The Student Room Group

University degree or a degree apprenticeship?

L:smile:
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 1
I would keep your options open. Apply for both and see what you get offered. You will find that employers are asking for good grades from their degree apprentices so that should demonstrate to your parents that these apprenticeships are not available to people who don't get good enough grades for university. In fact you will find securing a degree apprenticeship is normally very competitive.

Are you sure you want to do law? I know you want to keep your parents happy. You certainly don't sound like a bad daughter to me. But you need to want to do this whichever route you end up taking.
Reply 2
Original post by S_m££Ra
Hello everyone,

I’m a student currently in year 12 and I’m studying 3 subjects, I have to do 1 BTEC/LiBf subject and 2 IB subjects. I study business, psychology and finance, I know these are different subjects to what career I’d like to pursue but I’m thinking of doing law, I’ve heard that it doesn’t really matter what subjects I choose therefore I chose these hoping to get a career in law.

My main question is I’m stuck between deciding whether to do a degree apprenticeship or go to university.

if I go to university i will have to pay incredibly high fees and also my friends have said that it’s highly unlikely I’ll find a job straight away after I’ve finished uni therefore it may take me quite some time whereas a degree apprenticeship will offer me a salary and also a real life experience with no debt, but the thing is, is a degree apprenticeship for students that don’t necessarily ‘do well in exams’, if that’s the case I’m not going to really be interested as I don’t want my parents to look down on me.

My parents don’t really understand what a degree apprenticeship is and in their mindset they think it’s for students that lack the grades needed for uni and that it’s for students that only think about and chase money, I’m not interest in a degree apprenticeship just for the money, i’m also doing it because it sounds interesting and I have heard some good things about it. So far, I’m the first child to go to sixth form as I’m the oldest and I’ll be the first to get into high education and I feel like I can’t be stuck with taking advice from my parents the whole time as I have to live for myself.

My father was about to make me follow a career to become a pharmacist but I sobbed and I said no, I’m glad that I stood up for myself as I wouldn’t enjoy having to do chemistry as a subject so he slightly looked down on me and felt disappointed. I want to prove my father that I’m good and I want to be the best daughter I can be, I work very hard and all teachers talk good about me, it may sound like I’m a bad daughter for not listening to my fathers advice but im not, I listen to him in most cases but I feel like my career is obviously my choice so as a result I told him I’ll do law to make him feel at ease and now I’m stuck in between deciding to go the traditional university route or go down the degree apprenticeship route,

I apologise for the extremely long parapgraph.

Just like universities, there are prestigious degree apprenticeship employers, some are far better than others.

University was actually the least valuable part of my career development during my degree apprenticeship.
Original post by S_m££Ra
Hello everyone,

I’m a student currently in year 12 and I’m studying 3 subjects, I have to do 1 BTEC/LiBf subject and 2 IB subjects. I study business, psychology and finance, I know these are different subjects to what career I’d like to pursue but I’m thinking of doing law, I’ve heard that it doesn’t really matter what subjects I choose therefore I chose these hoping to get a career in law.

My main question is I’m stuck between deciding whether to do a degree apprenticeship or go to university.

if I go to university i will have to pay incredibly high fees and also my friends have said that it’s highly unlikely I’ll find a job straight away after I’ve finished uni therefore it may take me quite some time whereas a degree apprenticeship will offer me a salary and also a real life experience with no debt, but the thing is, is a degree apprenticeship for students that don’t necessarily ‘do well in exams’, if that’s the case I’m not going to really be interested as I don’t want my parents to look down on me.

My parents don’t really understand what a degree apprenticeship is and in their mindset they think it’s for students that lack the grades needed for uni and that it’s for students that only think about and chase money, I’m not interest in a degree apprenticeship just for the money, i’m also doing it because it sounds interesting and I have heard some good things about it. So far, I’m the first child to go to sixth form as I’m the oldest and I’ll be the first to get into high education and I feel like I can’t be stuck with taking advice from my parents the whole time as I have to live for myself.

