FAQ: 'Can I go to university after an apprenticeship?'

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As a young person, there are two distinct methods of building a career for the future that differ from one another. University is an ideal route for people considering a more academic route, with an apprenticeship acting as the more practical route. Some people have an interest in completing both opportunities when developing their skill set. In this article, we answer 'Can I go to university after an apprenticeship?', define the two terms and set out what the eligibility is for both working in an apprenticeship and completing a university degree.

Can I go to university after apprenticeship programmes?

If you have worries about securing a university position and want to know 'Can I go to university after apprenticeship programmes?', there's no need to have concerns. One of the biggest stereotypes around apprenticeships is that apprentices don't suit the university environment. The reality is that anyone with a completed apprenticeship has the opportunity for applying to university. This is because the university is an option available for people of all ages, with mature students with an entire career behind them being a significant group in university life.

Related: All you need to know about apprenticeship vs university

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is an agreement between a company and someone early in their career development. The candidate works closely with a member of staff within the company, completing duties relating to the role and building experience within the career path. Throughout an apprenticeship, a candidate completes classroom learning. Apprentices work towards a formal qualification in the field so they complete the apprenticeship in a strong and employable position. Apprenticeships are ideal for those seeking practical experience as soon as possible.

An apprenticeship is beneficial for candidates in a few ways. Candidates receive a significant amount of practical experience in an active workplace. This makes employing apprentices a more attractive prospect, as employers don't risk members of staff struggling with the transition between theoretical learning and a practical environment. The formal qualification is another benefit for an apprentice. This demonstrates that someone that completes an apprenticeship has plenty of knowledge in addition to spending time in a workplace, enabling them when completing some of the more complicated tasks in a workplace.

Related: What are apprenticeship benefits? (Plus eligibility)

What is a university degree?

A university degree is an opportunity for a student to learn more about a specific subject of interest in a deeper amount of detail than at A-level or GCSE. An undergraduate degree consists of studying the subject of interest for at least three years when completing a full-time degree and up to six years when completing a part-time degree. There's a wide range of subjects available for study at the university level. The majority of assessment is in the form of essays and exams, with a particular focus on the written word as a means of conveying understanding.

Universities offer degrees at a range of different levels. The lowest level of degree is an undergraduate degree, which teaches students some of the core concepts of the subject and examines the ideas of the subject in more detail. Students modify their degrees with a selection of different modules with lecturers teaching their specialities. Postgraduate study includes completing a Master's degree or a doctorate. At these stages in the process, students contribute to the field of research with their independent studies, adding to the wider understanding of that field.

Related: Undergraduate vs graduate study: What's the difference?

How to enter university after an apprenticeship

Here's how to enter university upon completion of an apprenticeship:

1. Research university course

The first step in the process is thoroughly researching university courses from a range of different institutions. Specifically, target those in your area of interest and relating to your apprenticeship. For example, if you have experience working with programming and coding for a development company, consider a university degree in computer science. This means that you maximise your chance of relating to the content and succeeding from the earliest possible point. The right university course means you enjoy your degree far more and have a better chance of a higher grade, which is appealing to employers.

2. Find the right university

When you have a better idea of the course you have an interest in, look through some of the options for universities offering the course. Different universities have different focuses, with some having entire departments for single courses. Research the universities offering your course, look into the lecturers offering the course and find out more about the facilities in each university. From this point, create a shortlist of universities you have an interest in. This makes choosing a university far simpler, as a logical process leaves you with the best universities to choose from.

3. Attend open days

Considering your shortlist of universities remotely is a challenge, so attending open days is an ideal method of establishing the best university for your needs. This includes visiting the university, taking a look around the university ground and discussing the course with fellow prospective students and the lecturer of the course. Each of these provides more of an insight into your ideal university, as you learn more about whether you have an interest in a campus university or one in the middle of a city. At the end of the open day process, make your choice of university.

4. Write a personal statement

When you have a university and specific degree in mind, write a personal statement. This is a 4000-character document you send to the university via the UCAS system, explaining all of the benefits of taking you on as a student and some of the reasons you have an interest in that degree. Completing your personal statement to a high standard is important as this is your opportunity for conveying personal information about yourself aside from your GCSE and A-level qualifications. A good impression at this stage goes a long way.

Related: How to write a university personal statement in 4 steps

5. Attend an interview

Some universities have an interview process for prospective students. Depending on the specific university, interviews vary from informal conversations about the subject to detailed discussions about your past and why you have an interest in the course. This is most common in highly popular courses and is an opportunity for academic staff to find out more about their students and ensure that the cohort is ideal. Success in an interview means securing your place at the university of your choice, so prepare thoroughly.

Related: 10 university interview questions (with example answers)

Is an apprenticeship or a degree ideal for me?

Some people debate whether a university degree or an apprenticeship is ideal for them. Whilst people benefit from taking part in both of the options, some prefer to choose one. See the series of factors below for a better idea of which option is more appropriate for you:

Learning style

People prefer learning in different ways, whether this is in the form of preferring classroom learning and note-taking or learning in a much more practical environment. If you prefer listening to an expert in their field discussing the subject matter, a degree is an ideal option for you. Those that prefer getting involved and learning by completing tasks focus on getting an apprenticeship for the practical workplace aspect of the role.

Related: What is a learning style and how do they affect work?

Work ethic

Your work ethic also has an impact on whether you thrive more in an apprenticeship setting or as a student. Having a strong work ethic makes going into an active workplace an ideal option for you, as you set a strong impression on other people in a working environment from an early stage. Those requiring more inspiration and certainty in their tasks in a work environment benefit from a university degree, as this means that you have a full understanding of the theory behind your work before engaging in the workplace's tasks.

Related: How to develop strong working ethics for career success?

Teamwork

As an apprentice, one of the most important skills you use is teamwork. You communicate closely with different members of the organisation on a day-to-day basis as you learn more about the specific tasks you complete and the responsibilities you have. Teamwork benefits your outcomes and the overall productivity of the people around you. University degrees are primarily independent affairs. This makes a university degree ideal for someone that prefers working on their own, as writing essays and reports is something that students complete on their own in many cases.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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