Apprenticeship or university?

By | 10th July 2017


There are some sad statistics for graduates – perhaps up to 2/3 of them will never pay back their student loans.

In the modern world, having a degree is no longer a guarantee of a high income.

And particularly so if that degree is in a subject with less commercial demand from employers. While a degree in something like ‘underwater basket weaving’ might be a fun experience… does the future earnings potential justify both the cost and time to get it? Even if the degree was free, would the investment of your own personal time be worth it?

While, for some careers, specific degrees may be a requirement of entry – rather than face a lifetime of debt and/or low earnings, there are other solutions.

Instead of university, for many professions, people can instead apprentice in their area and gain both experience and qualifications that way.

There are several advantages to gaining qualifications via apprenticeship:

no debt – as you won’t be paying for tuition then there will be no large debts building up.

more money – someone at university may have a part-time job with low earnings, whereas you will be earning a full-time wage. It may be fairly low to start with, but just consider that as payment for your training. As your experience builds, so should your earnings.

greater chance to use compound interest – when you get your first wage, save at least 15% for retirement and continue to do so. The power of saving money early and letting it compound is incredible. (The power of compound interest through loans and finance is also incredible… incredibly bad for you!)

work experience – you will likely have three years more work experience than someone just coming out of university. You will also be seeing how the learning applies directly to the work rather than perhaps just the theory alone.

However, some points you do need to be aware of:

very long hours – you will have to give up time in the evenings and weekends to study, on top of your full-time job. Perhaps even using some of your annual holiday allowance for revision courses/etc.

Don’t underestimate this – while people your own age are partying in their free time at university, you will be working say 35 hours and then studying the same time again on top. But the investment will pay you back later.

give up and pay back – if you are getting training sponsored by your employer there will likely be a clause where if you leave within a certain time period then you have to pay them back for the training costs.

The experience of working and learning will also serve you well as professions change in the future, and also should you wish to start your own business.

If you have any questions about apprenticeship, please do comment below – I have first hand experience having apprenticed in accountancy myself, before going on to start my own business later.

James McBrearty started his own business from scratch in 2006, to help the self-employed.

He helps people to escape from the corporate world and shares his thoughts here on the changing world of work, technology and personal finances; as well as the occasional travel post.

Over the next 10 years things are going to change significantly. James is a follower of frugality and minimalism; and an advocate of F.I.R.E. to minimise the coming disruption.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *