Physics apprenticeships vs. traditional education: Which is best for me?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Sep 19 2023

It can be challenging to work out what you’re going to do after school: take a gap year, get a full-time job, go to university, do an apprenticeship, so many possibilities! This article will discuss the pros and cons of doing a physics apprenticeship or a university degree, and advise you which one is the best option for you.


Degree apprenticeships: a guide

A degree apprenticeship, also known as a Level 6 apprenticeship, allows you to gain an undergraduate degree. They typically take around three to six years to complete, and combine fully-funded university education and paid work experience. To be eligible for a degree apprenticeship, you’ll typically need good grades (A*-B) in your A-levels or Scottish Highers. Degree apprenticeships are available for a number of different physics job paths: aerospace engineer, diagnostic radiographer and nuclear scientist, to name but a few.

If you’re deciding between a degree apprenticeship and going to university, here are some things to consider...


One of the biggest advantages of doing an apprenticeship is the amount of money you earn and save. Apprentices aged 16-18, or 19 and over in your first year earn a minimum of £5.28 an hour, while those aged 18-20 earn £7.49. Apprentices aged 21-22 earn £10.18 hourly. This wage is set by the government, meaning that your employer can choose to pay you much more.

Another financial advantage of apprenticeships is that you won’t have to pay for your qualification, all your education and exams will be covered by your employer. Given that an undergraduate degree can cost up to £27, 750 in total, getting a degree for free is an excellent opportunity!

Work Experience

An apprenticeship provides you with the opportunity to gain some excellent work experience. This is especially valuable given how hands-on and practical many physics jobs are. You’ll be working with experts in the field, who will provide you with valuable insights into the sector you're interested in. Apprentices also have more networking opportunities with those in the industry, so have a good understanding of what employers are looking for.

Completing an apprenticeship allows you to gain experience in the working world. Apprentices learn how to deal with a colleague you don’t get along with, how to prioritise tasks and how to have a good work-life balance. As a result, apprentices gain a range of professional skills and expertise than university students.

University Experience

If you decide being an apprentice is for you, you may feel as though you’re missing out on the university experience. Apprentices have to balance their jobs with their studies, and won’t have as much time to get involved in university life. Attending careers fairs and joining different societies are just a few of the benefits of university that apprentices miss out on. You may wish you had the opportunity to attend nightlife and extracurricular activities, instead of catching up on work or studying. 

The decision to go to university vs pursuing an apprenticeship is a personal one, and depends on your own values and experiences!