Degree Apprenticeships: Expectations vs Reality


There are many myths that surround degree apprenticeships, but they are just myths! We explore some common ones with Pearson College London and speak to real apprentices about what really happens.

Degree apprenticeships are a new route into higher education, combining simultaneous professional work and academic study, with the added bonus of no tuition fees, as those are covered by the company that employs the Degree Apprentice. Degree Apprenticeships have grown significantly in numbers since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

The main benefits of a degree apprenticeship are working, earning and learning. You gain practical work experience on the job, earn an annual salary and study towards a Level 6 (bachelor's) or Level 7 (master's) degree. This allows students who want to get hands-on experience, to get a foot in the door of the workplace or industry of their choice, whilst also gaining that higher education qualification that is so sought-after by employers.

However, there are a few myths surrounding degree apprenticeships, which in reality are not true!

1. "It's going to be way too hard"

Inevitably, balancing a full-time degree with a full-time job role is demanding and requires excellent time management skills. If you're not sure how to manage your time effectively, start thinking of ways that you might have had to manage your time in the past, perhaps when you have balanced school with a part-time job or hobby, for example. Think about some methods you might use when you start the role, such as to-do lists or the Eisenhower Matrix.

"Time management is vital when being a degree apprentice, not only do you need to manage your studies alongside a full-time job, but it is also really important to find some time for yourself and to still have a social life. My top tip for managing this is to mark off certain days in your week where you don't do any work or study and make sure to plan something fun instead." - Matilda Pinn, Events Assistant at Pearson Plc

Once you have a method that works for you, the rest will fall into place and you will have a routine and schedule that benefits the way that you work best. Yes, it might be a bit difficult at first, but the schemes wouldn't exist if they weren't manageable, so keeping on top of everything is vital to success!

2. "I am going to be treated as a lesser employee"

One common myth, fueled by negative societal stereotypes, is that apprentices are treated as a lesser employee and will have to do the jobs that the other members of the team do not want to do, such as making the tea and coffee and photocopying.

"The 'stereotypical' societal opinion of apprenticeships traditionally viewed them as a lesser, second class option to university, therefore filling me with nervousness about what was to come. I couldn't have been more wrong! In the last three years, I have had the opportunity to work within three amazing companies including Tesco, IBM and Pearson College London. The tasks I have been given throughout my placements have definitely not felt like 'a second class' option." - Holly Garrett, Rotational Degree Apprentice

Although you might be expected to complete jobs that aren't considered glamorous, anyone who is new to a company will go through this, apprentice or not. An apprenticeship is all about learning and developing the apprentice in order to allow them to progress their careers. Whilst gaining experience and qualifications, the apprentice will also develop as a person and this is part of the process; having an employee that has completed an apprenticeship is invaluable.

3. "I am going to be really inexperienced"

You might not have the technical knowledge required for the role you are applying for, but you might have some transferable skills that could prove very useful in the role.

The company is investing a lot of time,effort and resources into your development, so they are going to be willing to train you up and shape you into the employee that they are looking to excel within the business. Therefore, if you are willing to learn and develop yourself, an employer will love to see that enthusiasm and drive.

4. "I am going to feel out of place"

Similar to feeling inexperienced, is the feeling of being out of place. Starting any new job role, as an apprentice or not, can be daunting. Am I going to fit in? Will people like me? Will I like everyone else? Be yourself, because if you were yourself in the interview and the hiring manager picked you, then they would have considered the team fit, as part of the process.

"I found myself asking myself questions such as "Would I be looked down upon?"; however, in reality, this is the complete opposite. In my placements, there were a community of other apprentices, graduates, and interns and I have been welcomed into friendly teams that are great fun to work in. Similarly, through studying with other students on a Friday, I have made a great group of friends who are now friends for life." - Holly Garrett, Rotational Degree Apprentice

If you show a passion for the role, team and business that you are working as part of, other members of the team will like you and want to work with you. And, there will always be people that you might not get along really well with or whose personality you've never come across before, but that is all part of working as a team and developing the adaptability skills to work with a range of individuals.

5. "I am not going to have a social life"

The final common myth is that you are going to have absolutely no social life because you will spend all of your time studying and working. However, there are so many opportunities to socialise...

"As a Degree Apprentice, there are lots of opportunities to participate in sports and societies, as a lot of events and clubs are run in the evenings, giving us the chance to join in after work. It's also great not having to work on the weekends, meaning there's more time to see friends and family, unlike when I was working a part-time job alongside my A-Levels. As there are lots of other Degree Apprentices at Pearson Business School, there's a great community of people who are in the same position as you and know exactly how to balance your workload with your social life." - Emma Devlin, Degree Apprentice at Pearson College London

As well as this, there are always opportunities to socialise at work, whether it's for birthdays, other special occasions, or just any excuse for a get-together with your colleagues! Often, larger companies will hire multiple apprentices, so you will get the chance to meet like-minded individuals who perhaps you haven't come across before. This gives you the chance to make lifelong professional connections and friends.

In reality, degree apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity to work, earn and learn.

For more information about Pearson Business School's degrees or degree apprenticeship programmes, visit pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk.

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