Can You Get a Degree Without Debt?

The average graduate in the UK this year will leave university with £45,000 worth of student loan debt. Right from the start of your working life as a graduate, you have debt eating away at your hard earned money, and you’re being charged interest for the privilege.

Financing a degree is what everyone does, isn’t it? I have a student loan, my wife has a student loan, all of my coursemates took out student loans — in our society it’s the normal thing. And when you’re seventeen our eighteen and deciding to go to university, you don’t really think about it.

But is it what has to be done? Is taking on tens of thousands of pounds in student loan debt a requirement for having the career you want? In this episode, we look at some alternatives that will help you to reduce or even eliminate debt, either for yourself or for your children.

Let’s for a minute take debt out of the equation. If there was no option to take on debt to fund your degree, what would you do?

Parent funded

One option you might have is for your parents to fund your degree.

If you’re a parent with children that haven’t yet gone to university yet, it’s wise to assume that they will want to go. If you don’t want them to take on a mountain of debt for their education, start saving now so you can help them in the future. Maybe you can’t fund the full amount, but combined with some of the other strategies we’ll look at later, as well as teaching your child how to handle money well, you can equip them to earn a degree without going into debt.

Of course, if your child decides not to go to university and you’ve saved up for them to go, you can always use that money to help kick start their working lives in some other way, like giving them a deposit for a house.

So what’s the best way to save up for your child’s future? I asked my friend Jivko to give us some advice.

Work for it

Of course another thing you can do to offset the cost of your education is to work for it yourself. Taking a gap year to work or getting a part time job whilst at uni can make a huge difference. Plus there are long breaks between semesters where you have even more potential time to earn.

There are now more opportunities to work as a student than ever before. As well as retail, there are bars, cafés, restaurants, and cinemas looking for part time employees. Seasonal work can be found at warehouses, factories, with the Royal Mail, and many other places. Or look for flexible work that can fit in around your studies, like pet sitting, transcribing audio, market research studies, fast food delivery etc.


Another way to earn money towards the cost of your degree is through scholarships, grants or bursaries. What’s available to you will depend on where you’re studying, what you’re studying, your personal circumstances, and your academic performance. It’s well worth doing some research because there could well be signifiant amounts of money available for you.

Live with your parents

A great way to significantly reduce your living costs while at university is to live with your parents. Several of my course-mates when I was at university did exactly this — they still got to have the same university experience that those of us who lived on campus did, but they stayed in nicer accomodation and paid no rent.

Degree apprenticeships

Another option is a degree apprenticeship. A degree apprenticeship enables you to get a fully paid for undergraduate or masters level degree, whilst also earning a salary and gaining valuable industry experience. It almost sounds too good to be true right? Degree apprenticeships are available in a wide variety of industries from hands-on fields like nursing, engineering, and teaching, to more office-based roles like business administration, finance, and law. Courses range from three to six years depending on the course level, and you’ll spend about 20% of your time studying, and 80% working. If you can find an apprenticeship that suits you, you could graduate not only with no debt, but hopefully even end up with savings left over from your salary.

How about no degree?

One more option to consider is to try asking yourself if you even need a degree. What is the career goal you have in mind? Is a degree necessary for that career path? For certain professions, like medicine, a degree is a requirement, but for many, many others there is no reason why you need a degree to get started. If you want to work in sales and marketing, software development, teach English as a foreign language, become a journalist, an entrepreneur, a firefighter, a police officer, join the army, work in fashion and beauty, become an estate agent, become a driving instructor, or an air traffic controller, or a plumber, an electrician, a builder, a carpenter, a mechanic, install solar panels, become a sales executive, work in retail, or become a manager or consultant in a wide range of industries, for example, you don’t need a degree.

And there are an increasing number of employers who are more interested in what you’ve done than what you’ve studied. I run an app development business, and if I had a candidate who wanted to work with me who had taught themselves how to code, designed and developed their own app, released it on the App Store and had happy customers but had no degree, versus another candidate who had done none of those things but had a degree in Computer Science, I can tell you straight away which candidate I would prefer.

If the only reason you want to go to university is to learn a particular subject, you may want to reconsider that too. There are hundreds of university courses from the best universities in the world available online in full for free. With the right discipline, you can teach yourself almost anything online.

So other than the qualification, why else would you choose to go to uni? Often people talk about gaining independence, the unique experience, and meeting new friends. All of that is true, but there are many other ways to do these things too — ones that don’t cost £45,000.

What if you don’t know what career you want to go into yet? My advice would be not to go to university until you know. University takes too much time and too much money for there to not be an end goal in mind. Who says you need to start university when you’re 18 or 19? Why not get a job, work out what you enjoy doing, then go to university later if it will help you to pursue the career you want?


I hope this has given you some ideas about how you or your children can get a great start in the world of work without getting into masses of debt.

If you want advice specific to your situation, we recommend speaking to a financial advisor. If you have any questions please get in touch. You can email us at Thanks.

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Music: “Coming Home” by LiQWYD & Dayfox. Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0. Free Download / Stream. Music promoted by Audio Library.