My father was about to make me follow a career to become a pharmacist but I sobbed and I said no, I’m glad that I stood up for myself as I wouldn’t enjoy having to do chemistry as a subject so he slightly looked down on me and felt disappointed. I want to prove my father that I’m good and I want to be the best daughter I can be, I work very hard and all teachers talk good about me, it may sound like I’m a bad daughter for not listening to my fathers advice but im not, I listen to him in most cases but I feel like my career is obviously my choice so as a result I told him I’ll do law to make him feel at ease and now I’m stuck in between deciding to go the traditional university route or go down the degree apprenticeship route,

I apologise for the extremely long parapgraph.


Depends really what you want to do after the degree. If your end goal is to go into work anyway and you'd just do a degree in whatever to get the degree as just a piece of paper to achieve that, then the degree apprenticeship route is a much better option. If you wanted to pursue an academic, intellectual interest in a specific area, then go onto work (or perhaps further study) then a degree apprenticeship is really probably less likely to facilitate that.

Equally though I think you need to actually check if your current subjects and qualifications would be accepted for degree level study. 2 IB (HL?) certificates and some odd finance certificate may well in fact not meet standard 3 A-level or equivalent requirements (remember the equivalent to 3 A-levels for IB is doing the entire IB diploma programme with 3 HL subjects, 3 SL subjects, and the IB core). Also business studies and a finance certificate may be a concern for some universities due to overlapping content.

While it is often said for a law degree the specific subjects don't matter too much (I do say this a lot as well!) it perhaps is because that assumes certain criteria already - that these are A-level subjects, or IB subjects taken as part of the IB diploma programme, or an equivalent academic qualification, and in generally broadly "academic" subjects rather than vocational or applied subjects (which is a reasonable assumption to a large point for A-levels these days as most primarily vocational or applied A-levels are no longer available after the reforms, or have changed drastically e.g. for CS vs the old ICT qualifications).

I would recommend looking into the requirements for degrees you might be interested in at universities you may want to apply to and see if your qualification and subject combination would be accepted to begin with. As this may be a limiting factor as some universities may not accept it, or you may be less competitive as an applicant with such a combination of qualifications and subjects. This may steer you towards the degree apprenticeship option (as they tend to use the UCAS points system more often I believe - many universities do not use this).

That said, on the matter of university fees and "debt" - most home fees students do not pay their tuition fees themselves and will take out student loans for these (and also will usually take out a maintenance loan). These loans from the Student Loan Company (SLC) delivered by Student Finance England/Wales/NI (Scotland has a separate system through SAAS) are not the same as bank loans. The "debt" you accrue from student finance is not the same as basically any other kind of debt you will have in life. Realistically in the vast majority of cases it functions in all but name as a graduate tax. I would recommend reading this for more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/8-things-you-should-know-about-your-student-loan--2

In essence, they are pretty much impossible to default on unless you willfully attempt to defraud SFE by leaving the country without telling them and working elsewhere abroad, or if you're a self-employed worker or contractor by fraudulently misreporting your earnings. For the vast majority of salaried employees that are PAYE workers, student loan repayments are worked out by the company HR/finance section and just come out of your paycheque automatically like income tax and national insurance contributions. Additionally, the amount repaid is always proportional to your income and you don't repay anything until earning over a specified threshold. Finally, 40 years after you take the loan out it gets written off entirely.

I think it's quite common for students who may be the first or one of the first in their family to study in higher education to not know this (which is understandable) but it's really important to understand - because a lot of young people in that situation (in your situation!) decide against uni based on a reason which is not actually factually accurate! Student loans and the prospect of student loan "debt" should be the last thing you consider when applying to uni normally.
Reply 4
Original post by S_m££Ra
Thank you,
I feel a little less stressed out, I might enjoy doing law who knows, I enjoy partaking on someone’s side or dealing with cases or even being in the legal sector of a country. I’m quite good at communicating as it has been shown by my teachers responses in lessons (we had to do a presentation and I did quite well when I had to communicate with the audience) however, that will build up along the years. There was also another situation where I participated in a local democracy event and even though I only said a part once I feel like I really enjoyed backing up situations and giving my views on it.
However, my main concern is, will a degree apprenticeship open the career to become a barrister?

