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UK Apprenticeships

Introduction to Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships in the UK have been growing in popularity over the last 10 years, and with great reason. University is not always for everyone, and after studying at school for your GCSEs or A Levels, you may be ready to take the step into the world of work rather than taking three more years to study towards a degree.

The same may go for if you’re a more hands on person and want to get out there into the world of work, developing your practical skills. Or more simply, an apprenticeship is a much better reroute to start your career.

An apprenticeship is a great option for anyone currently considering whether to study towards your A Levels in sixth form, BTEC in college, or if you want to get a degree from university.

This guide will help you find an apprenticeship, showing you the range of apprenticeship programmes available across the UK.

What is an Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a scheme where you will be mixing studying with real life work, essentially being paid to learn. They may also be referred to as an “apprenticeship programme”.
It is likely you have heard of an apprenticeship during National Apprenticeship Week in February - known as NAW
During an apprenticeship, you will…
  • Get real world experience alongside training/learning
  • Get paid a salary (plus holiday pay, company benefits and more)
  • Gain valuable experience
  • Typically offered a full time position after your apprenticeship
What are the benefits of doing an Apprenticeship?
There are a number of benefits to doing an apprenticeship:
  • Earn a salary whilst you study
  • Work towards top qualifications
  • Gain valuable experience
  • Pay no fees
  • No university debt
  • You can still get a degree and experience university life with degree apprenticeships
  • Secure full time work after your apprenticeship
  • You can do multiple apprenticeships
  • Enjoy the benefits of student discount
What type of apprenticeship can I do? Apprenticeship levels

Depending on your age and the qualifications you hold, there are a few different type of apprenticeships you can do

Intermediate Apprenticeship
Level: 2
Equivalent to 5 GCSEs
Entry requirements: Need to be over 16 years old, typically don’t need any qualifications to get onto an Intermediate Apprenticeship.
Length: 12 - 18 months

Advanced Apprenticeship
Level: 3
Equivalent to 2 A-Levels
Entry requirements: Typically to enrol on an Advanced Apprenticeship, you will need to hold GCSEs or BTEC gained from school. They may also be referred to as an “A Level Apprenticeship”.
Length 1-4 years

Higher Apprenticeship
Level: 4 to 5
Equivalent to a Higher National Certificate (HNC) for level 4, and then a Foundation Degree or Higher National Diploma (HND) for a level 5.
Entry requirements: You will need to have either completed an Advanced Apprenticeship, hold a minimum of 2 A Levels, a BTEC or another form of level 3 qualification.
Length: 1 - 4 years

Degree Apprenticeship
Level: 6 to 7
Equivalent: Bachelor’s Degree (level 6) and Masters (level 7)
Entry requirements: Three A Levels, or to have completed a Higher Apprenticeship
Length: 3 - 6 years

Apprenticeship structure

Pay - Are apprenticeships paid?
Yes, apprenticeships are paid just like normal jobs - after all, the main benefit of an apprenticeship is getting paid to learn.

The pay for apprenticeships vary depending on where you live, what level you are enrolled on and the sector you’re working in. Some apprenticeships can start at £16,000 per year, right up to £25,000+. The top end of this salary range is competitive with some university graduate jobs, showing how great of an option an apprenticeship is.
With an apprenticeship, they are subject to minimum wage legislation but differ slightly.

  • Age 16 - 18 = £5.28 per hour 
  • Age 19+ in your first year = £5.28 per hour
  • Age 19+ completed first year = entitled to the national minimum wage for your age
Correct as of May 2023 - keep up with the latest pay rates on our legislation page
When does an apprentice wage go up? Typically, your wage/salary will go up at one of three stages:
  • After each year of completion (i.e. goes up after 1,2, and 3 years of service)
  • Goes up after you complete your apprenticeship (i.e. jumps form £19,000 to £24,000)
  • Each time you complete a qualification/exam season 
Depending on your business and circumstances, you may also be entitled to company-wide pay rises and/or bonuses too.

Work hours - Are apprenticeships full time?
Apprenticeships will be full time, but will vary depending on the business and what you will be doing. As we previously mentioned and will discuss in Work/Study balance, you will be studying for a minimum of 20% of your internship (i.e. 1 out of a 5 day work week).

Your employer’s full time working day may be 9am-5pm with 30 minutes for lunch, or you may start at 8am, or finish later than 5pm - it all depends on the routine of the business.

The job advert will usually list how many hours a week you will be working (i.e. 37.5 hours a week), but if you’re unsure then be sure to ask in the interview, along with our range of other questions yo ucna ask in an interview .

Timeline and duration - How long does an apprenticeship last?
Apprenticeships are usually between 1 and 3 years long, but they will vary depending on the amount of training that is involved and can even go up to 7 years long in order to gain a top qualification (i.e. become a qualified lawyer). 

An intermediate apprenticeship will likely be shorter than a degree apprenticeship, purely because of how many years you are required to study for a university degree.

Working tasks - What does an apprentice do?
As an apprentice, you will get hands on with real life projects as part of your role. The whole focus of an apprenticeship is ensuring that you gain hands-on experience, not just learning in the classroom. 

Whether this is helping the marketing team launch a new product, cutting customers hair as a hairdresser, or going out on jobs fixing homeowners heating systems as a plumber - it is all valuable real world experience.

