A career in Engineering - Apprenticeship or University?

Posted: Nov 03, 2016

If you’re considering a career in engineering after graduating from secondary school there are two distinct paths that you can take, engineering apprenticeships or a university degree. Each path has pros and cons and each maybe more suitable to different types of learners.

The most obvious distinction between the two is with an engineering apprenticeship you are working, earning and learning on the job from the very start. Whereas with a degree you are purely studying your chosen subject.


We don’t want to say that a degree is better than an apprenticeship or vice versa, we just want to make it clear what the differences are so you can choose the right career path.

  • An apprenticeship does not automatically mean you can’t complete a degree at a later date, in fact many apprentices continue onto university and study for higher education with the help and support of their employee.
  • Apprenticeships are not just for students who didn’t get the grades to go to university, there are many apprenticeship schemes that have a very tough application process and strong competition for places.
  • If you get excellent grades don’t automatically think you should go to university, look at the options and consider that many companies are looking to recruit exceptional school leavers who want to head straight into the work place.


The path you choose will more than likely be dictated by your personal career aspirations. For example if you want to become a doctor then you need a degree, however if you want to become a chartered accountant you can take a higher apprenticeship for two years then study for your ACA which takes three, this is less than the 6 years it could take to graduate from university.


As university degrees become even more expensive apprenticeships become more attractive. Whilst you may leave university with a debt in the region of £44,000 or more, as this is expected to rise sharply in the near future, an apprenticeship offers you the chance to gain career training for free whilst earning a living. Added to this the average salary of apprentices finishing their 3.5 year training with TTE is between £23,000 to £28,000 with no student debt an apprenticeship becomes even more attractive. The financial aspects of an apprenticeship are probably the most obvious advantage.

The disadvantage of apprenticeships

Depending on your career path you may not be able to find an apprenticeship that suits your career goals. If you have a clear idea of your career path and there is an apprenticeship that will get you there then they are an excellent option.

A university degree can give you time to decide and understand what your ultimate career goal may be, university allows you to study traditional subjects whilst keeping your career options open. It’s also often mentioned that university has a great social scene and you get to concentrate solely on academic study for three years. A university degree is not to be dismissed lightly.

When to choose

If you are currently studying for your A-Levels then why not apply for apprenticeships and university degree courses. Investigate each option and research as much as possible. Don’t feel pressurised into choosing a specific path because of peer pressure or family influence.

Take your time to research your choices and talk to people who have done an apprenticeship and those that have completed university degrees.

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