Explained: All About Apprenticeships

There are four types of apprenticeship available and you need to select the apprenticeship which matches your level of qualifications.

Each level has different entry requirements, and each apprenticeship vacancy will specify what these are, along with the qualities the employer is looking for. For higher and degree apprenticeships, employers generally ask for A levels and other Level 3 qualifications.

  • The level of apprenticeship you start at will depend on the qualifications you have, the job role, and apprenticeship standard the employer wants to use.
  • You can progress your career and work all the way up through the higher and degree level apprenticeships for some job roles and career areas. You can also progress onto other further or higher education courses, including degrees and postgraduate courses.

Over 70 universities, and around 200 colleges, are approved to deliver higher and degree apprenticeships. This list is growing all the time as new apprenticeships are developed, and more employers look to recruit apprentices. Each apprenticeship vacancy will identify the university or college involved.

Intermediate Apprenticeships – Level 2

Intermediate apprenticeships are Level 2 apprenticeships, and generally considered to be the same level as five GCSE passes.

They are a great way to take the first step in starting your future career, and for those aged 16, they offer an alternative to staying at school and learning in the traditional classroom environment.

As an intermediate apprentice, you will study towards qualifications at the same level as five GCSEs, such as NVQ Level 2, and a knowledge-based qualification such as BTEC Diploma and Certificate, relevant to the sector and job role. You can go on to complete advanced and higher apprenticeships.

Entry requirements for intermediate apprenticeships vary, with some employers asking for two or more GCSEs, although you may not need any formal qualifications. If you don’t have GCSEs in English and maths, you are usually required to take qualifications in these subjects as part of the apprenticeship.

Advanced Apprenticeships – Level 3

Advanced apprenticeships are also called Level 3 apprenticeships and generally considered to be at the same level as two A-level passes.

Some people who already have Level 3 qualifications, including A-levels, choose the advanced apprenticeship route because if enables them to develop work-based skills and experience in a particular job and sector. This means some advanced apprenticeships are highly competitive.

Entry requirements vary, but you will usually need at least five GCSEs with grades A* to C (9 – 4 on the new grading system), including English and maths.

Higher Apprenticeships – Level 4 and above

Higher apprenticeships provide an opportunity to gain Level 4 qualifications or above, with most apprentices gaining an NVQ Level 4, HND, or foundation degree. Some offer the opportunity to progress to Level 7 (which is postgraduate degree level).

A higher apprenticeship can take from one to five years to complete, and involve part-time study at a college, university, or training provider.

According to government figures, 90% of apprentices in England stayed on in employment after completing their qualification; 71% with the same employer.

Entry requirements can include at least five GCSEs grades A* – C (9 – 4 on the new grading system), including English and maths subjects, and Level 3 qualifications, including A-levels, NVQs, or a BTEC.  Some employers will expect or require applicants to have studied subjects relevant to the apprenticeship.

Competition for higher apprenticeships can be tough — partly because there are often only a limited number of vacancies, but also because school/college leavers and adults already in employment can apply for them. Employers may also be considering applications from existing employees, for the career progression opportunities they can offer.

Degree Apprenticeships – Level 7 and above

Degree apprenticeships are similar to higher apprenticeships but differ in that they provide an opportunity to gain a full bachelor’s degree (Level 6) or master’s degree (Level 7).

Designed in partnership with employers, part-time study takes place at a university or college, with the rest of your time being with your employer.

They can take between three to six years to complete, depending on the course level. Currently, the scheme is only available in England and Wales, although applications may be made from all parts of the UK.

Degree apprenticeships are still quite new, so there are a limited number of vacancies. It’s anticipated that the number of vacancies will grow over the next year or two.

For a comprehensive guide to apprenticeships please refer to: 


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