Blog post

Degrees and apprenticeships: what's it all about?

30 April 2024

With so many options now available to students, how do you decide what path to follow when you leave school or college? Students have more choice, freedom and support than ever before, and while that can be an advantage, it can also be a little overwhelming when considering what your next step should be. 

As a TEF Gold university committed to teaching excellence and student success, we're here to sort fact from fiction and to help you understand the differences between a degree, an apprenticeship and a degree apprenticeship. Whatever your goals are for the future, we'll help you find your perfect match. 

A traditional university degree

Let's start with a university degree - something you'll probably be quite familiar with. If you go to university as an undergraduate student, you'll study towards a bachelor's degree. Universities are inspiring places filled with opportunities to explore the world, meet life-long friends and pursue a dream career. Employability is fully embedded in our undergraduate programmes at Derby, and you'll have opportunities to connect with and work on live briefs for, leading employers including Rolls-Royce, Toyota, Alstom, and the NHS. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. It's a good idea to choose a subject that you enjoy, are passionate about or plays to your natural strengths 
  2. Consider possible career paths and work backwards to find a course that compliments your ambitions
  3. Check how you'll be assessed and if this method suits you and your preferred learning style

Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are quite a new concept and are designed for students who are seeking the best of both worlds. Competition for places is often quite high as this option allows you to pursue a degree-level qualification while gaining practical industry experience, making you attractive to employers. Unlike an apprenticeship, successful completion of a degree apprenticeship will result in a bachelor's degree. The University of Derby offers fantastic degree apprenticeship opportunities in a variety of subjects, and all come with plenty of support to help you achieve your ambitions. As with any study route, there are aspects to weigh up: 

The apprenticeship route 

Apprenticeships are a popular alternative to traditional degrees. Gone are the days when apprenticeships were limited to manual trades such as construction and engineering - you can now take on apprenticeships in a whole range of industries including business, IT and marketing. 

The immediate earning, hands-on experience and employer links are undoubtable benefits, but so too is the qualification. According to, a higher apprenticeship is equivalent to a foundation degree at university level. Apprenticeships are a fantastic option if you want to:

As with lots of important life decisions, there are pros and cons to all study routes but it's all about gathering as much information as you can and making a well-informed decision that best supports you and your career goals. 

How to apply

There are a number of different routes into an apprenticeship. If you're in employment and are interested in a paid degree apprenticeship, have a chat with your employer who can support you through the application process. If you're simply looking to see what's out there, you can find apprenticeship vacancies on the government's website. 

Take your first steps towards an apprenticeship and visit our website for more information, trusted advice and to hear the success stories of previous apprentices who were once in your shoes. If you have any questions or would like our expert guidance, please contact the University of Derby on +44 (0)1332 591044 and a member of our Enquiries team will be happy to help.