This might be useful to you.
https://www.ucas.com/explore/industry-guides/law-and-legal-studies
Original post by S_m££Ra
Thank you,

I have spoken to my careers advisor in school and she says that with these subjects it will be possible for me to get into university, unfortunately, I’m not considering a degree apprenticeship anymore because people have said that degree apprenticeships usually make you work so much for a little salary so as a result I’m thinking of getting into university.

I’m doing the IBCP and it’s literally similar to A levels, an* A in A levels is considered a 7 in an IB subjects, yes, I am slightly worried about my LIBF finance qualification but that will still possibly get me into a university because an A* in LIBF finance gives you 54 (I think) UCAS points, I’m working very hard and yes, it may not be possible for me to get into Oxford or Cambridge as such but it may be possible to get into other universities.

I know Finance and Business sound the same but they’re really not, once you sit in a lesson learning finance and another lesson learning business, you see a HUGE difference.

I am not going to be disheartened about this because I’ve had a tough time too and I’m very sure I’ll be given many offers at good universities.

Another thing is, our school doesn’t do the full IBCP where you have to do 5HL or 3SL whatever it is, our school is quite similar to A levels and I have looked at many universities for example kings, that allow subjects such as IB business and IB psychology.

I'm familiar with the IB - I did the IBDP myself in 6th form. While they unis accept those IB subjects (indeed, any IB subject) as part of the IBDP, the issue is that they may not routinely accept them as individual qualifications outside of that frame. Or if they do, they may not consider 2 HL IB subjects equivalent to 2 A-levels, without the rest of the IBDP supporting those. Your best bet is to get in touch with the unis you may wish to apply to and ask them directly. Some unis may be happy to accept them, some may not.

In terms of the degree apprenticeship, I wouldn't rule it out as while you earn a small amount in the first year, the amount you have to be paid by them goes up year on year. And more importantly, you don't get paid that amount forever after you finish the apprenticeship - the idea of degree apprenticeships is usually after completing the apprenticeship the company will usually be hoping to hire you into a graduate role internally. Which will pay the same as other grad scheme roles, in principle - and along the way you'll have been earning money the entire time. Even more valuable, you'll have been getting relevant work experience in your desired field of work, which is very important.
Reply 6
Original post by S_m££Ra
Thank you,

I have spoken to my careers advisor in school and she says that with these subjects it will be possible for me to get into university, unfortunately, I’m not considering a degree apprenticeship anymore because people have said that degree apprenticeships usually make you work so much for a little salary so as a result I’m thinking of getting into university.

I’m doing the IBCP and it’s literally similar to A levels, an* A in A levels is considered a 7 in an IB subjects, yes, I am slightly worried about my LIBF finance qualification but that will still possibly get me into a university because an A* in LIBF finance gives you 54 (I think) UCAS points, I’m working very hard and yes, it may not be possible for me to get into Oxford or Cambridge as such but it may be possible to get into other universities.

I know Finance and Business sound the same but they’re really not, once you sit in a lesson learning finance and another lesson learning business, you see a HUGE difference.

I am not going to be disheartened about this because I’ve had a tough time too and I’m very sure I’ll be given many offers at good universities.

Another thing is, our school doesn’t do the full IBCP where you have to do 5HL or 3SL whatever it is, our school is quite similar to A levels and I have looked at many universities for example kings, that allow subjects such as IB business and IB psychology.

To reiterate what I said before, some apprenticeships are better than others. Just like universities.

As a general example,
You attend uni full time to study software engineering and your dream job is with Google. You put your development partly in the trust of the university. Specifically, trusting you’re going to get the support, facilities, and development opportunities you need for your CV to stand out. Turns out you got a 1:1 and didn’t get any tricky assignments, harsh markers, or curveball exams. Then you fight for a graduate placement at Google.

Or, you could be trained directly by Google and have access to all the facilities, support, and development opportunities their employees get.

In summary, if you had the option of doing a degree apprenticeship with your dream employer, it’s a no brainer for me.


