But the tricky thing about them, is that they’re as varied as the employers who offer them. You see where we’re going with this…
So, always be sure to check the specifics of each programme, laid out in the apprenticeship standard for that sector.
Let’s take a look at what you can generally expect from an apprenticeship.
In essence, an apprenticeship is a job. You’ll spend 80% of the working week at your place of employment, clocking in hours and building up holiday pay – all in accordance with your contract of employment, just like any other employee.
For the rest of the time, you’ll study the theory behind what you’re doing at work.
This could involve travelling to a university or college, or studying at work, usually one day a week. It’s down to whatever suits you and your employer best, so make sure you discuss it in your interview.
You’ll earn a salary, and your course fees will be covered by your employer and the Government. You just have to be willing to put in the work and manage your time between work and study.
Apprenticeships don't usually involve exams, but you should expect to be assessed while you're working. You'll need to demonstrate you can do your job effectively, by putting what you study into practice.
It’s not easy balancing your lifestyle with work and study, but the reward for putting the effort in is consistent – applied learning in a field you’re interested in from day one.
There are four types of apprenticeship you can apply for.
They’re each equivalent to a different level qualification, from GCSEs right up to a master’s degree, so take some time to understand each one of them:
- intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2)
- advanced apprenticeships (Level 3)
- higher apprenticeships (Level 4 and above)
- degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
Lengths differ between levels of apprenticeship, and field of study.
Intermediate and advanced apprenticeships usually take two – three years to complete, whereas higher and degree apprenticeships can take up to six years.
It's all down to you, and the pace you feel comfortable with.
In a full-time apprenticeship, you’ll either be at work or studying five days a week. That’s usually four days of work and one day of study.
Some apprenticeships may be structured differently, depending on the sector you're working in and the programme you're studying.
So, you could find yourself studying for weeks at a time instead of as part of your working week – called block release.
It’s worth checking with your employer, as alternating weeks at work and studying might affect your accommodation.
A 21 year old apprentice on a mission – a mission to promote apprenticeships (and alternative career paths) and prove that apprentices really can 'get in and go far'!
The good news is, you don’t pay any tuition fees at all. And you’ll be earning a wage that you’ve agreed with your employer.
If you’re moving for your apprenticeship, you’ll have to cover your own living costs as you won’t be eligible for a student loan. So, you’ll have to budget for rent, bills, transport, and food, which will probably mean reigning in your spending habits for a while.
You won’t get student discounts either, but you can apply for a NUS Apprentice Extra Card and should be able to get deals on certain public transport, like the tube in London
Ultimately, you’ll agree your salary with your employer.
Depending on the job role and experience required, you could get anything from the minimum apprenticeship wage of £3.50 per hour (for under 19s), right up to a competitive salary for the field.
Read our full guide on salaries, funding and finance.
If you learn best by getting stuck in to a role, are disciplined enough to organise your time and your finances, and are itching to get out of the classroom, they can offer a great alternative to traditional routes.
Doing an apprenticeship often means trading traditional education for specialist, applied knowledge and hands-on experience in a certain field.
They can offer great employability, but may leave you stranded if you decide you want to change profession.
If you really know what you want to do, and an apprenticeship route can get you there, then you should definitely consider it as an option.
Unsure what to do after school, Jan Morganti, attended a UCAS event in London anad found out about IBM's 'Futures' gap year scheme. He is now a degree apprentice, working as a project management analyst.