University v trade school – what will pay in the long run?

You’ve just begun your final year of A Levels and the words UCAS, points and degrees are being thrown around everywhere you go. Teachers are applying pressure on you to fill out your application forms for University and take trips to go and look round them. However, you are considering skipping University altogether and training for a more hands on job role, such as engineering, beauty or public services.


It is important that before you make this decision, you do some extensive research and are sure that whatever you choose, it will pay off in the future. The job market is a tough one – although, as the Guardian has reported, it has improved in recent years for both graduates and those who didn’t attend higher education alike. However, the skilled work force is one that is in demand.


We are currently struggling with a shortage in gas engineers, electricians and plumbers and as our new housing development continues to grow we are in urgent need of these types of workers. Training for these job roles is readily available, whether you opt for an apprenticeship, trade school at college or sign up with a training service provider such as Options Skills.


The big question though is: which choice will pay in the long run? You regularly hear horror stories of people attending University for three years and struggling to secure a full time job in their desired field or having to start out in unpaid work, once they have graduated. They don’t end up homeless on the streets but they’re either trekking to London to make tea all day or moping around their parent’s house with nothing to do and no money. To help, we’ve compiled the pros and cons for each option so you can make an informed decision once you have completed your exams.





  • Fun! University is all about new experiences, meeting new people, learning life skills and getting out there in the big wide world.
  • It’s your first chance to achieve a little independence.
  • Opportunity to study something you are interested in and want to turn into a career.
  • You finish with a recognised degree, in something you should love and be interested in, which can help you climb the ladder quickly in most careers.
  • When looking for a job you can apply for interesting roles and find yourself working in an industry you never thought possible – expect to hone your tea making skills first though.



  • University is quite simply, expensive. Tuition fees rose excessively in the past two years, so your student loan may only just cover your costs and this will then need to be paid back once you secure a job.
  • Whilst at University it’s very easy to become overwhelmed and stressed with the situation, which can lead to depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
  • If your flatmates aren’t a sociable bunch (it can happen) or you’re one of those people who are pretty possessive over their stuff (you label everything… milk, cutlery, toilet roll) it might take you longer to make friends and fit in.
  • You will probably move quite far away from your family and friends, which can put a strain on relationships and you will miss out on a get together and celebrations if you are unable to make it back to your home town on public transport.


Trade school



  • You will work in an important and rewarding job role, that is in high demand across the country.
  • Ability to build up a portfolio and create your own business.
  • Opportunity to take part in hands on learning and come out at the end with a desirable skill that few people have and require.
  • You will get to visit new places and meet interesting people as you travel round, completing work with your training provider to gain experience.



  • Long working hours and shifts are usually required with skilled based jobs and some even involve night time call outs.
  • Work can be messy, stressful on the body and involve a certain level of fitness to take on. You could be lifting heavy kit and parts one day, standing on your feet for eight hours straight or find yourself bent over or in a crouched position for a long period of time.
  • Once working you will have to travel, usually driving, near and far and possibly in a vehicle which you must keep maintained and clean.


So now it all comes down to you. What do you ultimately want to get out of life? Weigh up everything but always go with what your heart wants, and not necessarily what job will pay more in the end! 

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