Making education route decisions based on what your salary will be during an apprenticeship or upon graduation is not the right way to go. It’s 3-5 years of what might be a 40 year career. In which case, earning work experience over that 3-5 years will yield the best results and better impact your long term career. Performance in meeting deadlines and goals are what earn your salary, not what or where you studied.
(edited 4 months ago)
Original post by S_m££Ra
What did you do in IB and what degree + what are you doing now?

I'm still doing my degree. I left my original course and worked for a few years then returned to study.

My original IB stuff was pretty much irrelevant for applying for this course as well, as I'd done another course more recently in preparation for it. Also my current course has no subject specific requirements anyway.

So it's not enormously illuminating me telling you what I did in IB - I did the usual IB diploma required subjects. English lit, a language (ab initio in my case), a social science, an experimental science, maths, and an elective subject (in my case visual arts). Plus ToK and the EE and CAS.
Reply 8
Original post by S_m££Ra
Thank you very much for your answer,

I’m feeling quite concerned now if universities won’t look at me or even accept me because my only way is to get into university now because my dad said a degree apprenticeship isn’t worth it and he told me to not do it as it’s a waste of time and I don’t think persuading him will work so therefore my only choice will be to go to a university and now after hearing your answers it’s making me quite anxious and worried because what if I’m not recognised because of my subject choices so I decided to send a message to my head of sixth form as I really don’t want this to happen, I want to be accepted to universities especially russel group universities, it’s slightly stressing me out now because what if I don’t get into university which will completely crush me and disappoint both me and my parents.

I started my degree apprenticeship at 22. You don’t have to start immediately after A levels. So don’t worry.

Parents want their kids to do well because it validates their parenting. It doesn’t mean it’s always good advice. Telling your friend your child is a doctor or lawyer is nice, but you’ll be here long after them and it’s important you pick a career and study path that excites and motivates you.

Higher education involves a lot of self teaching and proactiveness. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it really does reflect on the results, long and short term.

The good thing about apprenticeships is that you can basically apply for any regardless of your A levels. Sure some have preferences, but it’s not a formal requirement of the apprenticeship standard and they can be flexible.

I suggest you apply for both apprenticeships and university, then weigh your options as the offers come in. You could retract your university offer or hand your notice in at your apprenticeship if a better offer comes up later.
Original post by S_m££Ra
Hello everyone,

I’m a student currently in year 12 and I’m studying 3 subjects, I have to do 1 BTEC/LiBf subject and 2 IB subjects. I study business, psychology and finance, I know these are different subjects to what career I’d like to pursue but I’m thinking of doing law, I’ve heard that it doesn’t really matter what subjects I choose therefore I chose these hoping to get a career in law.

My main question is I’m stuck between deciding whether to do a degree apprenticeship or go to university.

if I go to university i will have to pay incredibly high fees and also my friends have said that it’s highly unlikely I’ll find a job straight away after I’ve finished uni therefore it may take me quite some time whereas a degree apprenticeship will offer me a salary and also a real life experience with no debt, but the thing is, is a degree apprenticeship for students that don’t necessarily ‘do well in exams’, if that’s the case I’m not going to really be interested as I don’t want my parents to look down on me.

My parents don’t really understand what a degree apprenticeship is and in their mindset they think it’s for students that lack the grades needed for uni and that it’s for students that only think about and chase money, I’m not interest in a degree apprenticeship just for the money, i’m also doing it because it sounds interesting and I have heard some good things about it. So far, I’m the first child to go to sixth form as I’m the oldest and I’ll be the first to get into high education and I feel like I can’t be stuck with taking advice from my parents the whole time as I have to live for myself.

My father was about to make me follow a career to become a pharmacist but I sobbed and I said no, I’m glad that I stood up for myself as I wouldn’t enjoy having to do chemistry as a subject so he slightly looked down on me and felt disappointed. I want to prove my father that I’m good and I want to be the best daughter I can be, I work very hard and all teachers talk good about me, it may sound like I’m a bad daughter for not listening to my fathers advice but im not, I listen to him in most cases but I feel like my career is obviously my choice so as a result I told him I’ll do law to make him feel at ease and now I’m stuck in between deciding to go the traditional university route or go down the degree apprenticeship route,

I apologise for the extremely long parapgraph.

