Women in apprenticeships

Which is better: university degrees or higher apprenticeships?

It’s a pretty close race…

Which is better - university degrees or higher apprenticeships?

When you compare the pros and cons of each, it's a pretty close race.

However, many people across the country don't even know about degree apprenticeships, and hold traditional degrees in much higher esteem than their vocational counterparts.

But which is better?

Earning potential

A degree alone does not guarantee a high salary. In fact in a recent survey, the Sutton Trust found that the earning potential of the best apprenticeships rivals traditional degrees. Higher apprentices (at level 5 or above) actually have greater lifetime earnings than non-Russell Group graduates – and they don't have to pay tuition fees. Instead, apprentices earn while they learn and are paid at least the minimum apprenticeship wage by their employer.

As the average debt for university leavers is now £44,000, apprenticeships may be better off in the long run.

Courses available

Degree apprenticeships are still new to the further education scene, but there are already 100s of different courses available – from finance to engineering.

Universities have been around for hundreds of years, so they've had a bit of a head start. There are thousands of courses available in all areas of study – from English and maths to football studies and ethical hacking. University degrees help students become an expert in their field – but although they do get a certificate to prove it, most students actually leave with little practical experience of how to apply their skills in the working world.


Which leads us onto employment. University graduates now have to fight more than ever to land a great grad job, meaning many students end up in low-paid roles outside their field. This is more prevalent in non-Russel Group universities and the creative industries.

Higher apprentices start on the job from day one, so when they qualify they already have the valuable work experience many employers look for. Apprentices have also spent time in a company learning the ways of the business, so most stay on. In fact, 77% of apprentices stay with the same employer, and 36% of higher apprentices get a promotion after completing their apprenticeship.


At OneFile, we're pretty passionate about apprenticeships, so we think higher and degree apprenticeships are a great option for people young and old.

We don't want to be biased though, so to help you make up your mind, we've made a really clear chart showing the pros and cons of each. Who's the winner?

Download chart

This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.