OK, so you’ve got the hang of apprenticeships, but what about all those qualifications that come along with them?
If you’re confused, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we explore what apprenticeship qualifications you may be able to work towards in each of the four apprenticeship levels.
'With an apprenticeship, you could gain an NVQ, a diploma or a master's degree'
Apprenticeships and qualifications
An apprenticeship is not a qualification in its own right: it’s a paid job with training. However, you will work towards one or more qualifications as part of your apprenticeship. These qualifications will relate to the level of apprenticeship you’re doing, which is based on how complex and advanced the job you're training for is. Some apprenticeship schemes will give you the chance to work towards more than one qualification.
The first apprenticeship level is equivalent to getting five GCSEs at grade C+/4+.
Many employers include “functional skills” qualifications for apprentices who don’t have C+/4+ GCSEs in maths and English. Functional skills gives you the basic numeracy and literacy you need for the workplace. You will work towards level 2 functional skills, which is equivalent to grade C+/4+ at GCSE.
You will gain level 2 qualifications in your intermediate apprenticeships. These could be:
- Awards, certificates or diplomas: These are all equally difficult, but are different lengths of course, with awards being the shortest and diplomas the longest. This means the amount of content you will cover will be different.
- NVQ: These are directly related to the job you are training for, and provide the skills and knowledge you need to perform the role.
The second apprenticeship level is equivalent to getting 2 A-levels at grade E+, or the International Baccalaureate.
You will generally need grade C+/4+ GCSEs in maths and English to do an advanced apprenticeship. Some employers may offer functional skills as part of the course (see above).
Your advanced apprenticeships will give you level 3 qualifications, including:
- Awards, certificates or diplomas.
- National certificate (NC) / National diploma (ND): Practical qualifications which teach you the skills needed to carry out a particular role as you do the job.
- NVQ: This will provide knowledge and skills to do your job well.
The higher apprenticeship is quite broad. It guarantees you a higher education qualification. This can range all the way from a level 4 qualification, which is equivalent to the first year of university study, all the way up to a master’s degree.
The skills and knowledge you acquire will vary considerably depending on the level you study at. At level 4, you will gain specialist knowledge and analytic ability in your level. At level 7, you will develop the ability to come up with your own solutions to complicated problems, and be well-prepared for an advanced technical job, or even a senior management role.
Based on courses currently available on the government's Find An Apprenticeship service, higher apprenticeships tend to offer level 4 qualifications. Level 4 qualifications include:
- Higher national certificate (HNC): A level 4, equivalent to first year of university, which takes a year to complete / Higher national diploma (HND): A level 5 qualification, equivalent to second year of university, which takes two years to complete. These are practical qualifications which teach you the skills you need to do a particular job. You will learn by doing the job.
- Certificate of higher education (CertHE) / Diploma of higher education (DipHE): Like the HNC and HND, these are level 4 and 5 qualifications equivalent to university years one and two. They are academic rather than practical qualifications.
- Foundation degree: Foundation degrees are vocational alternatives to traditional bachelor's degrees, combining work-based learning with academic study.
A degree apprenticeship will give you a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.
With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll complete your qualification with the skills, knowledge and understanding to carry out a knowledge-based job, and the ability to develop your own ideas and research.
With a master’s degree, you’ll have the ability to come up with your own solutions to complicated problems. You’ll also be qualified to carry out an advanced technical role, and may even be ready to take on a management job.
Can I upgrade my qualifications?
Many employers will allow you to upgrade your qualifications by continuing with a further apprenticeship or studying for specific qualifications separately – some will even encourage it.
This means you could continue on to a higher apprenticeship once your advanced apprenticeship is complete. Similarly, once completing a bachelor’s degree through a higher or degree apprenticeship, your employer may give you the chance to work towards a master’s degree without you needing to begin another apprenticeship programme.
In your interview, ask about the possibility for progression once your apprenticeships is complete. It may depend on whether continuing on with further qualifications will benefit your employer. Some may be reluctant if they have no use for an employee with a master’s degree. Others may support you even if there is no direct gain for them.
If you're struggling to decide between an apprenticeship and university, here's a handy guide to help you decide which is best for you.
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How to make sense of qualifications levels
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What are the apprenticeship standards?
Lead image via Freepik
Intermediate apprentice via Wikimedia Commons
Higher apprentice via US Government
Graduation via Flickr