Apprenticeships and University: An Honest Review

Have you ever read a job advert that catches your eye only to find out, it specifies that a university degree is required?

Have you ever read a job advert that piques your interest, a job that you feel strongly about where you feel that you have relevant knowledge and you feel that your university degree has prepared you for this role, only to find out midway through the job advert that the recruiter fiercely states that 2 years worth of experience is required.

That is the sad reality to both options here. If employers value a university degree, then why do they require so many years of experience in which the candidate will (of course) not possess any?

If employers value experience, why diminish a suitable candidate just because they chose not to spend thousands of pounds on a degree. I want to voice my opinions and my own experience on this matter as it is something I have struggled with and I chose to go down both of these routes…


Back in 2019, I was finally tired of working in retail and I decided to take the leap and apply to university. As it was nearing September, I applied through clearing. Clearing is the route to apply through, for those who are applying passed the deadline date or for those people who do not meet the educational requirements. I was lucky enough to be successful in my application!

I was about to begin my university journey and I could not be any more excited. From a young age, I always had a passion for writing and I aspired to write for a living, I remember writing film reviews after every movie I watched. I loved the analytical side to it but also I just felt that writing came so naturally to me; it was fun, it was something that came free flowing to me and I believed that I was good at it. But to become a writer, I always saw those dreaded words on a job advert ‘Degree Required’. So that is why I began my course at university.

I was on a humanities course – focusing on English Literature. The course itself was really interesting and I was surprisingly really good at it too: I passed all assignments and received positive feedback from my tutor, at one point I recall them saying that I always came up with astute ideas, this made really believe that I should have confidence in myself and that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it. I still needed to learn that I should not be so critical and harsh with myself and to just solely focus on achieving my goals. Which is just what I did when I withdrew.

I know… I know.. You’re thinking if I was doing so well on the course, then why on earth would you leave? So let me tell you why.
I left because I was never really sold on the idea of university. I always felt that people are paying this amount just to gain the ‘uni experience’ and not an actual useful degree that they will take with them into the career. I know many people (more than you would expect) who has gained a uni degree in a certain subject but has gone on to work in a completely different profession. I always wondered what was the point then? £27,000 down the drain -that’s what it seemed to me and as much as I wanted to learn the valuable skills and knowledge that a uni course would definitely provide me with, I realised that this route is not the only way. The way is for me to work towards that goal by myself: write daily, teach myself, work hard and don’t give up. And to this day that’s what I continue to do. But it’s not just me who feels this way – a lot of people decide to drop out of university, feeling that the course or uni was not all that they hoped it would be. Sometimes people drop out due to burn out and stress from the course or financial reasons. But this doesn’t mean that they are now lost, much like me, you just have to find your own way of achieving your dreams.

So upon leaving university, I decided to create my first blog in order to dive right into my writing and I also managed to get an apprenticeship in Business Administration. This was a perfect mix for me: I was able to continue what I love doing and develop my love of writing which was also doing quite well! A lot of colleagues passed my blog on through word of mouth which really increased my readership. There was finally baby steps happening in my writing journey! But at the same time, I also really wanted to continue working and make some money. I knew I definitely did not want to return to retail and I always liked the idea of working in an office: it’s versatile and an easy to learn job. So in November, I managed to secure an apprenticeship in a primary school as a business administrator. My working hours were standard: Monday – Friday, 8am – 4pm with Tuesdays off to attend college. As it was an apprenticeship, I was learning on the job but at the same time I had to complete my qualification in which I was working towards my NVQ Level 3 diploma in Business Administration.

My time at the school was great, I was able to learn so many valuable skills which prepared me for my next role as a curriculum administrator. I feel that without having done this apprenticeship, I would not have been able to progress in my corporate career. I much preferred the apprenticeship route rather than the uni route: I am someone that likes to learn hands on and work ten times harder to get the experience and knowledge. As an apprentice at the age of 22 and in my first year of the course, I was paid very little: my take home would be around £500 a month for working a full time job. This did increase after being with the school for a year, where I then received full wages. The money was not so much of an issue to me: what I based it on was if I am happy in the position and fulfilled with course. Which I am pleased to say I was. However, I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that there wasn’t any down sides to this role and the main one for me was the lack of training and knowledge offered with the employer – I worked with the school from November 2019 until July 2021 and during half of my time in this employment, I was placed in the class room as teaching assistant. I am always eager to try something new and to help out where needed, but upon reflection, I really do believe that I should have been offered a more hands on approach to learning on the job in the course that I applied for and wanted to do. Furthermore, the times that I was in the office, I was often isolated from the team and given very little to no tasks at times and this took me a while to navigate on how to deal with situations like these. I had to remind myself to get this qualification for myself and myself only. This meant not being torn down by obstacles such as these and to preserve even in the most uncertain and hardest times.

It is good to note that with most employers who offer apprenticeships, they will most likely offer you a permanent contract once your apprenticeship has come to end, but sadly I was not offered that due to the COVID pandemic – a significant amount of government funded institutions over the UK especially hospitals and schools faced budget cuts and sadly my school had to let some people go. I happened to be one of those people. But it’s okay, because I believe things happen for a reason. I was able to find my next job within a month and became even more successful in my role as a curriculum administrator.

My experience in University was – putting it bluntly – worthless. I did not gain much in the time that I was there and although I left only 2 months into the course, that was enough time to deduct if I actually enjoyed it and ask myself if I can deal with the pressure, can I be financially stable during my studies and do I think this is beneficial or just a waste of time? I realised that if I was going to withdraw from the course, then at that precise moment, was the right time to do so. When you pass a certain amount of months into your studies, you then get charged more as the time goes on. It’s not something that I will be running back to anytime soon, but I believe it’s definitely useful and you will actually need a degree if you want to work in certain sector, like becoming a lawyer. In comparison, an apprenticeship is a much more viable and enjoyable route in my opinion. I received a sense of satisfaction whilst working in this job and at this moment in time now – looking back at my time there – I feel accomplished. I am proud of myself for the work that I put in, the experience and knowledge I gained. Especially in an environment where I was pretty much left out in the dark, it made me fight harder to learn the skills, to become an excellent employee. And for this, I’m so grateful. So there is more rewarding benefits and equal opportunities from doing an apprenticeship rather than an university course. No matter what route you take, just listen to yourself and follow your instinct! Everyone is different and different options will suit different people – you just need to find yours.

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