For many young people university is the expected next step after leaving secondary education. There are a range of cultural factors why this has become the case but principle among them is the idea that graduates earn more than non-grads during their working life. Many professions also require a university degree; so young people hoping to enter fields like medicine, law, engineering, veterinary, and the sciences tend to go down the university route.

Degrees traditionally take three years to complete with tuition fees at the time of writing standing at £9,000 a year. When we add in living expenses and other costs, the typical full-time student outside of London graduates with approximately £35,000 - £40,000 in student loan debt, with those studying in London facing higher amounts. This debt accrues interest at 5.5% in England and graduates must start paying it back once they start earning in excess of £21,000 per year.

The increasing cost of university, combined with the decreasing value of many degrees, has meant that a university education isn’t the prerequisite for success it once was in many industries. Recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the UK found that the median graduate at some institutions was in fact earning less after 10 years than the median non-graduate. It also found that people with degrees in the creative arts on average earned no more than non-graduates.

Of course a university education isn’t wholly about the earnings potential that a degree brings. Students enjoy the wealth of social, professional and networking opportunities outside of their course. The university route is most suited to people with a clear professional goal that requires a degree, those who enjoy learning in an academic setting over applied learning or those who are keen to experience 'college life’ before entering the world of work. For those who are considering doing a university degree mainly just because it seems like the ‘safe option’, it is worth noting the increasingly prevalent trend amongst employers to drop the degree requirement when hiring. Businesses that no longer require degrees for many jobs are wide-ranging, from Google to Penguin Publishers, Apple to Ernst and Young.

It's also important to note that the university you attend has a huge impact on earnings potential later in life. If you are considering the uni route it's important to do your research into graduate outcomes and make sure that you're making a worthwhile investment in your future.

Here are some great resources about university options for you to check out:



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1./ What exactly is an apprenticeship?

It's a full-time job, so you can get stuck straight into the world of work, gaining experience and earning a salary from day one. But you'll spend 20% of your working week in off-the-job training, working towards your qualification, developing your professional skills and broadening your horizons to help you figure out exactly what kind of career you want to shape for yourself after you finish the programme.

2./ How long does an apprenticeship last?

Apprenticeships typically last 12-18 months, depending on the level of the qualification you're undertaking.

3./ What can I do an apprenticeship in?

There are 300 different government standards for apprenticeship qualifications in all kinds of sectors imaginable, and that number is only growing. At WhiteHat, we specialise in apprenticeships in professional services - careers such as digital marketing, accounting, business administration, software engineering. We want to open up traditionally closed industries to applicants from diverse backgrounds.

4./ What kinds of companies can I do an apprenticeship at?

We're working with some of the world's biggest tech companies, like Google and Facebook; top law firms like Mishcon de Reya; media companies like Warner Bros.; fashion houses like Burberry; and cool startups like Tandem Bank. There's an office environment to suit every kind of person.

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