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How to get a job in IT: Apprenticeship vs university

Christina Mercer | Aug. 11, 2017
There are various ways to get that dream job in IT, but which one is right for you?


How does an apprenticeship work?

If you choose the apprenticeship route, you'll receive a minimum wage with holiday pay, one day a week classroom study and the chance to learn from experienced for a minimum of one year (with some reaching up to four years).

Depending on the level of qualifications you have, there are numerous different types of apprenticeships on offer, a straight apprenticeship, advanced apprenticeship and higher apprenticeship could the right choice for you. As long as you're aged over 16 there are hundreds of apprenticeship vacancies available in the UK.


How to apply for an apprenticeship

Like degree apprenticeships, there are a vast amount of sites offering lists of appropriate apprenticeships, for example, All About School Leavers and GOV.UK's national apprentice database. If you can't see anything you like there, take a look at individual company sites and email about their apprenticeship opportunities.


How much does an apprenticeship cost?

In England, Government's National Apprenticeship Service contributes 100 percent of training costs, excluding living costs, if they are between 16 and 19 years of age. Apprentices will also receive national minimum wage. 

If you are between 19 and 24 years of age you will receive 50 percent government funding excluding living costs with your employer footing the bill for the remaining 50 percent. There is no upper age limit but funding arrangements are different for those over 24.


Pros and cons of an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are tailored to those who thrive in a practical learning environment. Apprenticeships offer unrivalled hands-on experience that a university degree would struggle to even compete with.

What's more, students will earn money to gain worthwhile qualifications and of course, there is no student debt to worry about, making this option very attractive to some prospective candidates.

On the other hand, the options are somewhat limited for those choosing the apprenticeship route. Apprenticeship courses are vocational and highlight a clear career path. While this may be seen as a positive for some, those not 100 percent clear on their future career choice might feel pressure to pick one and pursue it as early as 16 years old.

"Some of our apprentices actually did a year at university and it turned out that didn't quite enjoy it or that university life just wasn't for them, so it's really down to individual choice," said Cisco UK's Hema Marshall. 

"Apprenticeships still have a slight stigma attached to them. If you think how long apprentices have been around for, since the 12th Century, they've always been associated with trade. I think the perception of apprenticeships is slowing changing, its just how we get that message to the parents and the teachers."


Student testimonial - O2 Apprentice Matt Smart explained why he chose the route of apprentice.


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