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The Oracle

Apprenticeship or university?

updated on 04 February 2020

Dear Oracle

I’m considering starting a legal apprenticeship, but are the career prospects the same as the full-time university route? What are the main differences between an apprenticeship and going to university?

The Oracle replies

Your question is answered in detail in The Law Apprenticeships Guide, which we highly recommend reading before making your decision. Broadly, if you are interested in the solicitors’ profession, there is no difference in terms of career prospects between doing an apprenticeship or the traditional university route. However, if you want to become a barrister, your best course of action is to go to university – there is currently no apprenticeship route to the Bar.

Legal apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers (and people already working as paralegals who want to gain some formal qualifications and progress in their careers) as an alternative to university. The high cost of going to university is certainly a factor why people might consider an alternative, while others prefer to get straight into their careers and develop skills within a work environment.

There are several types of legal apprenticeship, all of which involve on-the-job training at a law firm. The different pathways can lead to qualifying as a solicitor or chartered legal executive, as well as a job as a paralegal. If you do a six-year solicitor apprenticeship, you will also gain a law degree.

To make your choice, you need to decide what type of learning and working lifestyle will suit you best over the next several years. Are you keen to start your career without delay, or do you want to immerse yourself in higher education and all the great benefits that going to university has to offer for a few years (bearing in mind that you will likely be repaying your student loans for a long time afterwards)? Be sure to further research and think about the type of lawyer you want to be, as well as the kind of training that best suits you. You can see available apprenticeship positions here, and find out more by reading our feature.

For more advice on choosing between an apprenticeship or university, plus all the apprenticeships info you need to get started, read The Law Apprenticeships Guide.