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Should my child do an apprenticeship or a degree?

With more and more opportunities to do an Apprenticeship at a higher level, in a wider range of occupations, it can be difficult to decide which is the best route to choose.

Choices after a Level 3 qualification

If your son or daughter has just completed a Level 3 qualification at a school, college or sixth form and is uncertain whether to choose a degree at a university or college or an apprenticeship, there are a number of things to consider:


The most important factor when considering these options is what your son or daughter would like to do as a future career. An apprenticeship will train them for a job - so they need to have a reasonable idea that that is a job of interest to them. They also need to see if it has progression opportunities, for example if you start at level 3 or level 4 are there opportunities to progress to level 5/ 6 qualifications and career roles?

Higher Education

On the other hand a degree in any subject is attractive to employers, so if your son or daughter is less sure what job or career they want to do, and have a subject they would like to study in depth at a higher education level, this could be a good route for them.

More students are also choosing to stay close to home and go to their local college to study higher education courses. This can be a good option if your son or daughter wants to study a job related course, so has a good idea of where they want to go next e.g. business, computing, countryside management.

Careers and routes

A young person will also need to decide if they like the idea of earning a wage, being in an adult environment, and ‘learning by doing’, which is what apprenticeships offer. Alternatively, are they more tempted by opportunities to continue to study a subject in depth, potentially move away from home and experience ‘student life’?

Ultimately, if they know the career direction in which they want to head, they need to have researched the best way to get there and compared the pros and cons of choosing the degree or apprenticeship route.

Apprenticeships can be at degree level

In many cases apprenticeships lead onto a university level qualification. Apprenticeships are now offered in a number of subjects including professional areas such as Law and Nursing. For example, a school leaver at 18 may start an Apprenticeship as a Nursing Associate which then leads on to a Degree Apprenticeship in Nursing. There are over 354 career areas that it is possible to do a higher or degree apprenticeship in.

Careerpilot has lots of information about higher and degree apprenticeships and how to find opportunities.

There are also 1000s of degree courses, offered at both colleges and universities.

Careerpilot has lots of information about apprenticeships, including Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and also Higher Education.

With so many choices it is crucial that your child has researched their career ideas to ensure they have chosen the best route for reaching their goals.

Some jobs require specific degrees

On the other hand, some careers require specific degrees from university study. 

For example, medicine – to become a qualified doctor you need A Levels and have a Medical Degree. It’s not possible to study Medicine through an Apprenticeship although there are plans to pilot a scheme in September 2024.

Apprenticeships are not the easy alternative to going to University though. There are some very competitive Apprenticeship programmes, with tough application processes and lots of competition. An apprenticeship is ultimately a job and your child will need an up-to-date, professional CV; to have identified employers they wish to apply to; and have good interview and employability skills. Most colleges have teams who are able to support young people with this.

To find out more about entry routes into different careers you can explore the Careerpilot Job Sectors, where you will find links to hundreds of job profiles which explain the possible routes into them.  

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