Leicester College Blog

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships versus the Traditional Degree


What’s the difference between a degree apprenticeship and the traditional degree?

Based on your skill set, career goals, work experience and qualifications, you may decide on either a degree apprenticeship or a traditional degree. Ultimately, the path you choose needs to be your own decision, but it is also important to consider and research the following factors so that you can make an informed choice:

  • Are there apprenticeship vacancies available in your field and can they lead to your chosen career, or would starting a degree be a more realistic option?
  • Are the apprenticeships/degrees local to you or will you need to travel/relocate?
  • Are there any gaps in your own qualifications and work experience which you will need to address in order to meet the published entry requirements?
  • Do you need to be working in a relevant role before you start an apprenticeship, or can you just apply?
  • What is the recruitment process for an apprenticeship/degree? Interview; psychometric assessment; literacy and numeracy test; role play; presentation or video CV?

So, what are the differences? A higher apprenticeship is a level 4/5 qualification and is equivalent to the first two years of a degree programme. A degree apprenticeship is a level 6 qualification and is academically comparable to a traditional degree. An undergraduate degree at university comprises of level 4 (first year), level 5 (second year) and level 6 (third or final year). These are the main differences between them:

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

Traditional Degree

You are usually at work Monday to Friday with a  day allocated to attend theory training The days you spend at University are variable and will depend on your subject area
You will work and study all year round You can have long holidays
Requires extremely good time management and a high level of commitment Requires good time management and commitment, but there is often more time available to pursue other interests
Gain important work-based skills from day one You need to have a proactive approach to finding work and gaining work experience
Earn money from the first day of work You can be awarded a maintenance loan from Student Finance England to cover your living costs
Individual application process Apply through UCAS
Often performance related which can be recognised through increased pay Performance related which is recognised through grades achieved
The tuition fees could be paid by the Employer Tuition fees can be paid for by Student Finance England

Increasingly, more students are interested in higher and degree apprenticeships because they are attracted to the ‘earn whilst you learn’ nature of the training programmes, and some people are better suited to the working environment than a traditional college or University. Nevertheless, apprenticeships at any level are highly competitive and will depend on you having a successful interview with the Employer, so it is wise to have a back-up option. Similarly, a degree can also involve having a successful interview and achieving good grades to secure a place.

It is useful to conduct some research into both options and then draw your own conclusions. The following websites are a good source of information:




If you would like to discuss higher and degree apprenticeships, and degree courses, you can see a Careers Advisor at the college who can support you in your decision-making. Good luck!

By Sonia Riyait

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