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EURES (EURopean Employment Services)
News article19 April 2017European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion3 min read

Work or university – which is right for you?

Making decisions about your future is never easy, especially when you have your whole life stretched out in front of you and you’re worried about choosing the wrong path.

Work or university – which is right for you?

It depends what you want to do with your life…

There are some industries that require employees to have a university degree as standard. These tend to be the more traditionally academic ones, such as medicine, maths or science, where years of study are required in order to develop the necessary knowledge.

Many industries however – particularly the more vocational ones – can value work experience just as much as a degree as it provides that ‘hands-on’ experience that university courses sometimes lack. Think about what kind of career you’d like to have and you might find that this dictates which direction you need to go in.

…and if you actually don’t know that yet

But what if you haven’t decided what you want to do yet? Well, choosing university or a job isn’t signing yourself up to that career for life. If, at a later date, you want to change to a different industry then the time you spent at university or working won’t have been wasted. Communication and digital skills are transferable and universal. They’ll stand you in good stead wherever you’d like to go.

Also, perhaps it’s worth having a look at the skills and job roles that are particularly in demand by employers. There might be something that interests you there and it could boost your employment chances, whether you go straight into the workplace or bypass university first.

There are financial implications

Money is always a thorny subject, but it’s an important consideration – particularly in countries where young people often leave university with a significant amount of debt. Most courses will involve costs to some degree, which can follow you beyond university, while jobs will help you to build up your savings.

However, the investment can be worth it in the long-run, as having a university degree will often open doors to higher paying jobs. There are also scholarship opportunities available in many EU countries, which can help young people through university without the lengthy debt-repayment process at the end of it.

You could do both

Whether for extra money or to gain experience, a lot of university students combine their studies with a part-time job. This might not always be possible, particularly if the subject you’re studying has a heavy workload, but it can be a good way of getting the best of both worlds.

On the other hand, just because you’ve decided to enter the workplace doesn’t mean that studying is no longer an option. Distance learning has become increasingly available thanks to technological advancements, while part-time courses offer flexibility to suit your needs.

More and more universities are also helping to solve the dilemma by offering courses that involve both studying and working. Taking part in a course like this allows you to benefit from the best of both worlds, so why not see what universities in your country or abroad can offer you?

There’s a third option

Apprenticeships, traineeships and internships are another way to bridge that gap between work and study. They’re also a great way of taking a small step into an industry or career that interests you and gaining useful experience. Check out the youth opportunities section of Drop’pin@EURES to start your search for the ideal apprenticeship, traineeship or internship.

There are lots of other points to consider, of course – this isn’t an easy decision – but we hope this has helped to identify some of the major considerations! And whatever you decide, why not add another dimension by doing it in a different country? Our article on studying, training or working abroad has some essential advice to get you started.


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