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University Vs. Vocational Training

Graduate hat, hammer and screwdriver alongside text reading "University vs. vocational training"

According to UCAS, a record amount of people have been accepted onto university courses in the UK over the last few years.

For many of these students, degrees are essential to the career they want, such as; medicine, law, dentistry, etc. However, not all careers require a university degree, and you can reach many through vocational training.

Both university and vocational training courses have pros and cons, and different paths suit different people. Nevertheless, we are encouraging those soon to leave compulsory education or looking to change careers to consider the option of vocational training.


Regardless of the route, affordability is one of the first roadblocks people run into. However, you should view any cost as an investment in your career.

UK university fees are higher than ever and some of the highest globally. With an average annual cost of £9,188, a three-year course can result in a debt of £27,500 – not including a student loan. Overall debt after gaining a degree ranges from £50,000 – £57,000. However, graduates won’t have to pay back any money until they earn £25,000, and Student Finance will write off any remaining debt after 30 years.

In contrast, vocational training courses like those delivered here at Options Skills cost £4,000-9,000. You can pay these fees through regular payments or a single one-off payment, depending on what works best for you before beginning the training courses. Therefore, upon completing your chosen course and qualifying in your trade, you won’t have any training fees to pay off.

Learning Experience

Though learning experience varies depending on the university course, many will involve a significant amount of time in lecture halls or seminar rooms. Students are graded on coursework, essays and exams, with a dissertation or final project tying up their studies. In addition, through your course, you may have to undertake work experience/have the opportunity to spend time working in the industry.

Contrastingly, we organise our courses into three stages. Stage one is centre-led training. During this time, trainees will spend time in our classrooms and workshops learning a mixture of theoretical and practical skills. Following this, trainees will go out to work on-site alongside qualified mentors. The final stage of training will consist of assessments, exams and presentations before earning qualifications.

Student soldering copper piping during our domestic gas vocational training


The average university course duration is three years. A master’s degree adds another year to that; if you want a PhD, it can take up to eight years to achieve one.

Vocational training courses can vary drastically in duration.

At Options Skills, it will usually take a student a year or two to complete training and gain their qualifications. This duration includes all three stages of training. From there, you will continuously progress and learn whilst out in the working world.

Class Size

A single lecture hall could sit up to around 100 people at universities across the country, while standard seminar and classroom sizes can range between 15-25.

Vocational training class sizes tend to be smaller in size. At Options Skills, we limit class sizes to ten to ensure our trainees get the attention and guidance they need.

Career Options

After university, half of all graduates enter a job within their chosen industry within six months of graduating. Many others go into positions that aren’t directly related to their degree, while some will be unemployed for some time before gaining employment.

There is no guarantee that you will get a job after studying in any industry. However, when entering the trades industry, you can work on an employed, self-employed or sub-contract basis. This range of career options means that even if you can’t secure a role with a company in the trades, you can go it alone and be self-employed. Though this does take effort to market yourself as a tradesperson, you don’t need to rely on a company for employment.

Two students in the workshop bay working on socket boards during our electrical vocational training

Entry Requirements

Usually, you must already hold specific qualifications to enrol on a university course. These are often A-Levels or equivalent. Your grades are then converted into UCAS tariff points. To secure a place, you will be expected to meet the point requirements set, with each course having different requirements. Universities will also look at your suitability regarding skills, interests and any experience you may have. Some will also require an admissions test and interviews.

Requirements to enrol on a training course can range widely depending on the course. For some, you may need 5 A*-C at GCSE level. Others will ask for previous experience.

At Options Skills, we ask those looking to train with us to take an aptitude test. This test lets us understand your maths and English level and ensure you’re suitable for the course. In addition, our NVQ Level 3 Electrical Training Course also requires potential students to complete a colour blindness test.

University Vs. Vocational Training

Historically, people -wrongly – regarded vocational training and apprenticeships as a lower level of education. And for many, vocational training wasn’t an option. Because of this, many people don’t know what to expect from training courses. But they’re increasing in popularity as more people begin to explore all their options.

In addition, many training courses often allow learners to earn money as they train, making them a much more attractive alternative to both school leavers and mature learners.


Regardless of your path, whether university or vocational training, make sure it’s right for you and the career you want.

The Government Talk About ‘Rip-off’ Degrees

In July 2023, Rishi Sunak announced his plans to cut back on the number of students taking ‘poor quality’ or ‘rip-off’ degrees with low employment rates for post-graduates. The Government stated that taxpayers and students expect a “good return on the significant financial investment” of undertaking further education.

This announcement by the Prime Minister shows the Government’s current stance towards which degrees they consider worthwhile. And that we may see significant changes coming to further education in the future, instead prioritising jobs with lower investment and higher employment rates, such as those delivered through vocational training.

[Read More] What are ‘Rip-off’ Degrees?


Trades Training With Options Skills

A trades career attracts people for many reasons, from earning potential to job satisfaction.

More and more people are joining the trades industry, and through Options Skills, you can train to become an electrician or gas engineer.

We also deliver ACS renewal for existing gas engineers and wiring regulation updates, and inspection and testing for existing electricians.

With dedicated student liaison managers and a team of experienced trainers in each department, our students receive high-quality training and ongoing support throughout and after the completion of their course.

If you’re interested in learning a trade, you can speak to a course advisor on 0800 802 1306.

All data correct at time of publication.