An apprenticeship allows you to earn while you learn, and enjoy the responsibility and independence that comes from entering the workplace. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the right choice for everyone. This guide will take you through the main pros and cons, so you can decide if an apprenticeship is right for you.
An apprenticeship could be right for you if...
You want to earn while you learn
The best thing about apprenticeships? You’ll earn a wage while you work towards your qualification.
All apprenticeships, regardless of level, must pay under-19s a minimum apprenticeship rate of £4.15 per hour. Apprentices over 19 who have completed more than one year of their apprenticeship are entitled to the national minimum wage.
In fact, many employers pay above the minimum wage and Higher Level Apprenticeships (equivalent to a degree) can pay up to £400 per week, which is roughly £11 per hour. Compared to a UK degree, which costs students several thousands of pounds in fees, this makes a lot of financial sense!
You want to be independent
As you’ll be earning a wage, you might have the chance to leave home and take care of your own living and accommodation costs.
You can’t wait to enter the workplace
In the workplace, you’ll be treated like a regular employee, and be expected to fulfil all the responsibilities that come with this - this might include dealing with clients, meeting deadlines, or maybe even leading small projects.
While in the workplace, you’ll interact with colleagues, make contacts, and be expected to act professionally - all invaluable skills for a future career. Upon finishing, many apprentices are offered a position in the organisation where they’ve done their apprenticeship, as employers know they’re accustomed to the working environment, and have learnt the relevant skills.
You prefer hands-on learning to essays and lectures
Apprenticeships tend to focus on learning practical skills that will allow you to do a particular job. The majority of your time will be spent in a professional environment, rather than a lecture hall or library. You’ll be learning as you go, from people who do that job everyday.
You want lots of work experience on your CV
When you finish your apprenticeship, you’ll not only have a qualification, but thousands of hours of workplace experience.
In a survey of 1,000 employers, carried out by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) 49% said they would prefer to see experience from a relevant apprenticeship or previous position on a candidate’s CV, compared to only 24% who would prefer to see a relevant degree qualification.
You want a recognised qualification
Throughout your apprenticeship, you’ll work towards a work-based qualification such as a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ), which is recognised by employers all over the country. The level of qualification you achieve depends on the level of the apprenticeship you complete.
An apprenticeship might not be the right path for you if...
You want to work in a field where there isn’t a relevant apprenticeship
Although the number of apprenticeships available in different sectors is growing each year, having an undergraduate degree is an essential requirement for certain careers, such as doctor, scientist, or teacher.
When searching for careers in the Unifrog Careers library, look for the qualifications required for each job under the section UK Entry Requirements, to find out if it’s a field you can enter with an apprenticeship.
You want ‘the university experience’
An apprenticeship is great if you’re keen to get started with independent working life. But if you’ve always dreamed of freshers’ week, living in halls, and joining student societies, then an apprenticeship may not be the path for you.
It doesn’t have to be a choice between university or an apprenticeship, however. There’s nothing stopping you from going to university after your apprenticeship, or completing an apprenticeship after a degree.
You really enjoy your academic studies
If you love exploring your field of interest in a theoretical way, then you may wish to continue with your academic studies, instead of starting an apprenticeship.
For example, an apprenticeship in Hospitality might teach you the hands-on skills to have a career in the hospitality industry, but a degree in the same subject might allow you to consider it in a more theoretical way: how can we make hospitality sustainable? What are the economic and social impacts of the hospitality industry?
You’re 18 or over, and can apply for an entry-level job without formal training
Depending on the field you want to work in and the amount of training required, it might make more sense financially to simply find an entry role in that field. Many full-time roles begin with a training period, during which you’ll receive training whilst still being paid a salary that will meet or exceed the national minimum wage.
For example, if you are 18 or over, you may be able to earn more by finding a full-time role as a secretary, receptionist, or junior office clerk, rather than completing a Business Administration apprenticeship.
Of course, most jobs won’t offer qualifications as part of the role (though some do), but the qualification itself may not be as important as the experience, depending on what field you wish to enter.