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Higher apprenticeships: Should I do one instead of university?

Higher apprenticeships allow you to train for a highly skilled job. Unlike university, you don't have to pay – in fact, you'll get paid a wage by your employer. You'll learn by doing the job you're training for, and study for qualifications along the way – you could even finish with a degree.

In this guide we answer all your questions, including firstly What is a higher apprenticeship? before moving on to the different roles you could train in. 

'A higher apprenticeship gives you training in a high-skilled job plus a higher education qualification like a degree - all while earning a wage'

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What is a higher apprenticeship?

Like all apprenticeships, a higher apprenticeship is a training programme which you carry out in the workplace. The difference is, you will train for a highly skilled job that might only have been open to graduates before higher level apprenticeships were introduced.

They span level 4 apprenticeships (equivalent to a foundation degree) all the way up to level 7 (equivalent to a master's degree). However, if your higher apprenticeship goes up to level 6 or 7, you will gain a non-degree qualification at this level. Apprenticeships which result in a degree or master's fall under the category of degree apprenticeship.

As an apprentice, you will work as an employee of the company you're training with. This means you'll get paid as you do your apprenticeship.

So could I take a higher apprenticeship instead of going to university?

Yes. While you still need to go to university to train for certain jobs, like being a doctor or teacher, higher level apprenticeships could help you qualify as an engineer, a trainee legal executive, a bank branch manager or even an airline pilot.

You may even study for a degree. Courses usually start out as level 4 apprenticeships, which means that in the first instance you'll work towards a foundation degree. 

Struggling to decide? Check out our post Should I apply for an apprenticeship or university?

What types of jobs can I train for?

There are too many to list here! Higher apprenticeships are available in literally hundreds of job roles, including healthcare, engineering, law and even cyber security.

New schemes are being launched all the time. For example, the first space engineering apprenticeship in the UK was launched in early 2014 and one is being designed for sustainable building technologies.

And there are thousands of higher apprenticeships vacancies on offer for 2018, in areas including engineering, aerospace, cyber security, nuclear science, business management, data analysis, HR, finance and media.

Some of the most popular higher apprenticeships include:

What's the difference between this and other types of apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships come at different levels, depending on the type of work you want to train for, and you can read all about the different types on our apprenticeship page.

At the very least, higher apprentices work towards level 4 apprenticeships, which means you'll complete your course with the equivalent of a foundation degree or above. An advanced apprenticeship is equivalent to A-levels.

This mean higher apprenticeships allow you to train for highly skilled jobs, such as bank manager, advertising guru and even scientist. This is why you study for more advanced qualifications when you do this higher level apprenticeship.

How much does it cost to train for one?

You won't have to pay a penny. In fact, as an employee of the company you're training with, you'll get paid a wage. Training costs are paid for by the government and your employer.

How much do higher apprentices get paid?

There is a minimum apprenticeship wage which employers have to pay by law. It goes up every April. Because higher apprenticeships are working towards more advanced qualifications, you can expect to earn much more than that.

What qualifications do I need to apply?

You’ll need at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or above (including maths and English).

As well as this, you'll usually need something called a "QCF level 3 qualification". In plain English, this means A-levels (highers if you're in Scotland), a BTEC, or another type of apprenticeship such as an advanced apprenticeship. If you've been to sixth form, you probably have a level 3 qualification.

How old do I have to be?

You can start any apprenticeship at 16. If it's a higher level apprenticeship, you need to have a level 3 qualification, which means that in reality, you’ll probably be at least 18 when you start, the same as with university.

How does it work?

Like intermediate and advanced apprenticeships, you’ll do most of your training on the job.

On top of this, you'll spend around a day a week or a set block of time studying at a university or college. You may have to take some exams too, depending on what you do.

I've heard of something called a degree apprenticeship. Is it similar?

Yes. The difference is, you will always study for a degree (or master's) in a degree apprenticeship.

If you like the sound of them, you can learn more about degree apprenticeships here.

How do I apply?

One easy way to apply is to visit the government's GOV.UK website and set up an account. Once you've done that, you can search for different types of apprenticeships. When you've found one you like, just follow the instructions.

Check out how to find an apprenticeship for more help. And don't forget to make the best of your careers adviser!

Where can I find out more?

We've got plenty of great information right here on our site: