Sometimes college isn’t for everyone and people are left with the choice to either leave early or stick it out for a couple of years and complete their qualifications.

In this guide, we’ll explore your options – whether it’d be to stay on at college or do an apprenticeship. We’ll give you the pros and cons of both so you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

The facts

Deciding whether to leave college early or start an apprenticeship can depend on what you want to do as a career. Choosing which career path you want to go down first can usually ease the process of picking college or an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships aren’t just for manual trades anymore like plastering, electricians and plumbing – you can do an apprenticeship in many sectors such as: financial services, marketing and law. However, if you want to go down the medicine route – you’re still required to go to college and then onto university.

If you’re looking at a career in manual trades then an apprenticeship would probably be the best start for you. In these careers, employers are looking more for practical, hands-on experience rather than qualifications in unrelated subjects. 

If you’re thinking about working in the professional sector and like the idea of working in an office – then college or an apprenticeship could both work for you. There are pros and cons to staying on at college or doing an apprenticeship - here’s our top 8 to help you make that important decision.


  • Apprenticeships: You’ll be learning on the job which means less or even no more classroom work – you can get hands-on experience that could be really beneficial for you in the future. Experience is something all employers look for in future employees.
  • College: A levels are respected by both universities and most employers – getting your A levels or a level 3 BTEC could help for future jobs. If you’re up against someone without A levels but with the same experience then you’re more likely to be dropping out of college earlyoffered the job. Also, if you want to go to university, then getting your A levels or a level 3 BTEC is advisable - you may have to do extra studying to get into some universities without having your A levels.  
  • Apprenticeships: With an apprenticeship you’re earning while you’re learning – an apprenticeship is a full-time job with training alongside it so you’ll be getting a full-time wage rather than a part-time wage (or no wage at all!) if you were at college. An apprentice could have a starting wage of £6,000 to £14,000 a year.
  • College: Staying in full-time education rather than getting an apprenticeship could be a better option for some people who aren’t quite ready to get into work – doing an apprenticeship can be hard work as you’ll be working a full day Monday to Friday and could miss out on going out with friends. However, you’re unlikely to get any homework on an apprenticeship so you’ll have your evenings and weekends to see friends rather than in the day.


  • Apprenticeships: It can be quite competitive to get an apprenticeship over a college course – make sure your CV and applications are up to scratch to make you stand out from the crowd. We can help with CV building, interview skills and advise you on what to look out for with applying for an apprenticeship.
  • College: In some cases, the courses you choose to do at college don’t support what you want to do as a career. Picking your subjects on the basis of what you enjoy and are good at is a great start if you’re unsure what to do career-wise. However, if left college early to do an apprenticeshipyou have a set career in mind - it’s better to go with a course (either at college or an apprenticeship) that will help you get on the career ladder.
  • Apprenticeships: With most apprenticeships you’re starting at entry-level, assistant roles and you’ll need to learn the basics – some tasks you do might be a tad boring but everyone has to start somewhere. Even some graduates start at entry-level roles to get into the competitive job market.
  • College: Most college courses take two years to complete and with 69% of college leavers not going onto university – a lot of leavers are doing an apprenticeship or getting a job instead. To speed up the process to get into work, you could start an apprenticeship at 16 and work your way up.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to both college and apprenticeships – it’s important to know all the facts before deciding on what to do. Remember, not everyone’s the same – different choices will be better for some people and not for others, take the time to figure out what would be right for you.

And you?

We hope we’ve shed some light on the different options you can take and can now make that important decision.

If you're heading towards doing an apprenticeship, either right away or after you leave college - get in touch with our friendly team today and we'll be happy to talk through your apprenticeship opportunities: 

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