As someone currently at a RG uni and my friends doing a degree apprenticeship, I wish I had taken the apprenticeship route. I've read all of your comments and I totally get you. I also come from a family who had no idea what a degree apprenticeship actually really is like, and before uni, I didnt fully understand either. All I knew what that a uni degree was the way to go and it would make my parents happy. However, since starting uni, its becoming a large regret. Yes, I will get a huge debt but unless you're required a degree for your career, I don't think its worth it.
Nowadays, the job market values experience over education. I've applied to god knows how many internships and so far no luck all due to my lack of experience (for reference I'm working towards something in finance or management). Careers such as law and finance only really care about your experience.
My friend who took on a degree apprenticeship was in a similar position, where his parents were not happy about the fact he'd chosen the apprenticeship over uni (he got into Warwick btw) and instead of spending 3 years for the degree, he is using those years to gain massively important experience, and working towards a chartered certificate. He pretty much secured and accepted the apprenticeship before telling his parents because of he knew how they'd react. After explaining more about it, they've come to accept it and understand what it actually is.
I mean think about it, when you start applying for grad schemes (which are just ridiculously competitive btw, esp with so many students in law), you're in the same job market as those graduated apprentices who have years of experience already, something even a placement year possibly might not even cover.
My friend had used uni as a backup if he didnt manage to secure the apprenticeship so definitely keep both options open I'd say, I wouldn't shut away either options because of the reasons you've mentioned so far.

Regarding the salary, it will depend on what and where you apply, but remember your salary will usually increase annually anyway and it won't included bonuses. The friend I've mentioned had received a Christmas bonus on top of his salary already and hes only been at the company less than 3 months. Just make sure to do your research if its a massive concern (also think about how it completely eliminated your uni debt too - I'm currently struggling to afford rent and living on the maximum maintenance loan so its a real struggle)
Degree apprenticeships are hard to get, yes, but theres a reason for that and thats because of everything they offer you, tangibly and intangibly. They're definitely not useless. The job markets your parents were in have completely shifted from what you'll be experiencing and not in a good way. So many people now have degrees that they are just becoming less valuable over time, which is why they prefer experience. Maybe double check they know the difference between a normal apprenticeship and a degree one.

What I'd recommend is to apply to as many as you can, and explore beyond Law if possible including finance and management possibly since they do offer tons of school leavers opportunities, and that'll also keep your options open
What you might find is that the application process will be daunting, and my only advice is to not get disheartened and not give up, my friend had applied for over 30 roles before he secured one in the Big 4 in finance.

In summary, as a full time uni student, I have no time to get that much experience compared to if I were doing a degree apprenticeship. It's physically impossible. The only times a degree is 100% necessary is for those actually needing it like doctors, where they need education prior to their experience. In contrast, every other sector no longer values it as much since there's just so many applicants with degrees that the only other way to differentiate us all is through work experience. So yeah, if you're aiming high, like the barrister role you mentioned, keep both options open
Original post by Carrotsroom
As someone currently at a RG uni and my friends doing a degree apprenticeship, I wish I had taken the apprenticeship route. I've read all of your comments and I totally get you. I also come from a family who had no idea what a degree apprenticeship actually really is like, and before uni, I didnt fully understand either. All I knew what that a uni degree was the way to go and it would make my parents happy. However, since starting uni, its becoming a large regret. Yes, I will get a huge debt but unless you're required a degree for your career, I don't think its worth it.
Nowadays, the job market values experience over education. I've applied to god knows how many internships and so far no luck all due to my lack of experience (for reference I'm working towards something in finance or management). Careers such as law and finance only really care about your experience.
My friend who took on a degree apprenticeship was in a similar position, where his parents were not happy about the fact he'd chosen the apprenticeship over uni (he got into Warwick btw) and instead of spending 3 years for the degree, he is using those years to gain massively important experience, and working towards a chartered certificate. He pretty much secured and accepted the apprenticeship before telling his parents because of he knew how they'd react. After explaining more about it, they've come to accept it and understand what it actually is.
I mean think about it, when you start applying for grad schemes (which are just ridiculously competitive btw, esp with so many students in law), you're in the same job market as those graduated apprentices who have years of experience already, something even a placement year possibly might not even cover.
My friend had used uni as a backup if he didnt manage to secure the apprenticeship so definitely keep both options open I'd say, I wouldn't shut away either options because of the reasons you've mentioned so far.

