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Understanding degree apprenticeships

A degree apprenticeship is a job combined with a university degree, meaning you’ll be working for an employer most of the time and studying at university or college for the rest.
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You’ll get paid, your tuition fees will be covered by your employer and the government, and you’ll even clock up some holiday pay as you go.

Will I still get a full degree?

Simply put, yes. You’ll get an undergraduate or postgraduate degree qualification as you would with a full-time degree.

Double check before you apply – some degree apprenticeships offer a degree level qualification instead of an actual degree.

Why not just go to university?

A degree apprenticeship gives you real work experience, alongside the knowledge and theory you'll get from studying a degree. It could kick-start your career, and give you a strong CV tailored to the field you want to work in.

Assuming there’s a degree apprenticeship available in your choice of profession, the decision could be largely informed by the way you learn and whether you're ready to commit to a specific career path.

If you want to keep your options open, you might be better suited to a traditional degree.

Juggling a degree and a full-time job is challenging. So, you’ll need a certain amount of self-discipline. But don’t underestimate yourself. Go with what you think will be best for your future. Just be ready to work for it.

Miguel, apprentice at EMS

If I had one piece of advice, it would be: make sure you’re 100% certain this is the right route for you. Do your research. Be prepared to work hard and perhaps to sacrifice some of your social life. But the reward at the end – it’s out of this world, really.

Will I miss out on the uni social life with an apprenticeship?

Most degree apprentices find that they still get to enjoy uni student life, just in a different way to regular undergrads. 

Because you’ll be spending time with workmates as well as other students, you’ll have to find a balance between the two that works for you.

You’ll still have access to the same university facilities and student support as your classmates.

The key difference is that unlike a full-time student, you’ll be getting up and going to work most days, which will likely push your social life more towards the weekend. But beyond that, it’s your time to do with as you please.

Just be aware that some employers may be quite a distance from your place of study, so you might need to organise your lifestyle around commuting between the two.

Is there a degree apprenticeship in my chosen subject?

The number and range of degree apprenticeships on offer is growing, and more and more universities and employers are taking on apprentices every year.

So, although you might not be able to do one in equestrian psychology just yet – you’ll find that there's plenty of job roles and subjects on offer that you might not have even thought about

For sector-specific information, take a look at these articles by Which?

How long does a degree apprenticeship last? And is it full-time?

Depending on the degree apprenticeship you choose, it’ll typically last between three and six years. And yes, you’ll either be at either work or your place of study five days a week.

Because every degree apprenticeship is different, you’ll have to check how yours divides your work and study time.

Particularly look at whether you’ll be attending uni one day per week (known as day release), in blocks of a week or more (block release), or studying online. Some apprenticeships use a combination.

Earn while you learn with a degree apprenticeship

You no longer have to choose between a degree or an apprenticeship. A growing number of companies are offering degree-level apprenticeships, so you can study for a degree debt-free, while gaining hands-on commercial experience.

So, what does it take to be a degree apprentice? Craig Wakefield from Renishaw shares his experience of being a software engineering apprentice.

Find out more 

How do I know if a degree apprenticeship is right for me?

Degree apprenticeships are great if you have a focused career path in mind, want to get stuck in to work while studying towards a degree, and learn best by doing.

They do require a good level of organisation, self-motivation, confidence, and good communication skills, but you should receive the support of both a workplace mentor and a university tutor to help keep you on track.   

Because every degree apprenticeship is different, you need to do your research. Speak to employers, unis, and training providers. Keep an eye out for them at careers fairs and UCAS higher education exhibitions.

Just as with choosing a full-time degree course and university, you’ll need to make sure the apprenticeship, employer, and job are the right fit for you.

Joe, apprentice at Caterpillar

For me personally, the degree apprenticeship route is about being able to study at your own pace and get the qualification you want while still being in full time employment. So you can move forward while earning the money you need to get by.

How do I fund a degree apprenticeship?

You’ll be pleased to hear that you don’t. Degree apprenticeships are paid for by your employer and the government.

So, you’ll be saving a tidy sum on tuition. But you’ll still have to cover the cost of living, such as rent, bills, food, travel, online shopping addictions, etc.

You’ll receive at least the minimum wage for an apprentice (the apprentice NMW) but you won't get a student loan. So, like most students, you’ll have to budget and rein in some of your outgoings.

Or acquire a taste for instant noodles.

You can search and apply for degree apprenticeships using our Career Finder.

Unsure whether to go to uni or do a degree apprenticeship? Here’s something to help you choose

How to apply for an apprenticeship.

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