7 Alternatives to University

7 Alternatives to University / 07.09.2019

During the last few years of school, everyone begins thinking about what their next steps are going to be. University tends to be the word on everybody’s lips, discussing the differences between campus and city, science-based or the arts, and how much it’s going to cost- people searching to find the University that’s going to suit them for the next three years.

But what if university in general just isn’t for you?

There are many people coming through the school system who prefer a more hands-on, unique experience to signing up for another few years of academic work. University has become such a huge talking point within education that many people don’t know much about the other options out there for those who would rather take a different route. So, what’s out there?

Alternatives to University

Cadetships

Cadet LifeRebecca Smith

Many people will hear the word cadet and think of the military before anything else, but outside of the military action vein, you can also apply for cadetships in the Merchant Navy. Here, cadets will undergo similar training to military cadets, but geared towards merchant ships (passenger cruises and cargo). Cadets can either choose a Deck Officer Cadetship where they will learn ship handling, navigation, and cargo handling; Engineering Cadetships where they will learn to monitor and maintain the engines of the ship to keep them sailing successfully, or the more modern position of Electro-Technical Cadets, who will be trained in maintaining all of the electrical equipment on board. These cadetships often work on a block-release basis, where training involves blocks of being at college and then going on assignments to expand and use what they have learned. Chiltern Maritime offers all three of these cadetships, and as cadetships are all sponsored, Chiltern will help you find a maritime sponsor to subsidise your training, and not only will everything be paid for, but you’ll be earning money whilst traveling the world on assignments and still come out with a degree level qualification.

Pros Cons
✓ Earn a Wage ✕ Limited Feilds of Study
✓ Practical Experience
✓ Study to Degree Level
✓ Travel the World

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship
Apprenticeship

Whilst cadetships are bound to military and maritime training, apprenticeships are a broader option to gain practical experience in a job field of your choice. You can find apprenticeships in engineering, mechanics, marketing and IT, just to name a few. Apprenticeships combine study and practical experience, usually with most time being spent on the job learning hands-on. Unlike higher education, these are applied to similar to a job- so directly to an employer with a CV, application form and cover letter. The selected applicants will then begin their training fully funded by the government and their employer, under a contract and with a wage.

Not all fields suit apprenticeships, so there is still a certain level of limitation to what areas you can go into, but if you know what career path you want to enter into and they offer apprenticeships they can be a fantastic way to gain experience up to a degree level whilst being paid.

Pros Cons
✓ Earn a Wage ✕ Limited Feilds of Study
✓ Practical Experience
✓ Study to Degree Level

Open University

Open University
Open University

The clue is in the name: This is a university, but not as you know it. If the set lecture times, campus and college method of degree education isn’t for you, the open university just might be.

The premise of this institution begins with open admissions, where there are no formal entry requirements- so it doesn’t matter what education you already have or what grades you got. You are then able to pick your course and modules and begin your study. You will not be bound to a campus, but rather will work online whenever suits you, with a tutor that will guide you and other students through the internet and occasionally in person if meetings can be arranged. You will be sent any materials you need including books, CD’s and worksheets, but you can complete them in the comfort of your own home, making study far easier to balance with other responsibilities such as work. This will still earn you a degree through academics but allows far more flexibility than a full-time campus university where you are required to attend lectures and workshops in person. That being said, you would still have deadlines that you would need to utterly rely on your own self-motivation to meet outside of an academic environment. It’s also worth noting that you still have to pay tuition fees, however, they are based on pay-per-module rather than for the whole qualification, and even all added up this is considerably lower than the average university tuition fees.

Pros Cons
✓ Flexible Study ✕ Tuition Cost
✓ Open Admissions
✓ Study to Degree Level

Traineeships

Traineeships
Traineeships

Getting into the job and apprenticeship market can be difficult, and it can be frustrating that it seems every opportunity requires experience- which you can’t get without first being accepted into a position. It can feel like a vicious circle, and traineeships are the way out.

