Jobs & Careers

What are the alternatives to university?

With the rise in tuition fees and the current state of the graduate job market, many young people are starting to wonder  if they should go to university.

There are a lot of different answers and sides to this debate but we are here to help you make a decision and show you what the possible alternatives could be. For example there is a lot of talk in the media at this current moment in time about apprenticeships.

There are a lot of people that make a successful career out of apprenticeships as opposed to going to university. With this in mind the popularity of apprenticeships is rising.

Should you go to university?

With the lure of well paid apprenticeships and instant money on one side and the pressure of schools and family on the other it's often hard to make a decision on whether to head to university. Here are a few points to consider when making your choice.

Gaining the skills and a degree

Gaining a degree is the most important thing about university. For some professions such as nurses and doctors it is essential to gain a qualification. The degree is a stepping stone into their desired career. However, it is when you do a degree that is more open that you should consider your options.

How much will university cost?

Take  a look at our student debt calculator to get an idea of how much university will cost you in total. It may appear alarming as some  of you will find that you may leave university with around £50,000 of debt. However, figures show that over your lifetime a degree holder will earn £129,000 more than someone with 3 A Levels.

On the other hand, this is an average and although most will profit from their degree there will be a select few that may be worse off. However, it's worth looking to the long-term benefits as opposed to the short-term student debt.

The social life at university

Going to university could definitely boost your social life. You meet so many new people and get to find out who you really bond with. It's a great way to meet new friends. But, if you have a good set of friends and you are happy at home then you may want to stay. It all comes down to personal choice.

Some research even shows that people who carry out a university degree will have better health throughout their lives.

The alternatives to university

Bearing these factors, and many others, in mind you may start to wonder if it is worth going to university. It is something that should take a lot of thought. Be careful not to let the new tuition fee proposition put you off from studying at university.

Also, it's important to remember that university is not the only answer when leaving school. There are so many more alternatives and some can really pay off if you have the determination and drive to work.


Apprenticeships are very popular at the moment. They can be a great alternative to university as you train while you work. So you are earning money and gaining a qualification (usually an NVQ) at the same time. If you are successful in an apprenticeship then you usually gain a full-time job out of it. You can earn a lot of money and have no debt at all.

The range of apprenticeships available are also a benefit. You can work in a number of sectors including agriculture, beauty or media. If you have seen shows such as The Apprentice then there are candidates that prove that a degree is not all you need to succeed to get into a business and learn from someone like Lord Alan Sugar. You never know, you could even be the next apprentice.

There is all the information you need on apprenticeships at the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).

Starting at the bottom

An apprenticeship may not be for you so there are many other alternatives. Going straight into a job at the bottom can be a great way to progress. For example supermarkets such as Sainsburys will offer to train their in-house staff to managerial positions. It just means that you have to be willing to stick it out and work hard.

If you work hard enough and show initiative then you can work your way up the ladder to the very top. You can take a look at our jobs section on CV and interview tips.

Short college courses

There are plenty of short courses and college courses that you can take instead of a degree. For example if you want to be successful in the bar and club industry then you will need to gain the proper liquor licences at a nearby college. There are so many courses available, including marketing, Photoshop or even simple health and safety certificates.

Start your own business

If these options don't seem like the right thing for you then you can start your own business. The world is your oyster. If you have a good idea and the drive to make it happen then you should go for it. With the current job market in mind, there has never been a better time to start your own business and be enterprising.

Whatever your choice is just be sure to work hard to make sure that you succeed in whatever you do!

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