A work-based top-up degree vs. taking time out for study: which is the right choice for you?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

An increasing number of educational institutions now offer degrees via work-based learning. These top-up degrees allow you to remain in work while you study, so there’s no need to put your career on hold. There are numerous benefits that this study route offers students across all professions, but how do these courses compare to the traditional full-time study route?

What is work-based learning?

A work-based learning course allows you to attain a degree qualification by completing a range of work-based management activities. You study part-time, while you continue to work and your course will typically rely on distance-learning to deliver course materials. This means that the bulk of your coursework, lectures and your study materials will be delivered online.

Today’s work-based learning providers also design their courses to build on your existing expertise, tailoring your programme to your existing work role. Courses vary in length and in the number of hours but typically take around 13-24 months to complete.

The benefits of work-based learning

More affordable – because courses take place part-time and online, course fees tend to be far lower than that of traditional full-time courses. In addition, because students can remain in work while they study, they don’t need to give up a valuable wage in order to study. On top of this, because students come out with improved qualifications and business knowledge, many employers are also willing to fund all of part of their employee’s study.

Fast and flexible – within two years you can add a top up degree to your name. Flexible course hours and the online setting allow you to fit your study hours in around your existing work and family commitments. While full-time on-campus courses set very rigid timetables, with students having to physically attend classes, online learning makes it easy to set your own timetable, slotting hours of study in before or after work, or across weekends.

Location – if you’re seeking full-time, on-campus study, that means you need to be situated close to the campus itself. This can severely restrict your study options, in terms of the schools and courses that are open to you. Choosing to study online while you work gives you a far broader range of educational institutions and courses to choose from.

Tailored to you – one of the major advantages of work-based top-up courses is that the courses can be tailored specifically to your existing career. Your existing skills are taken into account when setting coursework and your work-based learning provider will seek to build and capitalise on those skills. Because your course will be structured around your current job, your degree will allow you to apply your learning in real time to relevant projects. Taking time out of work to study means that you’re removed from the workplace, distancing yourself from real-world experience and the chance to put your knowledge into practice.

Start dates – while full-time courses usually only accept new students in September, distance learning course often have start dates throughout the year. This makes it easier for students to access courses at a time that suits them.

Taking time out

Undertaking full-time study does have advantages of its own of course. With no work to worry about, you are free to completely focus on your studies and you may finish your studies faster as a result. However, you will be putting your career on hold to do so.

There are no rules

When it comes to choosing the right study path, there are no hard and fast rules. Every student is different, and your own situation, budget and commitments need to be weighed up. What puts today’s students ahead is the fact that there is choice out there now – and it means more students stand a chance at success. Whether you want to remain in work or not, you can choose a path towards attaining a degree that truly suits you.

The University of Lincoln Work-Based Learning top-up degrees will help you achieve your career goals and obtain a qualification with a global focus. Find out more about the Lincoln WBDL programmes.

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