Higher apprenticeships are available in Northern Ireland if you are already employed, or about to take up paid employment. Higher apprenticeships are available from Levels 4 – 7.

Most higher apprenticeships are at Level 5, which is equivalent to a foundation degree. Level 6 and 7 are considered degree apprenticeships, where you’ll earn a degree qualification while working.

If you’re not ready for a higher apprenticeship, you may want to consider a Level 2 or Level 3 apprenticeship instead.

What are the entry requirements for a higher apprenticeship?

To be eligible for an apprenticeship, you need to be:

  • aged 16 or over, although if you’re over 25 there are restrictions on the funding available
  • already be either in employment, about to take up paid employment, or an existing employee moving to a new role within a company based in Northern Ireland
  • be working a minimum of 21 hours per week
  • not already be in full-time education

You’ll also need to meet any other criteria set out by the employer and training provider. Entry requirements are different depending on the role and the industry. Many higher apprenticeships in Northern Ireland require you to have A levels or equivalent qualifications.

Remember, it’s not all about qualifications. Employers will be looking for willingness to learn, passion, and transferrable skills you could bring to the role.

Evan, engineering degree apprentice at Dawson in Northern Ireland

After school, I had the option to go to university or do an apprenticeship. When I thought about it in the long-term, an apprenticeship makes more sense for me because I learn by doing and you’re not going to learn any better way than in industry.

How do higher apprenticeships work?

An apprenticeship consists of mostly on-the-job training and some study away from work, which means you put what you learn into practice. You’ll spend most of your time at work and the rest in off-the-job learning with your training provider.

This often works out about four days a week at work, and one day learning, but this can vary depending on the apprenticeship. At the end of the apprenticeship, you’ll be assessed and then awarded your apprenticeship if you pass. This is nothing to worry about, you’ll have been building up your skills for the assessment throughout the apprenticeship.

It takes a minimum of two years to complete a higher apprenticeship but could be up to six depending on the qualification. 

The average salary of an apprentice in Northern Ireland
*Indeed, correct as of Feb 2023
Number of industries higher apprenticeships are available in
2 – 6
Average number of years it takes to complete a higher apprenticeship
Pros of an apprenticeship
  • You’re an employee and get paid a salary, a holiday allowance, and sick pay.
  • You won’t have to pay any study costs, as they’re co-funded by your employer and the Government.
  • You’ll be guided by a professional mentor who will help you along the way.
Cons of an apprenticeship
  • It’s a real job. You’ll have to get to work on time and keep up with what’s expected of you.
  • Learning and studying on the job can be tough. You’ll need to manage your time so you can fit in working and studying. Your employer will support you, but you need to be organised and take responsibility.
  • With an apprenticeship, life is very different than to going to uni. Whilst there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people, it won’t be like going to uni.

What industries can I do an apprenticeship in?

Higher apprenticeships are available in over 20 different industries, including IT, engineering, accountancy, healthcare, and more.

Explore industries