Degree or Apprenticeship – which one is right for you?
If a career in engineering is what you’re heading for, you may be wondering what the best starting point may be. Engineering training comes in all shapes and forms, so picking the best option for you and your chosen career path is essential.
There are two main routes to consider when looking at engineering training, one is a degree at university, the other is an apprenticeship with a company or independent training provider. There’s lots to consider when looking at both of these options, but weighing up the pros and cons of each is essential to making sure that you arrive at the right decision for you, and your future.
How your finances are going to look is one of the major factors when considering which training route to take. At a basic level, apprenticeships mean that you can earn on the job, whereas university degrees mean paying a lot up front through grants, bursaries, or out of your own pocket.
A typical starting salary for an engineering apprentice is around £12,000 and £15,000, although these quickly rise as you hit different levels of qualification.
In contrast, a standard Bachelors of Engineering degree will cost you about £9,000 a year, so £21,000 plus living costs for the whole three-year course.
Looking at these figures, it may seem like a no-brainer, but the government’s drive to get more people into engineering means that there are a lot of grants and bursaries available out there, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Plus, the high starting salaries of engineering graduates will mean that it’s likely you’ll be able to pay off any debts that you have pretty quickly.
So if you already have your heart set on doing a degree, you shouldn’t be put off by the figures above. However, if you want to end your training course with more money in your pocket than when you started, there’s only one real option to choose.
Gaining the right experience
Apprenticeships are all about gaining experience on the job. Whether you’re working for one company or with an independent trainer, there’s one thing that’s guaranteed, you’ll be learning practically. You’ll be solving real problems on site and be working as part of a team or individually to fix them.
For those who prefer to be out and about rather than sitting with their nose in the book, this is the major benefit to choosing an apprenticeship. It’s also great if you’ve already decided which aspect of engineering you want to specialise in (e.g. civil or mechanical) and are only looking for experience in that industry.
However, if you’re not quite sure which part of engineering you’d like to go into, and if you don’t mind studying and exams, a degree could be a better option for you. Although assessments aren’t based on practical learning, students are encouraged to try a range of work experience on top of their studying. This means that you can take a look at lots of different types of engineering before deciding on your final specialism.
What’s next for you?
The current demand for all types of engineers means that prospects look equally as good for qualified apprentices and university graduates. For apprentices, jumping straight into a full-time paid position with the company that you worked for is the obvious next step, as is further study for graduates.
In fact, whichever route you’ve qualified from, lots of options are open to you. Whether you want to take on a graduate scheme with a company, or get further qualifications at university, both paths will help you to pursue your chosen career path.
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