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5 Differences between Apprenticeship and University

    Nowadays, school leavers are worried about selecting their future career path. Students usually go to University, which is an excellent study path for many careers and can give you a bright future and a lot of knowledge.
    However, as university degrees become more expensive, Apprenticeship programs for trade occupations are becoming a popular alternative.

    Electrical Apprentices working together

    An apprenticeship is a training contract that enables you to get skilled by undertaking work and study at the same time. If you don’t want to go to university and want to get right into the workforce, this is an excellent alternative. You can also start earning from the first day of your apprenticeship.

    You should take into account the following information before making a decision :


    Universities normally offer foundation, bachelor’s, master’s, and post-doctoral degrees (PhD). University courses require you to absorb a lot of theoretical knowledge that may or may not apply to your field. This is normally done through lectures and reading, with verbal and written assignments as a form of assessment.
    Exams are given for most units, depending on what you are studying, and they account for a significant amount of your marks.


    An Apprenticeship is associated with skilled technical trades such as automotive, engineering, cooking, electrical, plumbing, or carpentry. An apprenticeship typically takes four years to complete full-time. It is a more hands-on learning experience and most of the 4 years are spent on the job working alongside professionals in a company.


    University degrees have always been the most expensive option in comparison to any other alternative study pathway and fees are rising every year. Most students need to take a loan and do odd jobs outside of study time to be able to pay for their tuition fees. A lot of university students complete their degrees and already have a large debt to repay even before integrating into the workforce.
    Apprenticeships are usually funded by the government and apprentices start getting paid as soon as they start. There are also a lot of support schemes or tool allowances depending on your state so you can get even more out of your training.


    Most University degrees take around 3-4 years to complete if you are studying full-time.
    If you want to continue on with further study after a degree and enrol in a Master’s or PhDs, those can take up to 5 years. If you study highly complex subjects like medicine you could spend at least 6 to 10 years at school and doing placements.

    An Apprenticeship will take 1-4 years, depending on the trade you are interested in. Once you complete your apprenticeship you are typically job-ready as you have been working in a company for several years. The business might employ you straight away as well.



    The type of lifestyle is one of the most significant distinctions between going to university and doing an apprenticeship.

    You’ll have the chance to live in student halls, join societies, attend freshers’ week, and meet people from all over the world who are passionate about their field of study. You could also meet potential future business partners or friends along the way. Depending on what you are studying you might need to spend more or less time working on your assessments. Some people might think you get to party a lot when at university but if you need to pay for your tuition fee you will probably be working quite a lot on the side.
    For many people, this can be an amazing experience, but it isn’t for everyone!

    University Convocation


    You’ll spend the majority of your time in the workplace on an Apprenticeship, with one or two days per week or month spent training. This learning usually takes place at a workplace or even at a college or a university. You’ll get to spend most of your time with your co-workers and other apprentices when you go in for your training sessions. You would usually have normal business work hours eg. 9 am to 5 pm and plenty of free time after work or on weekends to spend time with your friends and family. You will not need to get another job as you are already paid for doing your apprenticeship. It could be ideal for you if you want to earn a full-time wage while simultaneously learning on the job.

    If you are interested in Electrical Apprenticeship, check out our Electrical Apprenticeship Program in Darwin and Brisbane.


    Both study approaches are highly valued by employers. University is recognised for its breadth of knowledge and transferable abilities, whereas apprenticeships are prized for being practical in nature and opening possibilities for real-world work experience.

    We often hear unemployment is high amongst young university graduates, and that they struggle to find a job after their studies. It is recommended to do internships during your university studies so you can get real-world experience, this is usually what employers value the most when looking for an employee. With a lot of people graduating from the same class at the end of a year, competition can also be an issue. However, University degrees can be highly regarded in some fields and could give you access to high-paying corporate jobs.

    Apprentices usually get jobs quite easily as trade occupations have a shortage of workers. Because they have on-the-job experience for many years already it is easier for them to find work. They would also already have references from the company they have been working with and might even be offered a position straight after their apprenticeship contract ends.
    If you are doing a flexible apprenticeship you can start at any time and complete your training after 4 years which means there won’t be a big group of people graduating and looking for employment at the same time.

     Which one is right for you?

    One option is not always preferable over the other. Before making a final decision, people should think about their current circumstances. How much do you want to spend? Would you rather work and make money? Are you prepared to enter the workforce? Are you not sure yet about what you want to do and would like to study something a bit generic?

    You might complete an apprenticeship first and then go to university, or you could get a degree first and then do an apprenticeship. Before committing to an apprenticeship you could do a pre-apprenticeship course for example Certificate II in Electrotechnology – Career Start which is a 5-9 weeks course full-time or part-time so you can get to know what the job of an electrician entails and if this is something you like and you see yourself pursuing for 4 years. Universities also usually have Alumni (people who have graduated in the past) who are now working and who are approachable and who can share their experience and knowledge with you. This can help point you in the right direction.
    Do not hesitate to talk to people around you about what they do and if you can, go to work with them for 1 day and see if that is the kind of job you would like to pursue.

    Last reviewed date: 19/06/2024

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