as many university open days as you possibly can. And although I'm not saying this isn't good advice, it can sometimes feel that teachers, parents or even your friends might be slightly nudging you to take the traditional university route. 


I strongly believe that everyone should at least consider university. Going to open days and getting a feel of what university is like is crucial into deciding what is right for you. Even if you are not considering university at all, I think it is really important that you do go and visit at least one university to really experience what it is like. For me, I went to five different universities but it put me off going to university even more, but I'm glad that I at least tried it and saw what it would be like as a university student.


I still do encourage students to apply for university anyway even if you are not considering it, but it is always a good backup option to have incase you change your mind throughout the year or if you are unsuccessful with your apprenticeship applications. Additionally, you might be able to defer your entry to university till the year after if you change your mind and take a gap year.



2 - Understanding what you really enjoy

This is a really hard question to ask yourself. What do you really enjoy? Whether you are considering university or an apprenticeship, you are going to be doing this for the next few years of your life, perhaps even throughout your career. So picking the right course or programme is one of the most important parts of the whole application process. 


I can almost guarantee that if you pick something that you don't enjoy then you will drop out at some stage. It is simply unsustainable to do something for such a long period of time when you don't enjoy it. For example, I'm sure many of you (most likely all of you) absolutely hate revising. You may have just finished your GSCEs, AS Levels or your A Levels, but how long do you really feel like you could revise for at one sitting without getting bored or distracted... maybe an hour or two?


So imagine revising every day for a few years, if not your whole career. Wouldn't you get so bored? Maybe you do enjoy revising, but you get my point! You are way more likely to stick with something that you enjoy than something you really do not enjoy, so make sure that you pick the right program for you.


How do you do this? Well, a good way to do this is maybe to start with some research. Search up on google what the programs actually involve, what the company does, what the career progression looks like... soon enough you will either find it interesting or boring. But applying for a course where you have no idea what you will be doing can be very dangerous. So make sure what you know you are getting into.


Knowing people from the industry that you are looking to get into can be a great way in finding out more. Whether that be a parent, teacher or someone else, asking people directly in the industry can give you a great insight into what it is like. At our work experience events, we sometimes have apprentices that you can ask about their experiences, so make sure you sign up to some of those!



3 - Is university becoming less appealing?

University fees are rising. It now costs around £50,000 - £60,000 just to complete a 3 or 4 year degree course. A lot of students, including myself, are beginning to question the university system and whether it is really worth the vast sums of money. Apprentices are debt free and will start earning around £20,000 in their first year and may continue to increase as they progress.


So by the time university students finish their degree they may be in debts of around £60,000 (without even including the interest on these loans) whilst apprentices could be in a surplus of around £60,000. A difference of around £120,000 by the time you are around the age of 22/23. And if anything, apprentices are even more employable at this age through their numerous years worth of experience, so I find it really hard to justify going to university over an apprenticeship.


Employers aren't particarly looking for a degree in most industries and will turn straight over to your work experience page on your CV. Having years of experience at a huge global firm is much more valuable than a degree qualification to an employer; it shows you truly understand what it takes to work in that industry and that you can work with the right people. A degree does not quite show that.



4 - Don't believe in the "missing out on the university experience" myth

I hear this all the time. People always say that choosing an apprenticeship means that you miss out on all the great nights out at university. This is completely incorrect. And here is why:


Firstly, you do not have to be a student at the university to go to freshers week. If you have friends who are going to the universities, go and stay with them for a night or two! You can go out with them without needing to be a student at the university. In fact, if you have friends who are at different universities, then you can go to each one if you really wanted! There are many great clubs and bars near the universitites that don't require any student university ID so you can still go out whilst also being an apprentice. There is a common misconseption that you can't go to freshers week without being a student at university.


Alternatively, common myths are that you won't make any friends doing an apprenticeship, which couldn't be any further from the truth. Companies will put on social events all the time, and for most companies there are hundreds of apprentices just like you who are starting at the same time. This will allow you to make so many new friends at work who will have very similar interests to you. From what I have heard from some apprentices, some of these social events are much better than what they put on at university. So if anything, university students are missing out on the apprenticeship experience!



5 - It is about who you know, not what you know

One of the must underrated skills that is almost never talked about is networking. Networking provides an opportunity to meet new people, learn about who they are, and what they do. Being able to talk to these people can be invaluable, as some people that you network with may just be able to help you sometime in the future. Connecting with them on LinkedIn is also a great thing to do; building up your network as much as you can is an impressive thing to do. Unfortunately for university students, this isn't something that is quite as accessible to them.


LinkedIn is such a powerful tool to students and apprentices now more than ever, and I would strongly advise to whoever is reading this to create a LinkedIn profile. Attending work experience events gives you the opportunity to meet these people and connect with them on LinkedIn to build up your network. So you might want to check out our work experience events on our website!





I am a believer in whatever suits you best. Sometimes people are just more suited to university than an apprenticeship. People may find the whole university idea just more suited for them; living in halls, learning from a professor, achieving a degree. But I think for the majority of people I would urge you to go down the apprenticeship route. There are so many benefits to choosing an apprenticeship over university as mentioned above that I just can't argue for a university route.


There are thousands of apprenticeships on offer, many of which are on our website where you can apply in just a few clicks. All of our top tips and advice you can find on our insights page, where we have many great blogs and articles for you to read. 


Incase you have any questions or if you would like to connect with me on LinkedIn, I have provided below the link to find my LinkedIn page, so please feel free to connect with me and send me a message!


My Linkedin Page :


Hope that helps!


Ben McDonald