Whether you’ve just finished A-Levels, you’re starting your GCSE’s, or you’ve decided to pursue further education as part of a career change; choosing if university should be the next step for you can be daunting.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of going to university, as well as alternative options.
Pro: access to specialist careers
With a tertiary education, you’ll be able to access specialist, degree-only jobs. Although experience in your field of choice is widely regarded as having equal (if not more) value, some jobs will require you to have a relevant degree.
Examples of specialist jobs include:
- Hospital doctor
These jobs are specialist for a reason – as a patient you want to have faith in your doctor that they’ve completed a GMC-recognised degree in medicine, for example.
Pro: higher earning potential
Because degrees offer routes to specialist jobs, they also increase your earning potential. The Department of Education recently published a report in which the following was written:
- Working age graduates (16 to 64-year-olds) earned almost £10,000 more than their non-graduate counterparts – an approximate average of £32,000 per year.
- Postgraduates were the highest earners, with an average wage of £38,000.
If you’re dead-set on becoming a billionaire, you’ll be better off getting a degree than forgoing a few extra years in education. A study by GoCompare compared the education levels of all those featured on Forbes magazine’s top 100 billionaire lists over the past 20 years. They found that of those mentioned, 47% had a bachelor’s degree, 23% a masters, and 6% a doctorate.
Pro: you develop and use transferable skills
Going to university is a great way to meet new people and learn to organise your time effectively in order to optimise productivity. These are skills that employers call ‘transferable’, meaning they’re applicable in nearly every job.
Other transferable skills include:
- Conducting research
- Writing assignments and essays
- Working under pressure
- Meeting deadlines
- Working as part of a team
- Giving presentations
Con: It’s expensive
University fees in the UK are currently capped at £9,250 per year. Most undergraduate degrees last 3 or 4 years, which can result in debt of nearly £40,000 for graduates.
Add in the cost of maintenance loans, living, travel, and other bills, and you’ve got quite a hefty debt hanging over you.
Though you don’t have to start paying back your student loan until you’re earning over £21,000 per year, it’s likely that if you’re going for a degree, you’ll want to be earning more than that anyway.
Con: sector decline
If you choose a course in a sector that is declining, you may find yourself unable to find a well-paid postgraduate job.
Before you enrol on a course, look at the employability projections for your specific sector.
Alternatives to university
If you decide that actually, university isn’t for you, don’t worry! There are other ways to gain qualifications and get into your desired sector.
You may wish to do an apprenticeship instead of going to university. Apprenticeships are available in levels 2-6: Level 2 is equivalent to pre-GCSE and Level 6 is similar to a postgraduate degree.
Apprenticeships offer on-the-job training, paid work, and qualifications that you earn as you learn.
However, it’s important to be aware that some jobs will only offer progression to a certain point without a degree. Before applying for an apprenticeship or looking at alternative routes to the job you want, check you won’t be limited by your choice.