There’s a growing focus on a college vs. apprenticeship debate. Almost anyone can join an apprenticeship programme – whether you’re just starting your career, looking to upskill or wanting a complete career change. An apprenticeship focuses on practical hands-on training whilst a university degree is aimed at furthering academic knowledge in your chosen subject.
One of the biggest advantages of apprenticeships is the chance to start working and earning immediately. While there are no guarantees that you’ll be employed straight out of college, apprenticeships offer paid employment from Day 1. This is what encourages a lot of young people to choose apprenticeship schemes.
Studying for a degree in the UK costs an average of £9,250 per year in tuition fees. If you add living expenses to this, expect to rack up a sizeable student debt by the time you graduate. However, the silver lining is that repayments don’t start until your annual earnings reach the minimum threshold of £27,288.
An apprenticeship scheme on the other hand is jointly funded by the government and employers, so entails no cost to the apprentice. You get paid whilst enrolled on an apprenticeship programme and get a degree at the end of it, free of cost!
But are apprenticeships and university degrees mutually exclusive?
In this blog we’ll cover:
- Can you do an apprenticeship if you have a degree?
- Can you do an apprenticeship if you didn’t finish your degree?
- Story of an FDM apprentice
- Different apprenticeship levels
- What degree level apprenticeships are available?
- Eligibility and funding
- FDM’s Apprenticeship Programme
Can you do an apprenticeship if you have a degree?
The short answer is Yes. You can do an apprenticeship if you’ve finished Uni and completed a degree. However, the only caveat is that your apprenticeship needs to be in a subject that’s different from your degree. For example – if you have a degree in software engineering, you won’t be eligible for a degree apprenticeship in the same subject. This is because one of the main criteria for an apprenticeship is to gain new skills.
However, there is an option to further your knowledge or experience in your degree subject. This means, if you have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Studies, you could pursue a Level 7 apprenticeship in the same subject as it’s equivalent to a Master’s degree. More on the different apprenticeship levels later.
Can you do an apprenticeship if you didn’t finish your degree?
Again, the answer is Yes. If you left university before completing your degree or even if you completed it and decided it wasn’t the right path for you, you could do an apprenticeship. Case in point – our current FDM apprentice Wajiha Shah. After completing a Law degree, Wajiha realised it wasn’t the right career for her and decided on an IT apprenticeship. We caught up with Wajiha to find out more about her story –
Tell us a bit about your background
Since high school I wanted to study law and chose Politics, Law, English Language and Criminology for my A- Levels. This is when my interest in law grew and made me enrol in a law degree at uni. But into my third year, I realised it wasn't right for me. That’s when I started talking to friends who were doing degree apprenticeships in IT.
What made you choose an apprenticeship?
I didn’t know about degree apprenticeships before I started researching them. I wish someone had told me before! I always assumed it was college and then university. But when I started talking to friends who were doing degree apprenticeships, I started researching IT apprenticeships in particular because science and IT are the future. I took a few free online courses in the fundamentals of coding and my interest just grew from there. That’s when I started applying to apprenticeship programmes.
How did you join FDM’s apprenticeship programme?
I applied to over 30 apprenticeship programmes and kept getting declined. I submitted the FDM application very late and didn’t hold out much hope after being declined so many times. But after a while they contacted me and I joined their degree apprenticeship programme. I’m in my first year in a three-year programme at the end of which I’ll have a degree in Digital and Technology Solutions.
What are you doing on your apprenticeship programme?
On this apprenticeship programme we were first trained and working internally in IT Support, RPA and Software Development. I’m currently working on a client-site. On this apprenticeship programme, I’ve developed communication skills and am much more open than I used to be. In Uni, I didn’t pick up these skills. A degree apprenticeship gives you the skills as well as a free degree so you have no debt.
What are your future plans?
I’d like to continue working with FDM after my apprenticeship. I didn’t expect an office to be like this. I love coming into work!
Different apprenticeship levels
There are different apprenticeship levels, each with a corresponding academic equivalent. Some apprenticeship programmes provide additional training in English and Maths where applicable to bring you up to the right skill level.
The duration of an apprenticeships can range from one to six years depending on the level and your previous qualifications and background. When you complete your apprenticeship, you’ll reach the equivalent education level. For instance –
- A level 2 apprenticeship is the equivalent of a GCSE.
- A level 3 apprenticeship is the equivalent of an A level.
- A level 4 or 5 apprenticeship is the equivalent of a foundation degree.
- A level 6 apprenticeship is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree.
- A level 7 apprenticeship is equivalent to a Master’s degree.
There are even some level 8 apprenticeships available that are equivalent to a Doctorate.
What degree level apprenticeships are available?
Degree apprenticeships are aimed at those who have completed lower-level apprenticeships but wish to advance their career through further study. They are a great way for both school leavers as well as mature candidates to get a Bachelor’s or Master’s level qualification and training without having to pay for University tuition fees.
Degree apprenticeships are only available in vocational subjects and due to their high academic level, the options are fewer than lower-level apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeships are currently available in the following sectors:
- Business administration
- Childcare and Education
- Creative and Design
- Life and Industrial Sciences
- Engineering and Manufacturing
- Public sector
- Media and Publishing
- Transport and Logistics
Eligibility and funding
In the UK, an apprenticeship is jointly funded by the government and your employer. This means you don’t have to pay for your degree or apply for student finance. Instead, you get paid a salary from the first day you start working.
To be eligible for an apprenticeship you must be:
- Over 16 years old
- Based in the UK
- Not have a degree in the same subject as your apprenticeship
FDM’s Apprenticeship Programme
The FDM Apprenticeship programme is a unique three-year opportunity that combines work and training, while being paid a salary. Four days a week, you will work with FDM and our clients to develop your technical skills and gain real work experience. At the end of your apprenticeship, you can continue to work at FDM as a permanent employee or you can join our Graduate Programme, choosing from over 10 different career pathways.
Apply to our Apprenticeship Programme today. Your online application will be followed by a telephone screening and behavioural test with an invitation to an assessment day in either Leeds or London for final interviews.