Should I go to university or get a job?
Wondering whether you should go to university or work, for example getting an apprenticeship or other job? There’s a range of options if you want to start work as soon as possible, including apprenticeships of different levels, other programmes for school leavers that combine earning and learning, and entry-level jobs. You could even combine work and university via a degree apprenticeship.
We can help you:
- understand the different types of apprenticeships and similar schemes available
- consider whether university is worth it financially for you, or if an apprenticeship would work out better
- decide whether you’d miss the university experience if you don’t go
- assess whether taking an apprenticeship would narrow your career options too soon
- get a feel for what motivates you personally.
Apprenticeships combine working, earning a wage and studying towards a nationally recognised qualification. There are different levels, which could allow you to gain anything from a level 2 NVQ to a masters degree, and official government standards to ensure you are well trained. They’re also available in lots of different career areas.
There are similar schemes available that also combine work and study but aren’t officially apprenticeships. These are sometimes referred to as school leaver programmes. For example, some accountancy firms run schemes designed to qualify you as a chartered accountant, which are typically aimed at those with A levels, Highers or the IB.
It’s also possible to get an entry-level job and work your way up, even in some careers that tend to be associated with graduates. For example, it’s possible to become a marketing assistant without a degree.
- Take a look at our career sectors to find out about entry-level jobs in the areas that interest you.
Are financial considerations your main reason for asking yourself whether you should go to university or get a job? Be aware that there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to whether higher earning potential as a graduate outweighs student debt in the long term. Lots of factors play a part, including what career you’re interested in and what level of qualification you’d get on an apprenticeship or other school leaver programme.
- Find out more about the financial implications of going to university v. starting work – both short term and long term.
- Discover how graduate and non-graduate salaries compare.
- Get more detail about university fees and student funding.
Everyone talks about the university experience – is not wanting to miss out on this a good enough reason to go to uni? Dig a bit deeper and you’ll probably find that different people mean different things by ‘the university experience’, so it’s worth figuring out which aspects of university life might appeal to you personally and whether an apprenticeship or job could offer these too. For example, some apprentices leave home and live in a house-share in a new town, and most will meet plenty of new people.
- Read about eight aspects of the university experience you might not want to miss, and whether an apprenticeship could offer these too.
If you want to take an apprenticeship or similar programme, you’ll need to make decisions about your career direction. Most apprenticeships train you for a specific job role; some offer more flexibility but you’ll still need to know broadly what you want to do, for example to work in business or to work in IT. Likewise, getting an entry-level job involves knowing what job you want – though you’d probably feel freer than an apprentice to leave and try something different, given that you wouldn’t be quitting a study programme. If you go to university there will be a number of career options open to you regardless of what subject you study – just don’t leave it too late, as you’ll need some work experience.
- Find out whether apprentices can change careers and how uni could keep your options open.
- Explore which careers do and don’t require a specific degree.
You might conclude after you’ve done your research that objectively there’s not much difference between the merits of the two routes – or that without a crystal ball you can’t really tell which would be best for you. If that’s the case, focus instead on whether one appeals to you more than the other.
Motivation is very important in achieving success, whether at university or in the workplace. If you’ve investigated both options and one is shouting out to you, don’t ignore that feeling. Both routes require you to work hard, seize opportunities and, from time to time, knuckle down to tasks you’d prefer not to do. You’re more likely to actually do so and to give things your best shot if you enjoy what you’re doing for its own sake rather than seeing it as a means to an end.