Regarding the salary, it will depend on what and where you apply, but remember your salary will usually increase annually anyway and it won't included bonuses. The friend I've mentioned had received a Christmas bonus on top of his salary already and hes only been at the company less than 3 months. Just make sure to do your research if its a massive concern (also think about how it completely eliminated your uni debt too - I'm currently struggling to afford rent and living on the maximum maintenance loan so its a real struggle)
Degree apprenticeships are hard to get, yes, but theres a reason for that and thats because of everything they offer you, tangibly and intangibly. They're definitely not useless. The job markets your parents were in have completely shifted from what you'll be experiencing and not in a good way. So many people now have degrees that they are just becoming less valuable over time, which is why they prefer experience. Maybe double check they know the difference between a normal apprenticeship and a degree one.

What I'd recommend is to apply to as many as you can, and explore beyond Law if possible including finance and management possibly since they do offer tons of school leavers opportunities, and that'll also keep your options open
What you might find is that the application process will be daunting, and my only advice is to not get disheartened and not give up, my friend had applied for over 30 roles before he secured one in the Big 4 in finance.

In summary, as a full time uni student, I have no time to get that much experience compared to if I were doing a degree apprenticeship. It's physically impossible. The only times a degree is 100% necessary is for those actually needing it like doctors, where they need education prior to their experience. In contrast, every other sector no longer values it as much since there's just so many applicants with degrees that the only other way to differentiate us all is through work experience. So yeah, if you're aiming high, like the barrister role you mentioned, keep both options open

If you stay at the same company where you do your degree apprenticeship, you’re basically already fully integrated into the company 2/3 of the way in and don’t typically do the ~2-year graduate scheme after. In fact, if the employer rotates you around departments etc., you could find you actually have a broader knowledge and network that some experienced staff.

So if you do a 3 year degree, then a 2 year graduate scheme, it’s gets you to the same place a degree apprentice is at (assuming a 5 year apprenticeship). It could actually take longer as a full time student if you do a year placement and a masters degree.
Reply 11
Back of a fag packet. But if you have a salary of say £20k per annum x 3 years =£60k with no student debt. On the other hand you could easily run up a £60k student debt over the three years. So that's a difference of £120k. Remember that the student loan will be incurring interest also. Plus you get the same degree. Several years of work experience. Probably an immediate graduate level job at the end of it whilst others who did full time uni are looking for work.
Try explaining it to your Father in those terms. You can placate him in the meantime by also applying for universities. Which is probably a good idea anyway to keep all of your options open.
Original post by S_m££Ra
Thank you so so much,

I really do take these answers in and I’ve been interested in a degree apprenticeship ever since, the thing is my dad doesn’t understand me at all, he thinks that a degree apprenticeships will pay me £18,000 a year and burn me out and it will be a waste of time, he doesn’t understand that I will get a degree out of it and that I will get a job which will pay lots of money after. I kept telling him and telling him but he doesn’t really take my side and now I am too embarrassed and scared to ask him because he’ll get very annoyed and he will start assuming that I’m just listening and taking advice from someone stupid. I come from an immigrant family and I’m trying to make them proud but it never comes out my mouth and I don’t have the courage to explain to my dad once again what a degree apprenticeship is and he just doesn’t understand, I just don’t know what to do about it anymore and now I have to find universities it’s annoying that he doesn’t understand, I don’t blame him because obviously he hasn’t done much research but i just don’t know what to do anymore. 🙁

Yes totally understandable, my background is the same as yours so I definitely know that parents are just stubborn no matter what you say to them. Its difficult as even though you can try to explain to him that is how a degree apprenticeship works, he wont shift his decision. From that point, its your decision whether you want to prioritise your fathers feelings and ego, or your own future.

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