Apprenticehip Vs University

When the time comes to think about what to do after you leave school–whether that time comes at sixteen or eighteen years of age for you–many students find themselves torn between going to university or following some form of vocational training, such as an apprenticeship.

Although it’s a big part of the dilemma, this decision isn’t just a question of the prospect of spending three or four years living the student lifestyle–fun, new friends and not many responsibilities–with an alternative form of freedom that comes from getting a wage packet every month.

Deciding between university studies and an apprenticeship is also about issues like how clear an idea of what you want to do in terms of your career, how you like to learn and what sort of financial commitment you want to or can make to your studies.

So let’s do a comparison of these two different paths, so you can get a better idea of which one is right for you.

Apprenticeships: for people who prefer to learn by doing

Apprenticeships are based around the principle that you will learn the skills of your future career by practising them day in and day out, under the watchful eye of an experienced professional. As you do your duties you will be taught about the theories behind them. This will come partly through input from your workplace mentors, and partly through the part-time study that you will probably be completing at a local college.

Or, to put it another way, everything you learn will relate directly to what you will need to do to perform your professional duties. In many ways, this is a big departure from how you did things at school, where very often the focus is on learning a ‘discipline’ rather than skills for a job.

If you found that while you were at school you struggled to motivate yourself when you couldn’t see the relevance of what you were being taught to the real world, then the apprenticeship style of learning is therefore probably perfect for you.

Apprenticeships: a clearer path to a career

This form of learning that is based around a specific job role also means that an apprenticeship also provides a much clearer link to your future career. You’re unlikely to take an apprenticeship to become an electrician if you think that your future lies in social work, for example, as you know that your training will not prepare you for that career path at all.

The specialized nature of the training and the more focused career preparation that it gives you could either be considered a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your individual outlook.

If you’re pretty sure that the apprenticeship opportunities that are open to you where you live will take you into a job that you could see yourself doing, then that’s perfect. You can be sure that each day you get up to go to work you’ll be getting a step closer to a great career that you find satisfying. This will set you apart from many young people, who often take courses that don’t clearly lead them to any particular career.

On the other hand, if you’re not sure that you’d want to work within the field of the apprenticeships available to you, in many ways you’ll be painting yourself into a corner, unless of course you’d be prepared to restart your training from scratch if it did turn out that you didn’t like working in the job that your apprenticeship prepared you for.

Apprenticeships: less financial commitment

Apprenticeships are quite possibly the best-value form of training out there for young people. As you’ll have no doubt by now realised, with an apprenticeship not only do you not pay for the qualifications you’ll be working towards, but you’ll also be receiving a wage for the work you do. Granted, this wage isn’t going to have you rolling around in piles of cash–that’ll come later!–but it is certainly preferable to living off loans that you’ll have to pay off in the future. For the cash-conscious, then, apprenticeships are a great form of training.

University: gain a higher level of expertise

While apprenticeships do train people to do highly skilled jobs that take years of training and professional practice to master, ultimately the jobs that require the highest levels of expertise require a university education. While this doesn’t discount the value of an apprenticeship–after all, the qualifications gained through advanced apprenticeships can be used to parachute you into the later years of a degree–it does mean that at some stage, if you want to perform the most skilled work in your industry, you may have to go to university, depending on its specific training routes.

Some people would argue, then, that by studying for a degree as soon as possible, for certain fields of work it’ll get you to the top of the field at a younger age. Because there is such a high level of variation from one industry to another, this is something that is worth looking into before you make your next move.

University: really get stuck into your subject

Just as an apprenticeship is ideal for people who like their learning to be strictly relevant to their employment, a university education is perfect for those who want to be able to explore all aspects of their chosen subject in depth. With university degrees, the goal is very often to let your curiosity guide you to discover as much as possible about the subject, in the process gaining a truly deep understanding of it. What you learn might not be strictly–or even at all–relevant to what you end up doing to earn a living, but if this type of learning appeals to you over simply learning what you need to do a job and no more, then university is possibly the better option for you.

University: have a great time partying etc – it’s a life experience as well

While some people like the idea of being able to throw themselves into the world of work and grown-ups as soon as possible, others want to be able to have a more unrestrained young adulthood before they embrace the pressures of grown-up life. University is the ideal way to achieve this, and not just in the cliched respect of a life of sleeping until the afternoon and avoiding lectures whenever possible.

You see, university also offers people the time and opportunities to explore all sorts of rewarding extracurricular activities that a full-time worker probably doesn’t have the time or energy to try out. You could get involved with student journalism. You could develop experience in volunteering. You could experience life abroad through an exchange year. Or you could just enjoy the fact that university will allow you to form friendships with people from completely different backgrounds to your own. These are all worthwhile uses of your time, and university is the place to do them.

Ultimately whether you choose to take go down the apprenticeship route or to university depends on your own priorities and preferences. Hopefully by having read the selling points of each option a couple of things will have jumped out at you, either because they really appealed to you or because they filled you with a sense of dread. Use these responses as clues to help you make your decision!

And if you’re still unsure, there are plenty of opportunities to get a taste of both options to help you make a decision. Try arranging a week of work experience in a sector you’d be interested in working in to see if an apprenticeship is a good fit for you, and then follow it up with some visits to university open days to test out the student route.