Apprenticeships have existed for hundreds of years but have changed a lot recently, so there’s some confusion about what they are and how they work.  There are a huge variety of amazing opportunities, with training up to degree or Master’s degree level available.

What is an apprenticeship?

It’s a vocational qualification, delivered while an apprentice holds down a job. As a result, an apprentice learns through both classroom (or equivalent) study, and by day-to-day working...meaning they are always learning! Apprentices earn a wage and do the job they’ve been hired for, in addition to their studies. Typically they will split their time so they are 80% working and 20% studying, for at least 30 hours per week. An apprenticeship lasts for a minimum of one year. You will study one subject only, and can’t mix an apprenticeship with other qualifications.

How apprentices learn

For the duration of their qualification, an apprentice is supported by two sources. Their employer pays them, supports them to gain qualifications and on-the-job experience and skills, and allows them time to study in their working week. And their training provider will help them to achieve their qualifications and make sure they complete their apprenticeship.

The training provider will also work with the employer to support an apprentice for their end point assessment: the final assessment for an apprentice to ensure that they can do the job they have been training for.

Where do apprentices study? 

Apprentices will spend most of their working week actually doing the job they’ve been hired for, but of course have study time too, which is factored into their working week. Some employers—particularly well-established brands—have their own in-house training. Many others use external training providers; often colleges or universities that provide apprenticeship training in the relevant subject.

What do apprentices earn?

Many people assume apprentices are low-paid. While this can be true initially, depending on the employer, quite often it is not.

The National Minimum Wage for apprentices is currently £5.28 per hour—lower than normal National Minimum Wage—but this recognises that some people will be going into their first job with no experience at all.

But this is set to rise later this year, and in any case, a lot of employers pay much more than the National Minimum Wage for apprentices. Some apprenticeship schemes in big organisations have a starting salary of £20K and some London-based employers will pay even more than this. 


An apprenticeship typically takes 1 to 4 years to complete (sometimes up to 6 for some roles like solicitor) and is never shorter than 12 months. The duration depends on the delivery model the employer selects, the level and the subject the apprentice is studying.


There are four types of apprenticeship: Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Degree, serving as gateways into different types of jobs, and requiring different qualification criteria. 

Intermediate apprenticeships normally require 3-4 GCSEs including the option to retake maths and English. Advanced apprenticeships require at least 5 GCSEs.

Higher levels are equivalent to a Foundation degree or above, all the way up to a Master’s. As a minimum, they require at least 2 A Levels or equivalent. Apprentice jobs exist for every different level, from low or semi-skilled manual jobs to law, engineering and nursing. For Degree-level apprenticeships you’ll need at least 3 A Levels or equivalent. 

An important note about apprenticeship levels

It’s possible to start an apprenticeship at a lower level and work all the way up to achieving a degree. As apprenticeships are 80% work and 20% study, the way they equate to traditional academic levels can be a bit confusing.

To make sure you don’t miss out on what could be the perfect opportunity for you, it pays to keep an open mind and explore all the possibilities available, rather than fixate on, say, getting a degree-level apprenticeship from the outset. Many people miss out on great opportunities they feel are too junior for them.

Myth-busting! Things people often misunderstand about apprenticeships

There are lots of myths about apprenticeships. Here are just a few that we often encounter.

Myth: Apprenticeships aren’t “real work”, but more like work experience. You’ll be a tea-maker, given low-end tasks to do. Reality: Wrong! An apprenticeship is a real job, where you’ll spend time working hard alongside your new colleagues, gaining powerful skills and doing valuable work.  

Myth: Apprenticeships are an easy alternative to other forms of education or training. Reality: Wrong! Holding down a full-time job while studying takes skill, tenacity and ambition. 

Myth: Your employer will let you go after you complete your apprenticeship. Reality: Mostly untrue. An employer is under no obligation to keep you on (and won’t if you haven’t performed well) but about 90% of employers do retain their apprentices. They invest a lot into you, after all! In fact, some apprentices choose to leave their employer for a better opportunity after they complete their training, or decide to go into further education to continue studying.

Myth: You don’t get paid/your earning potential will be limited if you start your career as an apprentice. Reality: Wrong! We’ve already covered pay above, but you should also know that starting as an apprentice will not limit your earning ability. Don’t be put off if the pay is initially low. Lots of employers increase pay as you achieve set milestones. And just like anyone else, how far you go depends on how hard you work, and on your aptitude.  

Myth: Apprenticeships aren’t sociable or fun. Reality: Not true. Sure, apprenticeships aren’t like university, because they’re a job. But apprentices can find themselves working with other young or likeminded people, and in an exciting new job. Apprentices can also join networks such as the Young Apprentice Ambassadors programme, with opportunities to meet hundreds of other apprentices.

Some at-a-glance advantages of apprenticeships
  • You earn while you learn!
  • You gain hugely important work skills like organisation, timekeeping, team-work and prioritisation in addition to your studies. You will learn a lot about your company culture and how to navigate the challenges of working and living, especially when compared to fresh intakes of graduates.
  • There are apprenticeships everywhere: young people may wish to live at home and work locally as an apprentice, or choose to go further afield. Some employers assist with relocation. It all depends on how adventurous you feel. 
Resources to help you learn more

Find an Apprenticeship is the government website that shows the available apprenticeships in England. It includes a search function to help you find opportunities, and further information to get you started. It’s important to register with the site. You’ll receive an account activation code by email, and after activating your account, you’ll be ready to start applying for apprenticeship vacancies. When you use the site search, you may need to use a few different searches or broaden how far you look to find jobs that appeal to you.

Amazing Apprenticeships is a brilliant website that includes loads of information and resources for anyone wanting to know more about what apprenticeships are really like. 

You could also sign up for recruitment alerts on Indeed or jobs boards like Monster, subscribe to company newsletters, follow careers pages and employer’s social media accounts. Instagram is now widely used by employers to advertise their apprenticeship opportunities.

You could also create a LinkedIn profile and follow companies on there. LinkedIn is a fantastic way to stay current with your preferred industry or employers.

If there’s an employer you particularly like, go to their website careers or “work for us” pages to see if they have apprenticeships.

People are one of your best resources and word travels fast! So tell your family and friends that you’re looking for an apprenticeship. Loads of apprentices get their opportunity through friends of family and other existing connections. 


When you look at apprenticeships, remember to be open-minded about pay and location, and to check how your training will be delivered—that is, which training provider an employer users, and how that provider delivers their training. Not all learning styles will suit you. Ideally, you’ll be looking for an employer/sector you like where the location and learning styles of the training provider and employer are right for you, and where the company culture, mission and opportunities excite you. If it feels like job searching, crossed with searching for the right kind of training...that’s exactly what it is!


8th February 2024


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