Apprenticeships Vs. University

By Dayna Spear, November 01, 2017

Hi there! I hope you’re all well.

Today’s blog post is a very honest, clean, uncut account of my two main life experiences - university and apprenticeships. No, you’re dramatic.

I attended university for a year, however decided in the end that it wasn’t for me. I’m now doing a Digital Marketing apprenticeship, so I really have had the best of both worlds, and I’d like to think I’ve had enough experience to give some help and advice to those who are maybe unsure about their next step in life!


I’m obviously not going to go into details about my financial situation, but let’s put it this way; at uni, it was a shambles, and now I am earning a stable income with my apprenticeship. Do with that what you will!

With an apprenticeship, you’re working in a full-time job towards a qualification - think of it like being educated every day at college, but you’re actually being paid for it. This is a contrast to university, where you’re paying them to learn. I was genuinely shocked to find that the average student graduate debt is over £50k *ouch* and even from my poor ‘year’ at uni, I owe SFE over £10k.

I find I’m so much more comfortable now - not just because I’m earning a wage, but also because I’m not paying a university ludicrous fees; instead, my learning is being funded for me.

The Learning

For me, this is the most important factor. At uni, I felt like the standard of learning was awful - it seemed I was working towards the degree ‘title’ on a piece of paper rather than genuine knowledge and progression. If you want to find out more about my full uni experience, click here.

Comparing it to an apprenticeship: I’m actually working every day, rather than just having 10 hours of bad-quality lessons per week. As well as this, every Friday I have a college day where I’m working towards the qualification I get with the apprenticeship. So, as learning goes, I’ve probably learned more in the past few months as an apprentice than I did after a year at university.

If you’re like me and enjoy being occupied and not sat twiddling your thumbs, I’d really recommend an apprenticeship.

Time Off

Call me weird, but time off is something I actually began to despise at university. You get about 4 months off for Summer which I personally found ridiculous, as well as a month off for Christmas and Easter (course dependent, though.)

Obviously, starting full-time work can be a shock to the system for some! But, I find it easier and more settling having a routine every day.

Of course, with my apprenticeship, I get my weekends free, bank holidays, and holiday pay just like any other employee would! I for one think it’s great. I don’t need months and months off from studying, and am genuinely much happier with the routine I’m in now.


For me, uni lessons felt no different to school or college - I didn’t feel like I was using my skills or talents and instead was being read to by a lecturer from a PowerPoint slide. Not really worth £9k a year, in my eyes.

I couldn’t help thinking I would struggle in the real world afterwards, as I wasn’t really gaining any valid work experience.

Now, I’m gaining real experience every day at work. It gives me comfort knowing that after my apprenticeship, I’m going to have several years of experience under my belt which I can apply to work and in general, life. I feel like I’m already a step ahead of last-year's me, and I’ve only been doing my apprenticeship for 2 months.

Social Life

I’m not going to sit here and say that an apprenticeship will give you a better social life than university; realistically, it won’t. You don’t get a freshers week and all that jazz, and although there are some apprenticeships that allow you to move into ‘halls’, most don’t.

However, I’m only working Monday-Friday, not 24/7. My evenings are my own and aren’t spent slaving over essays and assignments, and I now appreciate my weekends much more than before.

Yes, I can’t go on weekday nights out and spend my student loan on £1 jagerbombs, but it’s probably for the best, no?


The qualification with my apprenticeship is simple. I complete my apprenticeship (working full time and 1 day in college per week) and after up to 18 months, I *should* get my qualification in Digital Marketing.

Some apprenticeships even work towards a degree, so you end up with the same qualification as graduates but with 0 debt.

Obviously, many people believe degrees put you further in life, or open more doors to you; I don’t necessarily agree. (But if you’re doing a job which requires a degree, such as Midwifery, of course you need to got to uni!)

For me, I believe experience is more important. According to recent stats, 50% of graduates are in non-graduate level jobs, which shows us that there are just so many young people in uni nowadays that jobs are increasingly competitive.

Subject Choice

When it comes to choosing what you want to learn, I’d say the choices are pretty vast for both uni courses and apprenticeships.

There are hundreds of different apprenticeships you could take up - they are no longer dominated by the manual trades, and instead boast a range of industries. There will soon be even more choice, as the government has pledged to create a further three million apprenticeships in the coming 3 years.

At university, there are also thousands of courses available to you.

The only difference, I’d say, is that an apprenticeship will take you straight on the pathway to a job (i.e. after my Digital Marketing apprenticeship, I can apply straight to jobs in that field.)

However, degrees can be more vague; for example, if you did a degree in English Literature or Creative Writing. It really depends what sort of pathway you want to get on!

So, I think I've covered pretty much every point I can think of. I hope this helped anyone out there who's unsure what route to take; it's always useful hearing someone else's real experiences!

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