University, Apprenticeship and Employment

Introduction –

In this blog we will be discussing the pros and cons of University, Apprenticeship and Full Time Employment and which may be the best choice for you.

Firstly, this blog is assuming that you’re in sixth-form, at this stage in your education you have the important choice of what’s next. Your main options are whether you go to uni, find an apprenticeship or just dive into the deep end with a full time job. But there are also other options like a gap year which you could spend working, travelling or maybe a bit of both.

Personally, I know people close to me that have gone to uni, started full time work straight away and even done seasonal work abroad. I myself started an apprenticeship after sixth-form. So I know from a first or second hand experience what each option is like.

What it ultimately comes down to is, and this should be no surprise, what you want to do when you’re older. If you want to become a doctor then you need to go to uni. If you want to work in a trade then an apprenticeship is your best bet. And if don’t really mind what you do as long as you’re making money, then full time employment is for you. If you know what you want to do but don’t know how to get there, talk to your schools career advisor or head of year. If that doesn’t help, you’ll be able to find what you need online.

But what if you don’t know what your ideal job is? Well don’t worry. Most people don’t have a clue what they want to do at your age, and those that do may decide to change their career path in 10 years time. All I knew when I was in sixth-form was that I did not want to go to uni because I knew it just wasn’t for me. But besides that I had no clue if I should do an apprenticeship or get a job or even something else. So if you’re feeling like you’re the only one who hasn’t got the next 30 years figured out, trust me your not and there’s no need to worry about it because this blog is here to help!

Regardless of whether you do or don’t know what profession you want to take on when you’re older this blog should help you understand the pros and cons of each choice.

University –

Summary –

You continue your education in just one subject so that you can earn a degree after 2-5 years. During this time you will have lectures, assignments and exams.

Pros –

  • Choice to stay at home or move out.
  • Meet new people and make new friends.
  • Gain some independence (even if you stay at home).
  • Wide range of options on what to study.
  • Uni suits almost everyone. There’s lots of opportunities for different clubs, sports and nightlife. Or if you really want you can spend your time in solidarity listening to music or playing games.
  • Some courses will give you great work experience.
  • You can expect between 18 to 24 weeks of holiday per year.
  • Gives you the ability to apply for specialist professions.
  • New experiences and broaden your mind.
  • Becoming an expert in a specific subject is surprisingly rewarding.
  • Opportunity to higher paid jobs.

Cons –

  • You’re probably expecting me to write in big bold letters ‘money’ or ‘debt’ but the truth is that until you start earning over £21,000 a year you don’t have to pay anything back. And when you do reach over £21,000 it’s a rate of 9% of how much you earn over £21,000. I.e if you’re earning £26,000 a year, you’ll pay £450 in loan repayments. Which is not as bad as some make it out to be but it is worth keeping it in mind.
  • Another money related con is the cost of going to uni itself. This really depends on where you go and the accommodation you choose but living away from home and attending uni is not cheap and the money you receive is often not enough on its own.
  • Money related, again! You may have to get a part time job to support yourself while going to uni.
  • Stress. If you know anyone going through uni you have probably heard them mention how stressful it is.
  • Unless you have a part time job or have to work as part of your degree you won’t have any work experience which is quite valuable to employers.
  • Compared to an apprenticeship you will have to spend much more of your time studying to get your qualification.
  • Once your degree starts you can feel a lot of pressure to stick to it even if you hate it.
  • You have to spend a lot of time doing your UCAS application, attending open days and looking into the local area.
  • If you leave home you’re leaving behind friends, family, pets and more.
  • Having a long summer 3-5 months leaves a lot of time to forget what you have learnt and not practicing skills.
  • If you’re applying for University then it can add a lot of pressure to how well you do in your A-level exams.

First Hand Experiences –

For this blog I asked two friends of mine to give their pros and cons of uni. Both are in their first year living away from home

First perspective is from someone in Liverpool, studying architecture, living in halls, catered –

Pros –

‘You meet a lot of new people.’

‘Learn to be independent.’

‘Leads to a job especially for me.’

Cons –

‘It costs a lot.’

‘It’s stressful.’

‘The food is terrible.’

‘I’m getting fat.’

 

Second perspective is from someone at Bradford, studying computer science, living in halls –

Pros –

‘Gives you a degree that opens the path to specialist jobs that require a degree.’

‘Lots of contact with companies who offer placements/postgraduate jobs in your field.’

‘A chance to meet lots of new people, learn to live independently and try new things.’

Cons –

‘Very expensive, will take a long time to pay off the debt.’

‘Very stressful, especially the first few weeks. Not knowing where anything is, with no friends and having to be fully independent for the first time.’

‘Only around 25 weeks of teaching per year leaves you with a long period of time where you’re probably not practicing skills. Forgetting skills and information over a 4 month summer.’

Apprenticeships –

Summary –

An apprenticeship involves working for an employer in a full time contract while also being taught about the work you do and the industry you’re in. Your apprenticeship will also involve a training provider that will give you learning assignments and occasional tests so you can receive your certificates and qualifications.

