University vs Degree apprenticeships

For many young people, making a decision about the future can be scary. There are lots of options so how are you supposed to know which the right route is for you? We’re comparing the traditional university route with degree apprenticeships to help you decide which would suit you best.

The academic option

Apprenticeships are sometimes thought of as being ‘the easier option’, but that simply isn’t true. Degree apprenticeships are an academic option, just like the traditional university route. The end result of both is graduating with a high quality degree. So if studying for a degree is a must for you, then both options may be suitable for your future.

Your learning style

As university you will learn through a combination of lectures, where you will sit in a big lecture theatre listening to an expert in their field discuss a topic in detail; seminars, which is a classroom based discussion of topics covered in lectures and for practical subjects; labs, where you will conduct experiments, learn clinical skills or work on projects. Think of this way of learning as an evolution of your school experience.

Degree apprenticeships are a little bit different. You will be studying part time so your learning will typically be made up of several intensive study sessions on campus at Aston throughout the year and weekly online lectures. You will also be learning on the job at work. You’ll be given projects that will help you get the most out of your studies and put that theory into a professional context. If you are itching to get out of the classroom and into the ‘real world’ then a degree apprenticeship might be the better route for you.

Workplace ready

As a degree apprentice, you would be committing to working full time and studying part time. This means you will need to be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of showing up to work on time and excelling in your job as well as making sure you keep up to date with online lectures, reading and assignments.

A lot of young people need the university experience to help them develop independence. At school you will be pushed by your teachers and family to do your best but when you go to university its up to you to manage your workload and make sure you meet deadlines and do your best. This is a learning curve for many students, and over the course of their degree they grow up and learn to take responsibility for their education. The university timetable is very varied and you will have free time for self-directed study and making the most of the student experience.

What’s the cost?

We all know that university comes with tuition fees. Currently, students will pay annual tuition fees of £9,250 usually using a student loan. They will then start to pay this loan back once they are in a graduate level job earning a salary of at least £25,000 per year.

Degree apprentices do not have to pay tuition fees as this is paid for by their employer. So this means they will not have to repay any students loans. In addition, because they are working, degree apprentices will get paid a full-time salary by their employer.

Options for the future

University degrees can range from very specific courses that will train you to do a certain role, to general subjects such as English or Biology than can be applied to many career pathways. The skills that students learn studying for their degree are often transferable and will mean that they can apply for a wide variety of jobs. This is great if you aren’t sure about your career path just yet.

Those applying for a degree apprenticeship will notice that instead of applying for a course, they are actually applying for an apprenticeship job role. The knowledge degree apprentices gain at university trains them to do this specific role, so you’ll need to be sure that you really are interested in that particular career route.

Experience for your CV

Degree apprentices spend 80 per cent of their week at work doing the day to day tasks required of their job role. This means that by the end of the degree apprenticeship, you would have between three and five years’ of high quality work experience on your CV which makes you really stand out from the crowed when it comes to future job interviews.

Lots of university students graduate with no work experience at all which can make getting a graduate level job pretty tricky. At Aston, we offer the placement year which is when third year students can take a year off their studies to work in their chosen industry before coming back to complete their final year.

Student life

There is no doubt that part of the attraction of going to university is the student lifestyle that comes with it. You have the option to move away from home and live in halls of residence, join student societies that celebrate a shared interest in everything from rugby to Game of Thrones and experience the nightlife that Birmingham has to offer.

The experience for degree apprentices is a little different as they will spend most of their time at work, they need to live within a commutable distance. We have partner employers based all over the country so that might mean you aren’t very close to our campus in Birmingham at all. You would be classed as an Aston university student though so you would still have access to all of our facilities when you come to campus for study sessions throughout the year. These study sessions are a chance for you to meet all the apprentices on your programme and often result in great friendships and opportunities to explore everything that Birmingham has to offer when the study sessions are over.

What are my chances?

It’s worth noting that both routes are competitive and you’ll need to work hard now to make sure you have the grades you need to apply for whichever route is your preference. Degree apprenticeships are even more competitive and our employers often receive thousands of applications for just a handful of apprenticeship roles.

We recommend that if you want to apply for a degree apprenticeship that you also apply for university through UCAS to give yourself plenty of options when it comes to results day. With UCAS you are limited to five choices whereas you can apply for as many degree apprenticeships as you would like.

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