Work/Study balance - What does an apprenticeship involve?
A apprenticeship requires a minimum of 20% (or ⅕) to be studying/training, with the remainder being working. With that being a minimum, some apprenticeships may be more (such as 50/50). Many apprenticeship schemes will change their mix of study & work as you jump from year 1, to year 2, to year 3 and so on. 
Example for a 5 day working week:
  • Year 1 = learning 3 days - working 2 days
  • Year 2 = learning 2 days - working 3 days
  • Year 3 = learning 1 day - working 4 days
If you’re unsure on this, be sure to ask in the interview so there are no surprises when you start.

Age limits - Are apprenticeships for any age?
As long as you are over the age of 16, apprenticeships are for anyone. As long as you meet the entry requirements for the apprenticeship level and the business, you can enrol on an apprenticeship at any time.

Apprenticeships or University
The age old questions - should I go to university or do an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship University
Gain experience as part of the programme YES NO
Student loan/fees NO YES
Get paid a salary YES NO
Get a university experience* YES YES
Job offer upon completion YES NO
Gain a highly recognised qualification YES YES
Access to student discounts YES YES

*if on a Degree Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship application process - How to apply for an apprenticeship
Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job - you just need to submit a job application, and proceed through the candidate selection process if your initial application is successful.

In terms of the stages involved in the process, they may involve the following…
  • Initial application: submitting a CV and a Cover Letter
  • Online Tests
  • Phone Screen
  • Assessment Centre
  • Interviews (either in person of video/online)
  • Job Offer
We have a wide range of advice on the above, so be sure to ensure you are up to scratch with the best ways to stand out in each step

Apprenticeships by sector - What sectors can I do an apprenticeship in?

The great thing about apprenticeships, is that you can complete an apprenticeship in almost anything!

A popular apprenticeship, get your foot into the world of finance with apprenticeships in accounting and banking, like a Finance Higher Apprenticeship with Morrisons.

For those who like the great outdoors or have an interest in rural life, aggricultuiral apprenticeshipships provide a great opportunity to start your career in the industry.

Beauty and Wellbeing
If skin treatments, massages or nutrition are what you are interested in, there are lots of apprenticeships out there for school leavers including hairdressing and beauty apprenticeships.

Open the doors to a career in business, with a popular business apprenticeships, and accelerate your career. Or looking to get a taste for customer service? Explore your options today!

Creative & Music
Ceramics, 3D design, musical performance, fashion & textiles. There are apprenticeships out there for those that are keen to make a career from your creative skills.

Engineering and Manufacturing
This is a very broad area and there is a whole array of apprenticeship opportunities looking to enter the engineering industry. Find out more about engineering apprenticeships, including construction and welding.

For those who love technology, see how you can enter the industry with an IT apprenticeships, and help shape the future of technology, AI and the cloud.

See how you can enter the world of law with a solicitor apprenticeships, and see how you can gain hands of experience alongside becoming fully qualified.

Marketing and Media
Whether it’s digital marketing, traditional marketing, working in media and production or journalism, see where you can apply your skills with a marketing or media apprenticeship.

Nuclear Scientist
Not one for everyone, but you’d be surprised how an apprenticeship can kickstart a career in nuclear energy with a nuclear scientist apprenticeship.

Find a pharmaceutical apprenticeshipacross the UK, and get your foot in the door in a highly skilled and rewarding industry.

Did you know that you can become a pilot through an apprenticeship? See what is available to you in order to gain your wings and take off to the skies.

Police Constable
With many children growing up wanting to become a police officer, what better way to fast track your career and join the force with a police apprenticeship.

Public Service, Care & Education
Interested in serving the public in some way? Whether you know the path you want to take or are keen to see what is available, an apprenticeship in this area will give you the necessary qualifications and work experience to progress your career. Explore healthcare apprenticeships.

Retail & Distribution/Logistics
With so many options to choose from in the industry, there is a range of apprenticeships available from logistics to catering. Learn more about retail apprenticeships, sales apprenticeships, supply chain apprenticeships, warehouse apprenticeships and hospitality apprenticeships.

Trade (Electrician, Carpentry & Joinery, Plumbing)
Learn the skills and go on to earn a highly rewarding salary in a range of trades, including plumbing, carpentry & joinery and electrician/electrical apprenticeships.

Travel, Tourism and Leisure
Like the idea of travelling the world? Starting your career with a tourism apprenticeships can open those doors. There are cabin crew, travel agents and fitness insturctor apprenticeships available!

Unsure what to do an Apprenticeship in?
Whether you know what sector/industry you want to go into, or you’ve always had a favourite subject at school and want to pursue a career in that, visit this page to see what you can do an apprenticeship in.

Find me an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship myths and misconceptions

Apprenticeships are only for trades people - NOT TRUE
  • Schemes are available for a huge range of sectors, including Law, Healthcare, Business, Engineering and more!

Apprenticeships are for people who can’t get into uni - NOT TRUE
  • With an apprenticeship, many people still go to university on a Degree Apprenticeship. Besides, apprenticeships are a great balance between qualifications and experience.

Apprenticeships are only for school leavers aged 16-18 - NOT TRUE
  • Whilst the starting age for apprenticeships is 16, anyone over that age can enrol onto an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships aren’t as good as degrees - NOT TRUE
  • With so many different levels available, you can get yourself a qualification that is even higher than a bachelor's degree. Employers will also see your experience as highly valuable, meaning you may even stand out above university graduates.
Where can I do an Apprenticeship?
There are thousands of apprenticeships available around the UK, but below you can find a selection of top apprenticeships to consider which will help you to understand where to find apprenticeships.

We’ve hopefully been able to answer the question of “What is an Apprenticeship”, but if you’re till unsure, you can find out if an apprenticeship is right for you or you can compare apprenticeships to school leaver programmers.

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