Pros –

  • Studies show that apprentices achieve higher earning jobs than university graduates on average.
  • Employers appreciate job experience as well as qualifications. (You’ll earn both)
  • Earn a wage.
  • Gain knowledge in a subject you’re passionate about.
  • Wide range of options and courses to choose. (400+ types of apprenticeships)
  • With an apprenticeship you’re likely to stay living at home so you will have a low cost of living.
  • Low stress. (staying at home, not having to support yourself,)
  • After one year you will be entitled to minimum wage for your age.
  • Apprenticeships typically only last between 12-18 month. (Qualified quicker than uni)
  • On a resume having both a qualification and relevant work experience is very impressive.
  • Having work experience gives you a good perspective on what this career path and industry is like.
  • You have nothing to owe for your apprenticeship.
  • Being paid while also not having to support yourself can lead to a nice amount of disposable income, like holidays or other treats.
  • An apprenticeship will probably be easier to get into than university and you won’t have to stress about your a-level grades as much.
  • You will only have to do work when you are actually at work.
  • Prepares you well for full time career.
  • After finishing your apprenticeship you will have a good chance to stay where you are allowing you to move straight into full time employment after your apprenticeship and you won’t have to worry about applying for somewhere new.
  • Because you are on a full time contract you are entitled to a range of benefits. I.e paid holiday, statutory sick pay, etc.
  • If you decide after a few months that your current apprenticeship isn’t for you, you can easily leave without accumulating any debt and it won’t have been a total waste of time since you were actually earning money and gaining work experience.

Cons –

  • Missing out on the ‘University experience’.
  • Like university, choosing an apprenticeship can set you up for a limited and specific career path.
  • Only 28 days of holiday (usually) per year.
  • Starting salary can be very low. (minimum of £3.90)
  • May have further to commute.
  • Typically an apprenticeship is between 30-45 hours a week of work.
  • Less interaction with peers than University.
  • Little opportunity to make new friends and meet lots of new people.
  • Not enough money earned to move out and support yourself initially.

First Hand Experience –

For this part I will be recounting my own experience as an apprentice, giving my own pros and cons. I started my apprenticeship in August 2018 as a Digital Marketer. I was unfortunately made redundant from that specific job in February 2019 but was transferred by my apprenticeship training provider. Allowing me to continue with my apprenticeship course.

Pros –

I only have to work between the hours of 9-5 Monday-Friday. Which may be more hours than someone at Uni, but the relief of being able to go home every night with absolutely no cares or worries is pretty good.

Earning money is great, especially when I don’t have to spend much of it to support myself.

Regardless of what A-level results I got I was already offered my apprenticeship, which definitely took some pressure off.

I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

Cons –

I could be earning more if I chose a full time job after sixth-form.

My social life has dramatically decreased with friends going away to uni and there’s not really being a massive opportunity to meet new people.

I only have 28 days of holiday per year which is a dramatic change from school, especially after such a long study leave/summer holiday.

Full Time Employment –

Summary –

Rather than continuing any education at all you move straight into a full time job that doesn’t require university or apprenticeship qualifications. This option is probably the one you may have considered the least since it’s not promoted at school very much.

Since there is such a wide range of jobs available to people that have left sixth-form I’m not going to form this section as a pros and cons list. Instead I’ll give a short overview and what my friends personal experience has been like.

By choosing full time employment you’re going to definitely experience some benefits like earning way more than anyone in an apprenticeship or someone at Uni. With that money you can move out if you want or if you prefer you could stay at home. Being on a full time contract entitles you to a range of benefits. (Paid holiday, paid sick leave etc.)

However there are also some definite downsides like missing out on University experience, you don’t have many days of holidays and your social life will probably decrease due to friends going to uni. By not going to uni or doing an apprenticeship you wont be able to apply for certain jobs or industries.

Then there are some factors that really depend on what job you’re looking for. For instance someone may be going to Uni to follow their dream job but your dream job may need no qualifications at all. I.e working in a kitchen. Your ability to move up in your career path also depends on what industry you’re aiming for. You may have to take on lots of responsibilities, in and out of work hours.

Overall full time employment is definitely a viable option if you can find something that excites you or motivates you. Or if you have no clue what you want to do in life, whether its Uni or an apprenticeship, having a full time job is a good way to bide your time while you figure things out.

First hand experience –

For this part I asked a friend to give me his thoughts and opinions on full time work right after he finished sixth-form. He worked part time at a local Wetherspoons while he was at sixth-form and then went full time once sixth-form was finished. His position is in the kitchen and he still lives at home.

Pros –

Earns a nice amount.

Real world job experience.

Gets a taste of more responsibilities in and out of home.

Work with people of different ages. (Typically older)

Cons –

Doesn’t pay as well long term than a degree required job.

Limited career progression.

18 feels quite early to be in full time work.

 

Summary –

In summary, each option has its own unique pros and cons that will suit people differently. Hopefully this blog has clearly explained these points so you can make a more informed decision about your future. And if you have made it this far thanks for reading and good luck with your future!