What is an Apprenticeship?

In a nutshell you earn while you learn!

An apprenticeship is where you are employed by a real employer and have a full time job including a contract of employment, but you also study a qualification whilst you work to help you to become better and more efficient at your job. The qualification that you study will be related to your job role. 

As an apprentice you will be paid a wage for the amount of hours you work. The minimum amount for apprentices from April 2022 is £4.81 an hour if you are aged 16 – 18 OR aged 19 or over and in your first year of your apprenticeship. Please note that some employers do pay their apprentices more than the minimum wage.

Overall an apprenticeship has an 80/20 split. 80% of the time the apprentice will be doing their day to day job role and 20% of the time the apprentice will be learning their qualification, for example one day a week you might go into college. A training provider will deliver the qualification and the training provider will be chosen by the employer. Training providers includes colleges, private training companies or the employer may have their own in house provider of the qualification. 

So disregard all of the stereotypes you may have had previously when thinking about an apprenticeship and see it for what it is! An excellent route into a career without having to pay for any of the qualifications. 

Apprenticeship Levels

Apprenticeships range from a level 2 – level 7. A level 2 is the lowest level and is also known as an Intermediate apprenticeship which means at the end of the Level 2 apprenticeship the learner will have achieved equivalent to 5 GCSEs grade 4 or above in their apprenticeship standard. Level 3 is also known as the Advanced level equivalent to 2 A- Levels. Higher level apprenticeships are levels 4 – 7 equivalent to a foundation degree and above, and finally there are the degree level apprenticeships equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

If you are looking for an apprenticeship to start immediately after high school you can start looking for level 2 & 3 apprenticeships. In general most employers will want the apprentice to have at lease 5 GCSEs grade 4 and above, however each employer has different desired qualifications, therefore it is important that you look at the qualifications criteria before you apply. If you do not achieve grade 4 or above in GCSE Maths or English this will be incorporated into your apprenticeship to help you to achieve a grade 4. From gaining your level 2 apprenticeship you could then progress your way through the levels right up to degree level depending on the employer.

On the other hand, it might be you are looking for an apprenticeship to start after you have finished college or sixth form. In that case, providing you will have secured your level 3 qualification you could search and apply for higher and degree level apprenticeships. You may start a level 4 apprenticeship and then be given the opportunity to progress to a degree level apprenticeship. The table explains the levels in more detail. 

What can I get an Apprenticeship in?

Apprenticeships are now available in every sector and are not just limited to manual work as they have developed and evolved with society. There are over 600 apprenticeships ranging from level 2 – level 7, some examples of sectors that you can get an apprenticeship in include digital, protective services, legal, care services, construction.

Apprenticeship Standards set out to the apprentice what is the name of the apprenticeship, the level, the length, max funding and what knowledge skills and behaviour the apprentice will learn. The Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education (IFATE) provides full up to date list of the apprenticeship standards, click the IFATE logo to the right side to look at the standards.

Please bear in mind that IFATE is continuously updated with new standards so make sure you check it regularly in order to find the best and most suitable standard for yourself. 


Higher apprenticeships range from Level 4 to 7 and are equivalent to a foundation degree and above. Degree apprenticeships are available at Level 6, which is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree and Level 7, which is equivalent to a Master’s degree.

You are eligible to apply for a higher or degree level apprenticeship if you have already completed a level 3 qualification, whether it be an Advanced Apprenticeship, vocational course or A-Levels. 

Level 4 Apprenticeships 

There are over 100 level 4 apprenticeships here are just a handful of examples to get you thinking:

  • Animal Trainer 
  • Children, young people and families practitioner 
  • Hospitality manager 
  • Construction site supervisor 
  • Stained glass craftsperson 

Level 6 Apprenticeships

There are nearly 100 level 6 apprenticeships, here are a couple of them:

  • Environmental practitioner 
  • Project manager 
  • Church minister 
  • Cyber security technical professional 
  • Police constable 

Level 5 Apprenticeships 

There are around 37 approved apprenticeship standards, here are a couple:

  • Nuclear technician 
  • Rehabilitation worker (visual impairment) 
  • Payroll assistant manager 
  • Youth justice practitioner 
  • Marine Pilot 

Level 7 Apprenticeships 

There are over 50 level 7 apprenticeships, here are some of the examples: 

  • Game Programmer 
  • Chartered landscape professional 
  • Play therapist 
  • District nurse 
  • Architect 

To start an apprenticeship you will need to be:

  • Aged 16 or over
  • Live in England
  • Not in full time education

Apprenticeships are not just for school leavers aged 16-18, you can now get an apprenticeship at any age above 16. It could be that you start an apprenticeship after college, or, you might currently be working in a full time job and want to be put on an apprenticeship to help you to progress to a desired job role. The apprenticeship opportunities are endless!

To apply for an Apprenticeship you can:

As an Apprentice you will:

  • Earn a while you learn a qualification 
  • Gain valuable employability skills & develop confidence
  • Get paid holidays
  • Get your foot on the career ladder
  • Receive training and gain qualifications
  • Potentially progress to degree level or into full time employment

The length of the apprenticeship depends on the level you are undertaking.

The minimum length an apprenticeship has to last is 1 year. In general terms the apprenticeship lengths will be: 

  • 12 – 18 months for a level 2 
  • 18 – 24 months for a level 3 
  • 3 – 5 years for a higher 
  • 3 – 6 years for a degree 
  • 80% of companies who invest in Apprentices have reported a significant increase in employee retention.
  • 77% of employers believe Apprenticeships make them more competitive.
  • 76% of those employers who employ Apprentices agree they make their workplace more productive.
  • 81% of consumers favour using a company which takes on Apprentices.
  • 92% of employers who employ Apprentices believe that Apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce.
  • 83% of employers who employ apprentices rely on their Apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future.

*National Apprenticeship Service data

Apprenticeships Standards are focused on quality learning with a single End Point Assessment, and are developed by the employers and industry experts, in conjunction with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

All apprenticeship programmes are known as ‘Standards’ and will require an apprentice to work towards a set of skills, knowledge and behaviours before undertaking an end-point assessment in order to achieve their apprenticeship and progression on to the next level.

Yes, as long as you get the employers approval. 

If you are aged 16 – 18 you will work in-between 30 – 40 hours a week. 

Employer and Apprentice Case Studies