When you finish your GCSEs, you need to stay on in education or training until the age of 18. This is the time to decide what kind of route is best for you, and one of the most challenging decisions you face is whether it’s better to go to college or become an apprentice.
Of course, which path is right for you depends on your ambitions, interests, and abilities. Let’s take a look at what each option can offer you.
What are my career choices with an apprenticeship or college?
Traditionally, apprenticeships were geared more towards manual trades to train people like electricians, plumbers, bricklayers and plasterers, but this is no longer the case.
These days, you can do apprenticeships in almost all of the subjects you can study at college. There are still career paths, such as medicine and law, that require you to study for A levels at college, and go on to gain a university degree. However, a huge range of professions, such as marketing, accounting, finance and business administration, are now readily available to apprentices.
You will need an idea of where you want to go career wise. If you are interested in law, you’ll need to study at college, then university. If you’re interested in accounting, you can actually become a qualified accountant without a degree through an accounting apprenticeship.
Earnings: Apprentice vs College
When trying to choose between an apprenticeship or college, the money you could earn might be a consideration. As of April 2018, the apprenticeship minimum wage is £3.70 per hour for all apprentices under 19 and any apprentice in their first year (regardless of age). After completing your first year in your apprenticeship, national minimum wage apply to your age.
While as an apprentice you will earn less per hour, you will be working full-time. If you are in full-time education at college, on the other hand, you won’t earn anything unless you work as well, giving up your evenings or weekends. Considering your workload and time to relax, you’ll probably only be able to work a few hours each week. The type of jobs open to you are likely to be retail, customer service, and hospitality, all of which can help build your confidence and transferable skills.
So, if you join a full-time apprenticeship of 35 hours a week, you’ll earn at least £129.50 per week. Some employers do choose to pay more than the minimum, so you could be earning an entry level salary. Don’t forget that an apprenticeship isn’t simply a full-time job; you’ll be learning and gaining nationally recognised qualifications at the same time. Essentially, an apprenticeship is college combined with work experience and a wage.
If you feel ready for the world of work and keen to build on your experience, an apprenticeship is ideal. If you’re not keen on office life just yet, then college may be the better option for you.
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You may have heard it mentioned, and these days it’s no secret that employers want to find employees with real world work experience in a related role. This is one reason why many young people decide to go down the apprenticeship route.
College is great at giving you theoretical knowledge, and preparing you for going to university. Some courses even give you practical experience within an educational setting, but what college misses is experience within the working world.
Apprenticeships place you within an organisation, so that you can gain practical experience in a real working environment. As an apprentice, you’ll work alongside people who have been in the role for a number of years, picking up tricks of the trade you wouldn’t learn at college, and making you hugely valuable to an employer.
Again, some professions, such as teaching and social work, require a degree, which will involve work experience. However, if you are able to enter your chosen career path through an apprenticeship, the experience factor can give you the edge over those with college qualifications.
It’s all up to you!
When deciding whether you should go to college or become an apprentice, you need to consider your own personal circumstances. Is your chosen career path available through an apprenticeship? If not, college may be the way forward.
You’ll also want to weigh up the financial benefits and drawbacks of each option – apprentices will be earning from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean that college students can’t take on a part time job.
Consider whether employers will value experience and qualifications over just qualifications – in many cases, they will! As an apprentice, you are essentially part of the workforce, rather than just a student, so make sure you feel ready for this.