University is often thought of as the only pathway to a successful career and high-paying job. And while it’s certainly worth your consideration, there are plenty of alternatives to university out there – whether that’s a degree apprenticeship, distance and online learning or even a gap year. Each has their own benefits, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of both university study and all the alternatives too.
Take a look at our guide to the alternatives to university below:
An apprenticeship is one of the most popular alternatives to university. The reason? You get on-the-job training alongside your study and you also get an apprenticeship wage. If that’s not enough, consider the fact that you’ll be developing skills in communication, leadership, time management and plenty more. These skills are often undervalued by those applying for jobs, despite the fact employers widely regard them as crucial. It’s also common for apprentices to be offered full-time employment once they’ve finished their apprenticeship. You can even start an apprenticeship at 16 instead of continuing in school or college-based education.
2. Higher Apprenticeships
These are a little more advanced than a standard apprenticeship. You’ll usually need a Level 3 qualification such as a BTEC or A-Levels to enrol but experience can also be taken into account. These feature all the same benefits as standard apprenticeships, making them a great alternative to university study. Furthermore, this level often has a higher apprenticeship wage than a standard apprenticeship.
3. Degree Apprenticeships
As the name suggests, degree apprenticeships are comparable to university study. There are two levels: 6 and 7, which are equivalent to a full bachelor’s and master’s degree respectively. The best bit? You’ll likely be earning a substantial apprenticeship wage (average £18,362) on top of not paying any costly tuition fees!
If you don’t quite have the grades or experience to get onto an apprenticeship, you can complete a traineeship instead. These were designed to bridge the gap for those who are just missing a little experience or qualifications. They are similar to an apprenticeship in the sense that you get on-the-job training while studying. You’ll also be offered the chance to get your maths and English qualifications up to industry standard. You won’t quite get an apprenticeship wage however you will be reimbursed for travel and your lunch expenses. They normally run anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. As a stepping stone to an apprenticeship and therefore a career, they’re a great first move if you’re considering alternatives to university.
5. Online Learning
One of the fastest-growing forms of education, online learning is now a go-to for many education providers. It can be used as part of an on-site course or can be studied totally from home. A huge benefit of online learning is the flexible nature of the delivery. This makes it a great alternative to university as it allows learners to work through qualifications in their own time. There are plenty of accredited and industry-standard courses too, so you won’t be doing yourself a disfavour. Online learning providers like AVADO team up with industry associations like the CIPD and AAT to provide high-quality learning at a fraction of the price of a degree.
7. Foundation Degrees
A foundation degree is equivalent to two-thirds of a bachelors degree. As a briefer version of a full degree, you don’t pay the same amount of tuition fees or study for as long. They blend vocational and academic learnings and are often enough to move into a career. They’re often considered a pathway to full degree study but can be considered as a course in their own right.
8. Entry Level Jobs
If more education, study and learning is not what you want, maybe consider looking for an entry-level job. You’ll need to be 18 but there are plenty of roles available. Most industries have jobs you can start without higher qualifications but you’ll usually need at least a GCSE grade C in Maths and English, alongside extracurricular activities to prove why you’re right for the job. Clearly, these roles won’t start with a high salary but most employers will look to pay for courses and training that can help you start climbing the ladder to that dream role.
9. Work Experience
Not quite sure where to go or what to do? Consider work experience. This will give you an idea of whether the industry is for you and what kind of roles to expect. Doing work experience will help build your CV and show future employers that you understand what’s involved. It also helps to show that you’re interested in that type of work and prove you’re willing to put yourself out to succeed.
Internships are similar to work experience but generally a higher level. They’re often given to those just out of university but you can get an internship without degree study, making them a great alternative to university. It depends on the internship and business whether you’ll receive a wage but they’re definitely a great way of getting your foot in the door.
Got a skill or an idea? Consider working for yourself! With the rise of internet shopping and the digital space in general, there’s huge potential to earn with self-employment. This could range from DJing weddings and events to running an e-commerce shop, working as an artist, running physical training classes and plenty more. It’ll take some work to get yourself up and running but if you have a skill that’s able to be monetised, this can be the start of a great career working for yourself.
12. Working Overseas
Always fancied travelling but don’t quite have the money for a gap year? Consider working abroad and earning while you travel. There are plenty of ways to do this, from teaching English abroad to working on farms in Australia and New Zealand. You’ll need to do your research and save a little cash but this is a great way of getting out there and seeing what the world has to offer!
13. Voluntary Work
Voluntary work is a popular option for plenty of young people looking to find themselves. You’ll gain experience and learn new skills all the while helping to improve the world – whether that’s abroad or in your local area. Again, you’ll need to find the right opportunities and be able to support your way through your voluntary stint, however, it’s incredibly rewarding and can often lead to a paid job.
14. Part-Time Study
If you’re not quite ready to jump straight back into full-time education, part-time study may be the way forward. You can do this via online study or even in university but over a longer period of time than the usual degree study. This means you can work alongside studying as your work-load won’t be quite as demanding.
What should I do instead of university?
There are plenty of alternatives to university. For a paid alternative that includes study and work, consider apprenticeships, paid internships, or working abroad. A great option is also online learning alongside your current job. If you’re not quite ready to jump back into education, consider voluntary work, self-employment or an entry level job. If the sound of an apprenticeship – real work, an accredited qualification, and an apprenticeship wage – sounds up your street, check out our apprenticeships now.