Apprentices earn more than graduates per year in first job

Posted on 4 Mar 2015 by Jonny Williamson

New research by has uncovered that those who undertake an apprenticeship are likely to earn, on average, £3,729 more a year than those who have attended university; in terms of their first job role afterwards.

An Airbus apprentice at Deeside College
Average university graduates had a starting salary of £14,734, compared to £18,463 for those who had completed an apprenticeship.

According to the results of the study, 42% of apprentices feel that the biggest benefit of an apprenticeship is the ability to get hands-on experience while studying.

More than half (56%) of recent graduates felt that the biggest benefit of undertaking a degree was being more qualified than others when applying or being interviewed for a job.                                                                                                                             

The team behind conducted the poll as part of an ongoing research in to the level of opportunities available to apprentices in direct comparison to those available to recent graduates.

Over 2,600 young British adults, all of whom had started their first job prior to completing their apprenticeship or degree within the past 12 months were quizzed about their first jobs and the opportunities that were available to them.

Roughly 50% previously completed an apprenticeship, while the remaining 50% of respondents had graduated from university with a degree.

‘What do you feel were the top benefits to undertaking your chosen study option?’

When provided with a list of possible responses and told to select all those applied, the top five responses among those who had completed an apprenticeship were:

1.      Hands-on experience whilst studying – 42%

2.      Being able to earn money whilst learning – 34%

3.      Being in a working environment – 21%

4.      No debt at the end of it – 16%

5.      Getting a taste for whether or not the career was for me – 13%

The top five responses from recent graduates were:

1.      Being more qualified than some others going for the same job(s) – 56%

2.      Making lifelong friends – 52%

3.      Moving to / travelling to different places – 38%

4.      Having the theoretical knowledge of the sector – 32%

5.      Having the chance of a placement year for hands-on experience – 24%

In order to determine the financial opportunities available to them, all respondents were then asked to state their starting salary of their first job in their chosen field after receiving their qualifications.

Once all of the responses were collated, the results revealed that the average university graduate had a starting salary of £14,734, while those who had completed an apprenticeship on average had a starting salary of £18,463.

According to the poll, only 8% of the respondents who completed an apprenticeship wished they had undertaken a degree, while 33% of those who had graduated from university wished they’d embarked on an apprenticeship.

When asked to state why, ‘to save getting in to debt’ (31%) and ‘full-time education wasn’t for me’ (24%) were the most common responses among the graduates.

Managing director of, Spencer Mehlman commented: “We’re not surprised at all that apprentices earn more within their first jobs than graduates, purely because they get the hands-on experience while they’re learning, and their first job is typically within the company that they’ve trained with.

“Therefore they know everything already in terms of rules, what the company likes and dislikes, and they have experience with the customers and clients already.

“This research isn’t in any way undermining those who undertake a graduate degree, but university isn’t for everyone. If you’re more interested in learning while you work, instead of sitting behind a desk listening to a lecturer, then apprenticeships might be the right choice for you; particularly if money is a focus, what with the results showing that you can earn roughly £310 a month more than graduates.”