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Which for Work: Vocational Qualifications vs Degree?

Despite the fact that 2013 saw a record uptake of university places (with almost 50% of A’ level students going on to university, according to UCAS), recent years have seen a surge of preference towards vocational training.

There could be many reasons for this change, from the high costs of university tuition to the increasing need for practical, vocational skills in a competitive job market, yet for those about to start the path to a new career, it’s hard to decide which qualification route works best for long-term work.

Qualification by degrees

Making the decision to study for a degree is based on many factors, including academic prowess, financial capacity, personal preference and identified career routes. The issue can also be compounded by factors such as some management or higher level career paths seem to offer better opportunities for graduates. But whatever the motivation, in all cases success at degree level demonstrates a good knowledge and academic understanding of theoretical aspects of study.

However, the alternative qualification route can be just as rigorous and equally as appealing as an option to several years of studying before moving into the workplace.

Qualification of the vocational variety

With the growing interest and recognition of vocational qualifications in recent years, the wealth of subject and career-relative courses available in the work-related route has significantly increased.

There are now courses available across the majority of sectors, such as public services, health, event management, journalism, science and manufacturing, as well as a significant number of notable course providers who are developing advanced and fully accredited courses in order that their education offering reflects the same high quality as degree level courses.

Vocational vehicle to further study ...

Although vocational qualifications have in the past had a reputation for being a less academic and therefore less ‘valuable’ qualifications, the truth is that many types of vocational qualification, including intense and multi-disciplinary subjects such as law, design and event management, can be studied at a minimum level (Entry Level), to degree level equivalent study (Level 6), right through to Level 8 study, the vocational equivalent of doctorate-level study at university.

Because they recognise that some of these vocational qualifications require study and knowledge which is as extensive and vigorous as degree level study, many UK universities now accept vocational qualifications in related subjects as an approved alternative to A levels or access courses for their degree courses. Additionally, for students themselves, the intensive and theoretical level of learning within vocational courses is fast becoming good preparation for undergraduate level study or for demonstrating to prospective employers a level of competency and capability in a subject which matches degree-level.

Not only but also …

Studying for a vocational qualification instead of a traditional degree means that you have the chance to not only gain training in and understanding of the theories, guidelines and influences of your chosen subject, but the vocational (work-related) aspects of your study also allow you to gain good practical skills and experience which puts this theory into practice within the role.

In effect, this means that your studies via the vocational route provide you with extended work-experience which you can readily draw upon to demonstrate role-relative competencies in your job applications and to discuss at interview, reducing the chances of missing out on your ideal role through not having the right experience.

Not just your choice …

It’s important to research your prospective career sector before signing up to any courses, as some sectors and career paths may actually be better suited to one set of qualifications than another, whilst many companies within certain industries actively invite vocational qualifications as their preferred choice. Reasons for this include:

And it’s not either, or …

One of the great things to come out of the recognition of the value of both vocational and degree qualifications is that no-one is limited to studying by one or the other routes. Both routes are accepted as compatible within the UK qualifications framework and both, but particularly vocational routes, are available to be studied at any time.

This means that career changers can make the most of the additional training and professional development opportunities offered by vocational qualifications even if they have previously graduated in a different sector. Whilst some vocational qualifications, such as Event Academy programmes, are offered at Postgraduate level to give graduates practical experience to complement their academic success

Whichever route, you can’t go wrong …

Whichever route you choose for earning qualifications for your new career, there are several areas where you’ll come out a winner, whatever you decide. This is in those transferable skills, those competencies which underpin all levels of study and which successfully achieving any type of qualification will allow you to demonstrate (to a lesser or greater extent). For example, both degree and vocational study will allow you to develop and demonstrate:

 

All of these competencies are relevant to a wealth of roles and particularly within multi-talented roles such as event managing, so bear in mind that your study journey itself can offer another way into work too.

Events could be the fresh start you're looking for