Traineeships are programs that offer work experience placements geared towards those with no past experience. They usually include not only some experience in specific areas, but also in the workplace in general (including giving a mock interview) to ensure that after the trainees are then work-ready and have some experience to help them appeal to employers. These are not usually paid, but offer invaluable experience in eventually getting on the job ladder.

Pros Cons
✓ Entry Level Experience ✕ Not Paid
✓ Practical Experience
✓ Short Term

Entry-Level Jobs

 

Many people want to go straight into employment rather than continue with education in any form. This is a good way to start earning a wage and experience straight away, however, it must be noted that entry-level is just that, it may be low pay, and put you at the bottom of a very large ladder- but at least you’re on it and will be given the opportunity to climb. If you can get accepted into these positions and are willing to work, these are great; however, it can be very hard to be accepted into roles without experience, especially in competitive fields, so you may not always be able to get on the ladder that you most want to be climbing. Many fields nowadays have plenty of university graduates or applicants with work experience from apprenticeships or past jobs to choose from, and experience is always key.

Pros Cons
✓ Earn a Wage ✕ Very Competitive
✓ Practical Experience

Work Experience and Internships

Internship

Internships are similar to traineeships but tend to be more in-depth and more specific to a given field. They offer short term work experience that are usually unpaid but provides access to information from co-workers and experience in the work environment. They can be hard to get hold of, and sometimes require some form of past experience or qualification, and they are not available for all fields of work so their appropriateness depends totally on what career you want to enter. They’re a great way to get some experience on your CV or test out what you may be interested over a short period of time.

Pros Cons
✓ Earn a Wage (Dependent on Company) ✕ Very competitive
✓ Practical Experience ✕ No Contract
✓ Short-term (so able to try different areas) ✕ Limited Industries

Starting your own business- A great opportunity during a gap year

Starting Your Own Business
Starting a Business

Yes, this sounds daunting, especially if you don’t have much experience or business education, but it is not totally unattainable. If you’re living at home and just want to try something out, there’s very little to lose in testing the waters, and it’ll give you great experience and an interesting story to tell- even if you fail. You never know, you might stumble on something that people really want and it could take off, but either way, it shows independence and initiative, and you don’t have to rely on anyone else to give you work experience.

Pros Cons
✓ Shows Initiative & Drive – Regardless of Success ✕ No Contract
✓ Practical Experience

Conclusion

There are so many more paths into experience and careers than just applying to study at universities. If you’re more practical, then cadetships and apprenticeships allow you to learn skills through practical assignment and study- and they won’t set you back, but rather pay you for all the hard work you put in. Postgraduate and Open University are traditional forms of higher education, but give you more freedom and flexibility to study at home while you work or have a family, and then there’s plenty of ways like internships, traineeships, entry-level jobs and even starting your own business to get you real experience in jobs that you can put on your CV. Choose whichever path best suits your learning style and what you want to do, or use the short term options to experiment and see if you can discover exactly what that is.

Another possibility

Postgraduate Courses

A postgraduate degree is a high-level qualification, and whilst these courses most commonly do require a Bachelors degree of a good standard, but this does not put a Masters out of the question for those who do not wish to go to university. If you wish to look into this, you should research which Universities offer a postgraduate course you’d be interested in, and see what their entry requirements are. Some provide the option to enter into this higher level of education through work experience, rather than academic merit. Many higher apprenticeships will also provide a high-level qualification which may meet a University’s requirements. Applying may be worth a shot if you’ve got plenty of relevant professional experience to back you up, as this will be seen by some universities as equal eligibility to a student with academic experience.

Masters are considerably shorter than an undergraduate degree, and the work is considerably more independent. This makes it possible to study alongside working, as well as being a shorter commitment. However, postgraduate degrees are a prime example of you get what you give, and thus you need to be able to keep yourself motivated through all of the independent work.

Pros Cons
✓ High-Level Qualification ✕ Have To Be Very Self-Motivated
✓ Can Enter on Experience ✕ Tuition fees

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