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S1:E9 Programming University Vs Apprenticeship

In society, especially in England, university is the normal and if I’m honest with you, a vast amount of students in the UK go to university compared to not going. So far in this season I have been completely upfront and honest to my readers about my experience as a programming apprentice. This includes all the pros, cons, things I’ve enjoyed, not enjoyed and times I have messed up a little. Anyway, with all this in mind and university being the preferred choice I thought it was about time I did a post comparing the pros and cons of university. So my knowledge on university is also pretty strong as I have family members who have been university, around 75% of my friends went university and also schools forced university down our throats.

Okay so lets start with some of the benefits of university:

  • In-depth knowledge
  • Respected Degree
  • Lots of employers look for degrees
  • Lots of facilities and resources
  • Experienced tutors
  • Life Experience (Moving away from home first time)
  • Great possibilities of social life

Lets talk about some of the benefits of apprenticeship:

  • Earn money while you learn
  • Real Life Coding experience in a software development company
  • Real Life work responsibilities (non related programming skills)
  • Foot in the door with a software developer company
  • Awards and Certificates
  • College computing lessons whilst working

As you can see there are both advantages of going to university and also completing an apprenticeship. Both cases have slightly different advantages but are both strong in their own aspects. To continue this debate we will have to way up the disadvantages.

Some disadvantages of University:

  • Massive Debt (££,£££)
  • Some employers want actual working experience

Some disadvantages of an apprentice:

  • Low salary as an apprentice
  • Not always a guarantee of a job after the apprenticeship

Now we have a list of some advantages and disadvantages of both university and apprenticeships (Programming related). So essentially from what I have mentioned after university you have the difficulties of paying off a huge debt, along with the challenge of everyone else coming out of university. Along with this, you have the challenge of finding a role which does not require actually experience working within the industry. Compare this to an apprentice, the only real challenge is the guarantee of having a job at the end. Lets take this down a step and consider the fact the company has spent the last 2 years training you into this person that fits the companies profile. As long as you are developing well and show potential I’m sure they would hire you. So in my opinion taking the apprenticeship root wins it for me.

Now lets way up the advantages, there are too many either side to list them all out individually again but to be honest, it would be a tough one. Both the choice of university and apprenticeships both have a valuable amount of benefits however, the university does have the added benefit of a social life. Apart from the social life, I would out come the benefits related to programming as quiet equal.

In conclusion, because of the way up of advantages between university and a programming apprenticeship are quiet equal I would say they are level. However, with the less risk on the disadvantages between the two I would say a programming apprenticeship would win the case against university. There is less risk involved as you don’t have the debt and you have your foot in the door of a company already. You just have to prove you are willing to continue to learn and adapt.

Until Next Time.


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My name is Andrew, passion for anything technical and fast. I am a software developer from London quick background check I started as an apprentice desktop developer and 5 years later and 2 jobs later i am now a desktop, web and mobile app developer working for a company just outside of London.

My passions is obvious and i love to share and talk about it which is why i am starting developer diaries, a spin off from my popular world of programmers page with over 100,000 fans world wide.

8 thoughts on “S1:E9 Programming University Vs Apprenticeship Leave a comment

  1. Your comparison is incomplete.

    It is entirely possible to obtain a degree without massive debt. I don’t know about the UK, but in the US there are many scholarships, and in some states university is free as long as you are serious and maintain an acceptable GPA.

    Many students choose to take internships while at university. This provides valuable real-world experience without sacrificing an education.

    Both of these points negate the disadvantages you listed for a university education, so by your own logic, a programming apprenticeship is not the best choice.

    I would never recommend skipping an education for an apprenticeship or similar. I took that route, and while I was able to make it work (because I was willing to learn and adapt), it was an uphill battle that limited my opportunities. I will be obtaining my undergraduate degree this summer. It was a struggle to take classes with a full-time job, but I am very satisfied with my accomplishments. I have both a good job and a good education, and I think everyone else should have that as well.


    • Thanks for the comment and thanks for noticing I am from England so this is obviously only and England comparison so may differ from America. University in England is certainly not free. In fact, in recent years they have put the price up (Massive Student Protests in London) from around £3000 a year to £9000 a year for the course over 3 years and 4 years if you do a masters course as you can already see that is over £20,000 debt. (Don’t quote me 100% on those prices but its around that ball park). Then don’t forget the living costs of living at university (or if a local university you can get away with living at home, but majority of people move out). We don’t really have scholarships, maybe in sports if you get sponsored by a team from an early age but that is not related to programming. In fact, some apprenticeships, which could be listed as another benefit, actually pay for any additional educational costs.

      Some Prestigious university’s in England are also very hard to get into they want top marks and even then can be a challenge. It is often “Rich” families often make generous donations to the university to help them get in.

      I never skipped education for an apprenticeship, I was within education at a college level system while under my apprenticeship. So I was at college getting a HNC and HND (Higher National Certificate and Diploma) at the same time as working in a professional software development company. I recently just changed jobs and with 5 years programming experience with a reasonable amount of education enables me to obtain a new job.

      Congratulations on passing your degree. I would like to learn more about if I am honest about other educational systems from around the world.


      • Thanks. Our comments fundamentally agree on one important point: an education provides opportunities that would not otherwise be available.

        From what you describe, a four-year degree in the UK is quite challenging on many levels, becoming more so every day. Sometimes, working while taking classes is the best choice one can make anywhere in the world. You are very fortunate to be able to work in your chosen field while pursuing a HNC and HND (we do not have the equivalent of HNC here in the US).

        In some areas of the US, it is possible to obtain a two-year degree (Associate’s Degree) before finishing high school. Where this is not possible, I believe it is best to do so as soon as possible after high school, even if you have to work at the same time. Community colleges (which award these two-year degrees) are very low cost, and if you choose your path wisely, it will only take two more years at a four-year university to obtain an undergraduate degree.

        This gives you leverage. You can use the two-year degree to obtain a better job (which seems to be exactly what you did), preferably one with good educational benefits. This is what I did, and I am graduating without student debt.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I completely agree with you education is fundamental to a certain degree depending on what choice and opportunities you take. It is clear that England and America both have very different educational systems in which both have benefits and drawbacks I am sure.

        Thank you for giving me the insight of the American educational system, very good knowledge for my self and anyone else who reads this article. Now they would have more of an understanding from both point of views,


    • Also note that it is possible to get the massive debt without obtaining the degree.

      All you have to do is start a degree program by taking out loans, and not finish it – flunk out, get overwhelmed and change your major, drop out for non-university reasons, etc.

      In the US, about half of all college students try and do not get a degree –

      Liked by 1 person

      • I prefer to accentuate the positive while warning of the negative. Yes, it is possible to accumulate massive debt for the reasons you describe. In fact, I have friends in that same situation. However, it is avoidable, and I posted a comment to that effect after you wrote your response.

        Your final comment (and article) that about half of college students are able to successfully obtain a degree within six years makes sense. Four or five years is common, but many, such as part-time students like myself, take longer. It is a call to action that we must find ways to help those who want an education to get one, regardless of the circumstances in which life places them.


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