Research and Insights / 2 minute read

Apprenticeship vs University

Written by Alex Cottom

5 February 2020

Alex Cottom


Having been an Account Executive Apprentice at DRPG now for roughly four months, I have arguably learnt more in this time than my three years in education prior to this. I thought I’d let you know my thoughts so far after speaking with my peers about their experience at university versus my experience in the workplace.

There is no shortfall of choice when deciding on what course you want to pursue at university. From the Robin Hood studies pathway to the stand-up comedy master's degree, university will always offer more choice. But a choice in degree doesn’t always lead to a choice in career. Over half of all university graduates’ first jobs are not in their respective degree subject areas and by the age of 24, 96% say they have switched careers completely.

From the first four months of my apprenticeship, I realised the importance of building a personal portfolio. This is in relation to experience, my qualification and my personal awareness in the workplace. Working in a results-driven, creative company forces you to stand out from the crowd and grab every opportunity as it flies into view.

It is commonplace to find “…needs ‘X’ years’ experience in ‘Y’…” on a job application. This is the catch-22 for many of my friends who roll out of university with a first in their subject area but with no experience in that sector. However, I do get slightly envious of the university life - the independence it gives you, the friends you make, and the life lessons you learn will stay with you forever. When hearing friends recite stories of their student accommodation and the nights out they have, I do sometimes wish I went down that path.

The unfortunate truth is that students leaving university aged 21 have little choice when it comes to where they go next. My apprenticeship puts me in a good position of independence at a younger age, supported by a solid qualification and at least two years industry experience to continue to climb the corporate ladder.

At university you’ll learn your content through lectures, seminars and workshops. In an apprenticeship, it is the apprentice’s responsibility to self-learn. This learning style isn’t for everyone. If you prefer content to be teacher-led, university is the way to go whereas an apprenticeship is very manageable if you are self-motivated.

Gone are the days when apprenticeships were dominated by manual trade labour and reserved for those who ‘couldn’t get into uni’. During 2020 the Government have pledged to create a further three million apprenticeships within the UK alone and with the ever-evolving positive attitude towards apprenticeships, this number is only going to increase.