Which is Better, Apprenticeships or College?

Posted by: Jannike Post Date: 31st July 2015

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.

Career choices

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.

Earnings

When trying to choose between an apprenticeship or college, the money you could earn might be a consideration. From October 2015, the apprenticeship minimum wage will rise to £3.40, and the minimum wage for 16 and 17 year-olds will rise to £3.87.

While as an apprentice you will earn less per hour, you are likely 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.

So, if you join a full-time apprenticeship, you’ll earn at least £123.75 per week, while you can only earn up to £77.40 working outside of college (and that’s if you do the maximum of 20 hours!).

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, it’s college learning combined with practical experience and a wage.

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Experience

You may have heard it mentioned, and these days it’s no secret… 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.

If you want to start your career through an apprenticeship, click below.

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