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Stigma surrounding apprenticeships is impacting students' career choices

August 2022

Students who get unexpected A-Level results must seek professional careers advice as Prospect's Early Careers Survey 2022 shows the impact apprenticeship stigma has on career choices

The survey of more than 5,000 young people found that just 12% of school and college students would like to do an apprenticeship while 60% are hoping to go to university to undertake an undergraduate degree.

Of those students opting to go to university, nearly half view apprenticeships as second-rate to university: 39% said that a degree has a better reputation than an apprenticeship and one in ten said their parents are against the apprentice route. A further two-fifths said that an apprenticeship is not an option for their chosen career path.

Students with parents who went to university are more likely to be against the apprenticeship option. Nearly half (43%) of this group said that a degree has a better reputation and 13% said they wouldn't take the apprenticeship route because of their parents.

In comparison, a third of students with parents who didn't go to university said that a degree has a better reputation and 8% said their parents are against apprenticeships.

The influence family members have on young people when they are making important decisions about their careers is significant. The survey found that school students were particularly reliant on their families for careers advice (65%), compared to teachers (57%) and careers professionals (35%).

Each month around 7,000 school and college students register for careers information and planning tools on This year, views on apprenticeship content have dropped by 7% compared to last year, while views on 'getting into university' advice have increased by 38%.

Chris Rea, careers expert at Prospects for Jisc said:

'If A-Level results are better or worse than expected, students will be weighing up their options. While university is the right choice for some, it doesn’t work for everyone. Careers that were once only accessible through higher education are now viable routes for those who want to do an apprenticeship.

'However, despite the equality of esteem apprenticeships have acquired in the eyes of government and educators, some stigma remains in the public mind. Dated views place apprenticeships as second-rate to university and an option more suitable for low-attaining students, but modern apprenticeships are a very different career opportunity to when many parents were at school. In particular, degree apprenticeships offer an alternative way of accessing higher education while also gaining valuable work experience.

'Students making important decisions about their careers must seek professional advice to ensure their next steps are the right ones. In addition to using Prospects, students should look at the National Careers Service and employer websites, and speak to teachers and advisers at their school or college.'

Benefits of taking an apprenticeship

Historically, apprenticeships were associated with trades and manual labour. Consequently, they are frequently overlooked as a career option, as they must overcome certain historical connotations to even be considered. However, today many careers that were once only accessible through higher education also have viable routes for those who want to do an apprenticeship, with apprenticeships now being offered by a variety of industries including law, business, marketing and IT for example.

Moreover, apprenticeships are available at multiple levels from level 2 through to levels 6 (Bachelors) and 7 (Masters) where apprentices can acquire a full honours degree, all while getting real world, on the job work experience.

There are many benefits to doing an apprenticeship. Alongside the experience and skills development, apprentices will have access to industry professionals while also receiving employee benefits and a wage. Additionally, with apprenticeships being funded by the government and the employer, they are a great way to earn a qualification without a student loan as there are no tuition fees.1

Apprentice earnings

While many employers offer apprentices a competitive salary, how much an apprentice earns depends on a variety of factors (e.g. location, industry etc.). Nevertheless, all apprentices over the age of 19 are entitled to the National Minimum Wage - those between the ages of 16 and 18 are entitled to the apprenticeship rate which currently stands at £4.81 per hour.2

Research from The Sutton Trust looking into the earning potential of university graduates and apprentices found that those who study for a Level 5 apprenticeship can expect to earn tens of thousands more than undergraduates from non-Russell Group universities during the course of their career.3

Furthermore, recent research from the Institute of Student Employers found that while graduate salaries are currently rising at the fastest rate in 20 years, apprentices salaries are rising even faster with some employers planning to increase salaries for apprenticeships by as much as 50%.4


  1. What is an apprenticeship?,, 2022.
  2. Should I go to university or do an apprenticeship?, Prospects, 2021.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Graduate salaries rise at fastest rate in 20 years yet apprentice pay grows faster, HR News, 2022.

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