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Is a higher or degree apprenticeship right for you?

Like the idea of graduating in a cap and gown, while also having several years of work experience in the bag and no debts to pay off? A degree apprenticeship could be the answer…

What is a degree apprenticeship?

Higher and degree apprenticeships offer a combined package of work and study, giving you a qualification alongside loads of real world experience. You’ll be employed by a company and even paid a wage for the work that you do.

Visit our sister site The Student Room's dedicated apprenticeships forum to see what other students are saying about apprenticeships. 

Who can apply for an apprenticeship? 

If you are over 16, live in England and are not in full-time education you can apply for an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are available at intermediate, advanced, higher and degree levels.

The entry requirements of a specific apprenticeship will vary depending on the sector. 

What options are available?

More than 80 universities in England currently offer higher and degree apprenticeship courses, covering a wealth of job roles, from accounting and advertising to aerospace engineering.

Big businesses like Rolls Royce, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs and BAE Systems offer degree apprenticeships, but you’ll also find smaller companies offering them.

On the website, you can use a search engine to find apprenticeship vacancies across England. There are separate official sites for finding these opportunities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

How is a higher or degree apprenticeship structured?

Higher and degree apprenticeships are available at levels 4-7. They combine work with study and may include a work-based, academic or combined qualification or a professional qualification relevant to the industry. Levels 4 and 5 are equivalent to a Higher Education Certificate/Diploma or a foundation degree, Level 6 is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree and Level 7 is equivalent to a Master’s degree. 

Typically, higher apprentices study part-time at college, university or with a training provider. Apprenticeships take between one and five years to complete.

You will be paid at least the national minimum apprenticeship wage, with many employers paying significantly more, and you will work for at least 30 hours per week. 

Have you got what it takes to do a degree apprenticeship?

There are no formal entry requirements – they vary from programme to programme, so it's important to research the courses you’re interested in to see what’s needed.

But don't opt for an apprenticeship because you think it's an easy option – it isn't.
  • It really helps if you have a particular interest in the area of work you’re applying for and can demonstrate this from previous experience.
  • You’ll be starting a challenging job and establishing yourself in the workplace, while getting to grips with studying for a degree.
  • You will be expected to achieve academically and at work, working full-time hours with fewer holidays than friends who are at school or university.

Apprentice sought-after skills and qualities

Do you have the right attitude and aptitude? This is what employers and course leaders will be looking for:
  • teamwork
  • collaboration
  • interpersonal skills
  • enthusiasm
  • motivation
  • communication
  • analysis
  • creative solutions
  • attention to detail
  • logical thinking
  • initiative.

Fees and finances for apprentices

Get ready for the brilliant news – degree apprentices don’t pay tuition fees!

Your employer will contribute and the remaining funding comes from the government. Even better, you’ll be paid a wage by your employer, so you will be able to earn while you learn.

Compare that with English students taking a full-time university degree, and it’s easy to see how the figures stack up in favour of apprenticeships. University students typically pay around £9,250 per year in tuition fees, and on top of that are day-to-day living costs, rent or travel costs and equipment and material costs.

What next after finishing a degree apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are designed by employers, so you can be pretty confident that you’ll be developing the right skills and knowledge to be a success in your chosen industry.

And the statistics are impressive, too. According to, after finishing an apprenticeship, 77% of apprentices stay with the same employer, 46% receive a pay rise, and 36% report getting a promotion.

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