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Understanding full-time apprenticeships

A full-time apprenticeship is essentially a full-time job with a study or training element.
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You're treated like any other paid employee, clocking up holiday pay as you go, but you’re also working towards a debt free qualification.

You can expect to work in the region of 30 hours a week with your employer, plus a day of study either at your workplace, university, college, or online.

It’ll all be laid out in the contract between you and your employer, and that’s the important thing to note – that every apprenticeship is completely different.

But the common draw for apprentices is always the same: The reward for delicately balancing your lifestyle around work and study, is that your tuition fees are covered by your employer and the government.

So, you emerge into the working world already on a career path, with nothing to pay back.

How apprenticeship programmes work.

Lauren, employer at Tulip

Apprenticeships make more rounded individuals. It’s not just about the education, it’s about the knowledge, skills, and behaviours that they need to succeed. Everyone is different, and apprenticeships offer an experience tailored to the individual.

What qualification will I get?

There are four types of apprenticeship, each equivalent to a different level of study.

Generally speaking, an advanced apprenticeship is equivalent to three A levels, a higher apprenticeship lines up with a foundation degree, and a degree apprenticeship is the same as a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

But it’s definitely worth researching all your options:

Each level has different entry requirements and will attract different kinds of applicants, so make sure you choose the right one for you

How long does an apprenticeship last?

That depends on the profession, the employer, and the level of study. You could be looking at anything from 12 months to six years.

Take a look at our full guide to how long apprenticeships last.

Is there an apprenticeship in my chosen field?

Apprenticeships cover a huge range of professions – there’s a full A-Z list if you’ve got some time on your hands.

Or you can always browse our summary of the sectors offering apprenticeships.

Availability differs from one level of study to the next, which employers are recruiting, and where they’re based. Degree apprenticeships are growing especially fast, but still have some catching up to do with the other, more developed apprenticeships.

Search for an apprenticeship. 

How do I know if an apprenticeship is right for me?

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I eligible?
    • Check the vacancy for entry requirements. You’ll need to be over 16 and out of full-time education when the apprenticeship starts.
  • Would an apprenticeship suit my style of learning?
    • If you learn best by doing rather than just researching and writing, and find it easy to motivate and organise yourself, then yes.
  • Is there an apprenticeship available for what I want to do?
    • Check the above resources, and research specific employers – either locally or nationally. Some national companies like the NHS, the police, and automotive companies recruit all over the country, so check their websites for all opportunities. The most important thing is to find an employer you’re excited to work for.
  • Am I ready to commit to a career path?
    • Traditional degree routes offer more flexibility if you’re unsure of what career path you want to go down, and many offer a variety of work experience placements as part of the degree. 

      You won't necessarily need to commit to finding work until you complete your degree, but as an apprentice, you will already know what area of work you want to pursue when applying.

  • Am I willing to put in the work?
    • An apprenticeship is no free pass to a qualification – you’ll need to be more engaged than a regular student, and far more disciplined, because you'll be in full-time work and still have to study too, meeting deadlines for both.

How do I fund an apprenticeship? And how much will I get paid?

If you're aged 16 – 24, your employer and the Government fund the tuition fees of the apprenticeship, so you won't have to worry about student debt.          

If you’re over 25 you may need to apply for skills funding if your employer doesn’t offer to cover your tuition. Otherwise, it’s free.

All you have to do is cover the cost of living (which can be easier said than done). That’s your rent, bills, food, insurance, entertainment, electric toothbrush heads, etc.

You can always talk to your workplace mentor or student support if you're feeling a little overwhelmed and could do with a few budgeting tips.  

Your pay will vary hugely based on your age, profession, and level of study – anything from below minimum wage up to a competitive salary for the field.

Take a look at our guide to understanding apprenticeship wages.

What if I have additional needs? Can I apply for more funding or support?

Every provider will have a support structure in place for students with individual needs, but the type of support differs from employer to employer.

It's good to explain what support you'll need as an apprentice to enable you to carry out your day to day job as well as the training element.

Any support you need can be arranged well in advance of your start date to help you make as smooth a transition as possible.

Here’s a really useful guide to disability support for apprentices from Disability Rights UK that should help you find the right course for your needs.

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