All About Apprenticeships


Just what is an apprenticeship about? These young people in different uniforms show the diversity of jobs you can do.


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Most people know that an apprenticeship lets you train for a job by actually doing it. But what is an apprenticeship all about?

First off, did you know you get paid to do them, that there are different levels, and that you can even get a Master's degree as part of some apprenticeships? Here, we answer all your questions about apprenticeships and link to the best resources...

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What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship lets you get on-the-job training and study for qualifications at the same time. When you do an apprenticeship, you are an employee of the company that trains you, which means you will get paid at least £3.40 an hour, and often a lot more.

Employers are big fans of apprentices because they finish up their training with bags of real life work experience. Because it is their aim to hire you as a permanent employee, employers work hard to design apprenticeships to give you all the skills you need to do your job.

According to the National Apprenticeship Service, there are more than 100,000 employers offering more than 250 different kinds of Apprenticeship! The government is pushing to get 600,000 young people into apprenticeships each year between now and 2020. This means it's never been a better time to be an apprentice, since jobs are being created all the time and you can now train for highly skilled jobs by taking a higher or degree apprenticeship. Scroll down for more information on this.

So there's a good chance you can find an apprenticeship that fits your future plans, whether you're looking for a career as an engineer, a bank manager, a zookeeper or even an airline pilot.

How old do you have to be to do apprenticeship?

You can become an apprentice from the age of 16 and up to any age. This is because an apprenticeship is a full-time job so you need to have finished school to start one.

If you want to do a higher or degree apprenticeship instead of university, the chances are you'll do A-levels or a lower-level apprenticeship before starting aged 18.

What are the different types of apprenticeship?

It might seem like there are a million different kinds of apprenticeship out there, but it all breaks down into four basic levels:

  • Intermediate: Like studying for up to 5 GCSEs.
  • Advanced: Like studying for 2 A levels.
  • Higher: Like taking a level 4 NVQ, Higher National Diploma or Foundation Degree.
  • Degree: Like taking a Bachelor's or Master's degree.

Why do an apprenticeship?

The best way to find out what's so great about apprenticeships is to hear from the young people who are doing them. If you have a couple of minutes spare, take a look at this video:

So to summarise, the big ticks for apprenticeships include:

  • You get the chance to see whether you like a job before committing to it for a lifetime.
  • You avoid thousands of pounds of student debt.
  • You can go into highly skilled jobs beyond those that university prepares you for.
  • As you get more and more capable, it can even boost your confidence!
  • You can do a degree with your employer later on – or even as part of your apprenticeship if you do a higher or degree apprenticeship.

Want to know more? Find out why you should consider an apprenticeship.

How does an apprenticeship compare with university?

Apprenticeships aren't for everyone, and university might be the right choice for you if you want to be a doctor or lawyer, or simply love your subject. But this infographic from training provider TTE shows the benefits over university to help you decide. Right click and select "Open image in new tab" to see it full size.

If you're confused about whether university or an apprenticeship is for you, this article will help you decide.

What qualifications do I need to apply for an apprenticeship?

This depends on the level of apprenticeship you'd like to do. The exact requirements are very much dependent on the course you want to apply for, so while this guidance will help, make sure you find out all about your apprenticeship before applying.


If you're kicking off with an intermediate apprenticeship, you might not need any formal qualifications.

You need to have "functional skills qualifications" in at least English and Maths. These are a bit like GCSEs, and if you don't already have them you can get them as part of your apprenticeship training. If you already have a C or above in GCSE Maths and English you won’t need to do this.


If you're applying for an advanced apprenticeship, you will normally need to have completed an intermediate one, or have around 5 GCSEs at A*-C.

Higher and degree

If you're after a higher or degree apprenticeship, you’ll either need to have done an advanced one already, or have a couple of A-levels passes or a level 3 NVQ.

If you're doing your A-levels and want to do a higher or degree apprenticeship, don't worry! You don't need an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship. A higher or degree apprenticeship is a great next step after your A-levels, and as long as you pass two courses with a C or above, you probably have what you need.

How long will it take to train as an apprentice?

It can take anywhere from one to four years to complete an apprenticeship. How long it takes depends on the level you are training at and what skills and qualifications you have already. 

Will I get paid as an apprentice?

Yes! The great thing about apprenticeships is that you have an employer – and they have to pay you by law. Employers must pay apprentices under 24 years of age at least £3.40, and if you're over 19, you'll start on the national minimum wage of £5.55, which rises again at 21. The best-paying degree apprenticeships start at £25,000.

Whatever you start on, your wages will usually go up as you train. You can find out more about apprenticeship pay on our dedicated page.

Your employer must also give you at least 20 days paid holiday a year.

What is an apprenticeship like?

As an apprentice you’ll do most of your learning on the job at work.

You'll usually work around 30 hours a week and do around one day of training per week, often at a local college.

Most of your assessment is done in the workplace but you might have to take some exams too.

What qualifications will I get as an apprentice?

Apprentices finish their training with all kinds of national qualifications including:

  • Functional skills: GCSE level qualifications in Maths, English and IT.
  • National vocational qualifications (NVQs): From level 2 (similar to getting around 5 GCSEs) right up to level 5 (similar to a postgraduate degree).
  • Technical certificates: Like a BTEC or City & Guilds Progression Award.
  • Academic qualifications: Like a Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND), a Foundation degree, or a Bachelor's or Master's degree if you do a Degree Apprenticeship.

How do I find an apprenticeship?

First off, read our article on how to find an apprenticeship, which explains in detail the different ways you can find the right apprenticeship for you.

Lots of employers offer the chance to apply for apprenticeships directly on their websites, so it’s important to do your homework and job search online. You can check out the jobs and courses section on our site to find an apprenticeship you can apply for now.

You can also search on dedicated websites like The National Apprenticeships Service or, if you’re in Scotland Skills Development Scotland

If you have a careers adviser in school, talk to them about apprenticeships early on as they will be able to tell you what's available in your local area.

Can I apply for an apprenticeship on the Success at School site?

There are loads of training programmes and apprenticeships on offer with employers on our site.

Check out our apprenticeships listing to see what you can apply for today.

I have lots of other questions! Where should I start?

We think we've answered the question "what is an apprenticeship?" pretty thoroughly. But we've got loads of resources to help you plan, find an apprenticeship and make a stellar application. We've grouped them by topic to be super helpful!

Is an apprenticeship for me?

Why should I consider an apprenticeship?

Should I apply for an apprenticeship or university?

5 reasons why an apprenticeship is a real alternative to university

The most common myths about apprenticeships

Types of apprenticeship

Higher apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships

How to find an apprenticeship that's right for you

How much are apprentices paid?

How to find an apprenticeship

What should I look for when applying for an apprenticeship?

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