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What Happens If You Don’t Want to Go to University?

While pursuing a university education has traditionally been a widely acknowledged career option, in recent years, there has been a growing trend towards pursuing alternative pathways. Whether opting for an apprenticeship, internship or entering the workforce directly, there are several alternative routes to a successful career that don't involve going to university.

What Happens If You Don’t Want to Go to University?


Tech Talent Engine


Whether you’re a student at college or working in a job, chances are, you probably know someone who went to university or is planning to.

Although it is a great starting point for your career, going to university isn’t the ultimate pathway to success.

If you’re having doubts about going to university, don’t worry. Whilst it may seem as though everyone around you is choosing this route, there are also plenty of others who choose alternative routes.

Ultimately, your decision should depend on your career goals, personal circumstances, and passions – all factors which undoubtedly vary for each person.

Help, I don’t know what to do with my life?

No matter your age, not having a clear career plan is very normal. Many leaders spend years in a sector and often switch careers in pursuit of a new challenge and that’s fine.

Waiting until you’re sure of your passions and career interests is a sensible idea, ensuring you can make the right decision about your career route when the time is right.

If you’re stuck or feeling lost about your passions and abilities, here are some resources you can use to help:

  • Skills quiz – take our free skills quiz to understand what career family you fit in.
  • Learning resources – utilise learning resources and consider upskilling.
  • Mentorship – access a personal mentor and receive career advice.

Writing down your strengths and weaknesses is a good starting point, allowing you to outline the types of roles that are suited to your interests.

Do I need a degree to work in tech?

Although a degree is a highly recognised credential in tech, it’s by no means the only route to a successful career. Whether it’s becoming a Software Developer, Security Analyst or Cyber Security Expert, plenty of roles don’t require a degree to get started.

The favourable tech community gives individuals of all skills the ability to learn from others and access courses and webinars. It could be that you’re wanting to get started in web development but don’t feel the university is the right pathway for you.

Fortunately, courses such as 100DaysofNoCode and online challenges give individuals the opportunity to network with others and learn at their own pace. If you’ve been led to believe that attending university is the sole path to a successful career, we’re here to dispel that myth.

Alternative career options to university

Each year, while thousands of students embark on their university journey, an equal number of individuals explore alternative career prospects. Below, we’ll explain some of the common career options.

1. Get an entry-level job

Whatever industry you’re looking to pursue, there is a high value on skills and knowledge rather than formal education. If you can demonstrate your technical abilities through projects, certifications, and a strong portfolio, you can often bypass the need for a degree.

Getting an entry-level job is a great way to learn whilst you grow at a company, allowing you to access on-the-job training, mentorship programmes and opportunities for professional development.

While university programmes typically take 3 years or more, you can begin work in an entry-level role much sooner, gaining practical experience and earning a salary from the beginning.

Right now, the tech industry is facing a shortage of skilled professionals. As a result, many companies are more interested in what you can do rather than your educational background. This means that you can find opportunities and advancement even without a degree.

2. Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a paid job that offers real-life work experience and is often combined with part-time classroom learning.

Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll receive a nationally recognised qualification varying from intermediate to degree equivalent.

Industry experience is the most valuable aspect of an apprenticeship, allowing you to network with future employers and gain a real-life perspective of the workplace. This insight into the industry you’re seeking to pursue can give you a clearer picture of the sector, allowing you to shadow all areas of an organisation.

However, much like any career pathway you take, an apprenticeship comes with its own pros and cons.

One disadvantage of taking an apprenticeship is the commitment and extra responsibility, which is an added pressure to be prepared for.

3. Work experience

The real-life experience you will gain from work experience is something that can’t be taught in schools or books, making it an incredibly valuable experience.

It can help you gain key skills and, ultimately, decide what you want to do for work. Many people go to university with a passion for a subject and then fall out of love once they realise what the day-to-day responsibilities involve.

By gaining work experience early, you are streamlining the job search process, allowing you to gain a better understanding of the sector you’re seeking to pursue.

Fully funded programmes such as Tech Talent Ready offer bootcamps and training opportunities to help you build the skills you need to break into the tech sector.

Delivered in collaboration with the North of Tyne Combined Authority and Sunderland Software City, they have great partnerships with employers in the region. This increases the chance of employment upon completion.

Even if you don’t have access to a laptop, the programme can provide you with several donated equipment to help you start your career.

4. Self-employment

If you possess the skills and knowledge to start your own business, self-employment is a great opportunity to work on your own schedule.

Best of all, starting your own business or pursuing entrepreneurial ventures doesn’t require a traditional degree and many successful entrepreneurs have built their careers without formal education.

In the tech industry, what often matters most is your ability to perform specific tasks, solve problems and create value through your technical abilities. This means that your clients are often more interested in your skills and portfolio than your formal education.

Self-employment also opens itself up to remote work opportunities, which provides the flexibility and ability to set up your business anywhere.

Many funded programmes such as Tech Startup Sunderland offer wide-ranging support and advice to help new businesses develop, test, and validate their idea. This support provides a sense of community that is comparable to working in an office or going to university.

Additionally, the demand for tech professionals continues to grow, and this trend is likely to continue. Self-employment allows you to tap into this demand and offer your skills to a broad range of clients and industries.

5. Vocational education

Vocational and technical education can be an excellent option for people interested in pursuing a career in the tech industry without attending university.

For example, Newcastle College offers a range of full-time courses for people aged 16-18 designed to help you gain the right skills, get experience, and enjoy the experience of learning.

If you’re interested in computing, you can get hands-on learning to equip you with the skills and understanding to enter the fast-paced industry.

These types of vocational courses are typically more focused and specialised, allowing you to concentrate on your chosen area within the field, such as computer networking, web development or cyber security.

Additionally, vocational courses often have strong relationships with local employers and may offer career services and job placement assistance to help you find your first tech job.

Some options for tech courses in the North East include:

Vocational education doesn’t stop at graduation. You can continue to learn and grow in your field through further certifications and experience.

Find your career pathway

The tech sector is notoriously competitive, with more individuals keen to pursue this pathway each year.

Although going to university is a widely accepted career pathway, in recent years, there has been a trend towards considering alternative routes. Whether taking an apprenticeship, internship or seeking employment, there are several routes available for those looking to pursue a tech career.

If you’re looking for your next course, work experience or full-time role, take advantage of the free resources available on Tech Talent Engine.

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