What Are the Alternatives to Going to University Thursday, 26 October 2023

To many, the idea of going to university is the ultimate goal. Whilst there is nothing wrong with going to university and gaining your degree, it’s important to keep in mind that university isn’t the only path to academic success. 

There are many alternatives to consider when it comes to furthering your education and kick-starting your career. In this blog post, we’ll explore these alternatives and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of attending university, helping you make an informed decision about your future.

Alternatives to Going to University


Apprenticeships offer a great alternative to traditional higher education settings like university and college. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with classroom teachings which enable you to earn while you learn. 

Many industries, from construction and IT to healthcare and marketing, offer apprenticeship programmes, so it’s important to do your research to find the apprenticeship that works best for you and your career goals. 

This option allows you to learn and gain a qualification without the burden of a student loan hanging over your head at the end of your training. In many cases, the employer will keep the apprentice on after successfully completing their qualification.

By the end of an apprenticeship, you’ll have the right skills and knowledge needed for your chosen career.

It can take between one and six years to complete an apprenticeship depending on which one you choose, what level it is and your previous experience. Apprenticeships.gov

Distance Learning

Online courses and distance learning have provided students with accessible and affordable education options for years. This learning style allows students to learn with the flexibility and freedom to study in the way that best suits them. This means that the learner can study at a time, location and routine that they feel works best as all content is provided online.

Other benefits to distance learning include the financial gain from not having to travel to education settings, being able to study around work commitments and having a range of recognised courses and levels to choose from.

For more information on what courses NEC offers, take a look at our course page.

Gap Years

After spending years in education already, you may want to take some time to reflect and take some pressure off the decision of where to go next academically.

Taking a gap year can be a great way to gain life experience, travel, and develop new skills whilst taking the moment to reflect. A gap year may also help you naturally gain clarity about your goals and aspirations before committing to higher education or heading towards a specific career path. Many universities and employers value the personal growth and maturity that gap year experiences can provide. This can also be a great experience to mention in your personal statement should you decide university is right for you later on. 

Entry-Level Jobs and Internships

If you’re considering skipping university but have a career goal in mind, entry-level jobs and internships can allow you to build relevant industry experience to help you work your way towards that end goal.

They provide practical experience and a chance to prove your abilities and skills to employers. Many successful individuals start in entry-level positions and work their way up through dedication and hard work.

Even though there are alternatives to consider outside of university, this doesn’t mean that university is or isn’t for you. To ensure you make an informative decision that suits you best, here are the advantages and disadvantages of attending university to consider.

Advantages of Going to University

  • A wealth of knowledge: Universities offer in-depth, structured education in a wide range of subjects. If you want to specialise in a particular industry area, university may be the best route for you.
  • Social: University is a great place to meet like-minded individuals and make valuable connections with other students. If you rely on social connections, a university will give you plenty of social opportunities.
  • Credentials: Many careers, particularly in specialised fields, require a university degree. If you have a particular career goal in mind, it’s important to do your research to understand what qualifications are needed.
  • Personal growth: To many students, university helps develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills allowing the individual to feel they have gained a great sense of self development throughout their study period. 

Disadvantages of Going to University

  • Cost: There’s no denying that university costs can be expensive. It’s important to weigh up whether the university course will be worth the student loan you will have after qualifying. 
  • Time-consuming: The majority of university courses take an average of four years or longer to complete. This may mean that there’s a delayed entry into the workforce.
  • Uncertain job market: Nowadays, a degree does not guarantee an immediate job placement, particularly in competitive fields. This can be disheartening if you were planning on a particular job role once completing your education and may take longer than expected. It’s worth keeping in mind that some employers may be more interested in your relatable experience than a degree.

In the world of education and career paths, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately you have to choose what suits your goals and ambitions. Whether you opt for apprenticeships, distance learning, online courses, or a gap year, remember that your choices should always align with your own values and interests. 

If you are still considering your options and would like to know more about distance learning, feel free to get in touch with the NEC team today


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