Should I do a physics degree or a physics apprenticeship?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Jan 24 2023

There are a multitude of ways to enter a career in physics, with physics degrees and physics apprenticeships being two of the most popular options. While both are excellent options, where you'll work hard and receive excellent career opportunities, it can be difficult to decide which to pursue at undergraduate level. Here are some tips to help you make your decision.



One of the biggest advantages of completing a physics apprenticeship is the amount of money you will save. Provided you pass the exams at the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll receive a qualification. No matter the level of the qualification (HND vs master’s degree), all the costs of the qualification will be fully covered by your employer. Furthermore, apprentices receive a salary for the work experience they complete. 

There’s a minimum wage (£4.81 an hour for those aged 16-18), but this salary will rise as you progress and get older. Many companies (especially those within STEM) choose to pay their apprentices well over the minimum wage. Thus, unlike students, apprentices don’t have to worry about finding a part-time job to support themselves or getting into student loan debt. 

University experience

Although apprentices receive a qualification, degree level apprentices may sometimes feel that they are missing out on university life. In addition to studying for your degree, students learn valuable personal skills, such as independence, budgeting and living with people you may not get along with. 

Universities typically offer a range of societies for students to join. Joining your university’s physics society will allow you to network with other students and gain valuable career advice. Or, joining your university’s first aid society, for example, will give you a useful skill to put on your resume. The social scene at university is always incredibly active, and apprentices may feel like they’re missing out on the classic university experience. 

Experiencing the world of work

Completing a physics apprenticeship allows you to gain hands-on work experience within a sector of physics. Gaining hands-on experience is particularly valuable, given the hands-on nature of many sectors of physics (i.e. engineering and game design). The work experience you gain will be looked upon favourably by employers. In addition to this, completing an apprenticeship allows you to gain an insight into the world of work. You’ll learn how to deal with colleagues you don’t get along with, how to balance work and home life and how to conduct yourself in the workplace.

Finally, as an apprentice, you’ll be working alongside leaders in the field, and will get the chance to ask them questions about their research and how they got to where they are now. 


It’s more difficult for apprentices to make a career change than it is for university students. University teaches you a number of transferable skills, which can be applied to different industries. A degree also opens up the possibility of postgraduate study. However, if you complete an apprenticeship in a physics related field (i.e. engineering) and decide you want to switch to a different sector (i.e radiographer), it would be more difficult for you to do so. This is because as an apprentice you learn more specialised skills, which are harder to transfer to a different field.

In addition to this, university students often receive more advice about switching careers. Universities typically hold careers fairs, as well as talks from a range of industry professionals. These events allow students to learn more about different careers and decide what suits them. Universities provide interview coaching and extensive career advice, which is beneficial to someone switching careers.

Overall, the benefits of degrees and degree apprenticeships are numerous, so deciding between the two is just a matter of working out which advantages are most important to you. No matter which you choose, you'll have a great experience.