Leaving school can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for any young person. One key choice that must be made is whether to pursue an academic course at a university or undertake vocational training somewhere in the form of an apprenticeship. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages and here we examine some of them.

Problems with fees

In the USA and the UK tuition fees at universities are at an all-time high and it is very likely that students will run into a great amount of debt even before their working lives have really begun. This problem has been further complicated by various suggestions in the media that a degree is essential in getting a ‘good’ job. New stresses have been created regarding the subject and class of one’s degree and whether it is worth the money for students. Conversely, apprenticeships in specific companies can be an excellent way to learn a trade and get a job without spending huge amounts of money on tuition. Various costs will obviously still be incurred but on average won’t be as much as university fees.

Getting there

A lot of people leaving school will not yet know what they want to do with their lives but it is worth looking at the required paths for certain professions to make sure they’re not excluded. For example, the classic examples of lawyers and doctors inhabit an inherently academic world where university is generally the first step. Certain interesting jobs can only be accessed by apprenticeships so keep an eye out for those! And it is also worth noting that in many professions, for example engineering, one can access jobs via either route. Often people choose one or the other based on the length of time it will take to reach their desired position and the likelihood that they will be kept on by the company in question.


Some people will say that only a university degree can get you a top job, whilst others will argue that apprenticeships are the smartest way to get a job in today’s competitive world. Everyone is different and it comes down to what you want out of your life and career. You can rest assured that plenty of people exist who have come up through both routes and have similar levels of pay and job satisfaction. If you particularly enjoyed studying a subject at school then maybe it would be best to delve even deeper into it at university, whilst if you loved a certain practical or vocational element of education and feel like developing that passion into a career then an apprenticeship might be the way forward. But there are no hard and fast rules, just investigate the options available and made an informed decision from there!