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Is an apprenticeship better than a degree in today’s climate?

With high tuition fees, court cases concerning sub-standard tuition during and after the pandemic, and ongoing staff strikes, is university still the best option for young people?

We see a vast amount of candidates and increasingly those who have gotten stuck in and gone out of their way to gain hands-on work experience, are the ones who get placed.

It takes character to swim against the tide, and to not follow the masses to university and in today’s climate it makes sound financial sense and shows good judgement to choose another route.

Did you know that the higher education entry rate among 18 year olds in the UK was 37.5% in 2022? Source: House of Commons Report.

This is the second highest level of entry ever, but it still means that less than half of 18 year-olds choose to study a full-time degree.

So what other options are there if university doesn’t appeal to you?

We’re seeing that the job market is recovering after some instability over the last couple of years and apprenticeship, trainee and entry level positions are becoming more available across the board.

With apprenticeships in a range of sectors, including Marketing, Accountancy, Catering, Manufacturing, Business Administration and Engineering, there really are plenty of opportunities to get work experience and qualifications without going to university.

We always look out for candidates who have done apprenticeships, as generally they are driven, engaged and keen to learn.

It’s also worth remembering that it’s never too late to go to university! Tuition fee and maintenance loans are available no matter what age you are, so not doing a degree at 18-21 doesn’t prevent you from doing one in the future.

While university works for some, it’s not for everyone.

Moreover; "forecast average debt for borrowers who started their course in 2022/23 is £45,600."

We think this is madness.

As a recruiter reviewing candidates for our clients, we take a 2.1 with a pinch of salt.

We want to know what you have done OUTSIDE of your degree; work experience, societies, volunteering, studying abroad etc.

Last week we interviewed an IT Apprentice candidate with two years work experience in coding and IT support .

This candidate has two years of highly relevant experience in a highly employable industry, and will be approx £70,000 better off than his university counterparts.

Secondly, one of our best ever Career Coaching clients did not attend University, but was gathering work experience since she was 13.

She created flyers and knocked on her neighbours doors, to ask if she could do household chores for them in exchange for wages.

This is the kind of graft, tenacity, passion and strength of character that employers want.

You don't need a degree to gather those skills.


➡️ If you are a parent with a child considering the apprenticeship route, don't discourage them, we think it's a smart move.

➡️ The activities mentioned above (e.g. work experience, volunteering, online courses) will impress employers more than a degree, so young people - get cracking with those extra-curricular activities.

Apprenticeships vs. Degrees, what's your view?

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