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What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job with training, where young people earn whilst they work towards a nationally recognised qualification. Apprenticeships can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, depending on the level of qualification and the job involved. Apprenticeships are available in over 1500 job roles and over 500 sectors.

What can an Apprenticeship lead to?

Many employers consider apprenticeships to be a long term investment in an employee. Often an apprenticeship can lead to a permanent job with the same employer, or give better opportunities when applying elsewhere for a permanent job. Sometimes apprenticeships can be extended allowing the young person to continue working and studying for a higher level apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are offered at four levels:

What is an Intermediate Apprenticeship?

Intermediate apprenticeships are the first level of apprenticeships. Intermediate apprenticeships are available at level two in all sorts of areas and industries. From an intermediate apprenticeship, learners might go on to do an advanced apprenticeship or secure a related job.
The entry requirements for intermediate apprenticeships vary depending on the training provider and employer.

What is an Advanced Apprenticeship?

An advanced apprenticeship enables learners to develop work based skills in a particular job or sector at level three. That’s why people with A Levels sometimes choose this route, even though both are level three qualifications! Many advanced apprenticeships are highly competitive and many applicants will have already completed A Levels or other level three qualifications.
For an advanced apprenticeship learners will require at least five GCSEs at grades A* to C with, ideally, English and maths. Some employers will also prefer Level 3 qualifications e.g. A’ Levels, BTEC.
It may be possible gain entry to an apprenticeship with lower grades, as a training provider might assess a candidate’s general ability as being of the right level to get started.

Higher Level including Degree Apprenticeships

What is a Higher Apprenticeship?

Higher apprenticeships, sometimes referred to as school leaver programmes offer the opportunity to combine working while studying for a work based academic or vocational high-level qualification whilst earning a salary.
Higher and degree apprenticeships include a range of qualifications at a range of levels from level four to level seven, that is from the equivalent of a foundation degree to a bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree level in some sectors.
There are over 40 occupations currently covered (with more in development) with sectors ranging from legal services and banking to digital and aerospace.

Entry requirements

To get onto a Higher Apprenticeship candidates will need to have achieved 5 good GCSES (grades A*-C) and good post 16 results at level three such as A Levels, BTEC or OCR Cambridge National, NVQ Level 3 or an Advanced Apprenticeship.


  • Apprentices will be paid at least the national minimum wage but most employers offer more than this. Businesses looking for top apprentices know that they need to offer a competitive salary.
  • Higher apprentices at Virgin Media currently start off on £17,500 per year, increasing to £21,000 based on good progress.
  • National Grid pays its higher apprentices a starting salary of £23,500 per year.

See this higher apprenticeship clip for further information.

What is a Degree Apprenticeship?

Degree apprenticeships are the latest addition to the higher apprenticeship programme. Applicants should usually have, or expect to have, level three qualifications such as A levels or have undertaken an advanced apprenticeship.
These programmes are being developed by employers, universities, and professional bodies working in partnership. They offer students the opportunity to achieve a full bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of their apprenticeship.

Study options

Degree apprenticeships combine working with university studying part-time. Apprentices are employed throughout the programme, and spend part of their time at university or doing distance learning and the rest with their employer. This can be on a day-to-day basis or in blocks of time, depending on the programme and requirements of the employer.


  • Engineering degree apprentices at Jaguar Landrover currently start off on £18,550 per year. Salaries increase every six months subject to meeting expectations, with apprentices expected to earn over £35,500 per year
  • Fujitsu offer Defence and National Security degree apprenticeships with a minimum starting salary of £17,000 per year alongside a structured annual pay rise according to performance and a bonus upon completion of the degree (higher if a ‘first’ is achieved)
  • All apprentices will be paid at least the national minimum wage*.
  • National Minimum Wage for apprentices is reviewed annually and will rise on 1st October 2016 and thereafter in April to fall in line with the National Living Wage.

Progression Opportunities

Businesses recruit apprentices as higher and degree apprentices because they understand the need to invest in a highly-skilled workforce. An apprentice’s future employment prospects will depend on the employer and the contract. Many higher and degree apprenticeship schemes are designed to develop the leaders and managers of the future. The experiences gained as an apprentice can provide a springboard towards promotions and higher level opportunities.
On completion, 90% of apprentices stay in employment, with 71% staying with the same employer. A quarter received a promotion within 12 months.*
* Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Apprentice survey, 2014

Search for a Higher Level or Degree Apprenticeship

For further information about apprenticeships including higher level and degree apprenticeships take a look at the National Careers Service and UCAS websites.

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