From education to employment

To uni or not to uni – five alternatives to university education

For some students, university is an important step towards a long-term career. But as financial concerns grow, many students are starting to wonder if going to university is even worth it, especially with student loan interest rates increasing to 12%. Paul Lewis, the Managing Director of Pitman Training – an elite training provider operating for over 180 years – believes there are plenty of better value alternatives to university out there, and they may also be more suited to your personal situation. He gives his advice on picking the best one for you. 

“You will be less employable without a degree.” Hands up who has heard this phrase at some point in their lives? Well, guess what? It simply is not true. No matter your reason for not wanting to go to university – be it you do not have the time or money to commit yourself to full-time study, you hate the idea of being in a classroom, or you just want to head straight into the world of work – choosing an alternative study route than university is an option. 

The truth is, many students feel pressured into going to university by their parents, teachers or even society because it is often still considered ‘the norm’. So, before taking the plunge, try asking yourself these questions first:

  • Where do you want to be in 10 years’ time?
  • Do you definitely need a degree to reach this goal?
  • Are there any alternatives you could consider?
  • Have you found a suitable course and university?

Writing down the answers to these questions on a piece of paper and then reading them a few days later might help you gain some perspective. However, if you are still struggling to decide if university is the right choice for you, here are a few alternatives: 

  • Get an apprenticeship

Contrary to popular belief, getting an apprenticeshipis not just for people looking to get a manual labour job. In reality, hundreds of different apprenticeship programmes across the UK, ranging from accounting to hairdressing and journalism to law, are available to everyone, regardless of age.If an apprenticeship is the route you decide to go down, consider researching the apprenticeship you would like to take and see what it can offer you. Finding the right apprenticeship for you will be a great way to gain a qualification while getting hands-on experience and a decent wage. 

  • Find an entry-level job

One of the most obvious alternatives to university is to head straight into the world of work with no detours and no diversions. This option allows you to go into a job at the bottom and work your way to the top. For example, many large supermarket chains offer their staff the chance to train for a managerial position. The good news is most entry-level jobs do not have any minimum requirements other than your being physically and legally able to work. So, you simply need to be willing to stick it out and work hard to climb the ladder.

  • Try work experience or internships

Taking on work experience will increase your maturity, independence and self-confidence in the workplace and definitely looks good on your CV. It shows employers that you have experienced a professional environment, taking the initiative to start building your skill set. It also gives you the unique opportunity to confirm whether a potential career suits you. A work placement can last anywhere between a couple of weeks to a whole year, and some might even pay (especially the longer ones), though this will generally depend on the employer and the type of placement you undertake.

  • Enrol yourself in career training 

Enrolling yourself in career training with an established training provider like Pitman Training offers you the opportunity to supplement your education, gain new knowledge and expand your skill set. It is also a far cheaper and faster alternative to enrolling on a university course. Career training will help you prepare for a new career or make you more attractive for promotions by allowing you to study certain courses and develop specific skills or expertise for a job. With the ability to choose your pace through the course, you have the option to work whilst studying. Once you are done, you can be confident about working in your chosen field, impress your superiors, and earn a good salary. When selecting a training provider, ensure you find one that offers both in-centre and online training. Also, read testimonials and reviews online. 

  • Take a gap year

Taking a gap year is a great way to buy yourself some more time if you are still unsure about your options after A-levels. There are many things you can do during a break from education, including travelling the world, taking a training course, volunteering at a local charity or even getting a job to start saving some money (this is the perfect option if you decide to go to university eventually). Taking a gap year can help you develop the skills that employers want, raise your cultural awareness, and increase your work experience – giving your CV a huge boost.

With plenty of alternative routes to consider, students need to consider what option suits them best. At Pitman Training, we ensure students get all the career advice they need to best pursue their goals. Whether you need help putting together a CV, finding a training course or preparing for an interview, Pitman can help. To find out more, please visit:

About the author

Paul Lewis is the MD at Pitman Training, a leading independent training provider, offering world-class office and IT skills in modern training centres to thousands of students across the UK – making a real difference to the lives of people in their local areas.

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