Often overlooked for more formal education options, apprenticeships are an excellent way to enter a profession, giving you hands-on experience in an industry, whilst gaining a qualification and being paid. Gone are the days when apprenticeships were just for the trades — these days you can take an apprenticeship in thousands of different jobs from construction to nursing to law.
Their popularity has soared over the years, with almost 28% of people starting an apprenticeship being under the age of 19, which shows it’s a great way for school/college leavers to enter the workforce and begin a career they love.
In this guide, we’ll cover the types of apprenticeships in the UK, as well as the different levels of apprenticeship available. So, let’s get started!
Apprenticeships are varied, not only in the industry they cover, but the level you can work at. There are four apprenticeship levels, which range from intermediate level to degree level, meaning there are plenty of options for people to study and work in a way that suits their needs, skills and career goals. Whilst you won’t be able to access all jobs with an apprenticeship, it is still a great steppingstone to higher-level careers and qualifications.
The level you take depends on the role you are applying for and the qualifications you already hold. For higher levels, you will need to hold certain qualifications and for some apprenticeships you will need a certain level of experience, too. Each apprenticeship will have its own entry requirements. There is a wealth of places to find apprenticeships, including government websites and directly by the provider.
Here is a brief example of each level of apprenticeship.
Intermediate apprenticeships — Level 2
This type of apprenticeship is the lowest level available and is the equivalent of five GCSEs with a C or above, and they take 12–18 months to complete. For an apprenticeship at this level, you will most likely not need to hold any qualifications, but you must be able to demonstrate an interest in the industry.
Advanced apprenticeships — Level 3
An advanced level apprenticeship is the equivalent to 2 A-level passes and takes an average of 15–18 months to complete. Employers may ask for GCSE passes, usually up to three, along with an interest in the subject area. Depending on the apprenticeship, they may ask for some industry experience.
Higher apprenticeships — Level 4 and 5
A higher-level apprenticeship is the equivalent to a foundation degree (level 4) and a full degree (level 5) and takes an average of 3–5 years to complete. For an apprenticeship at this level, employers will expect either 5 GCSE passes above a C and either A levels, a level 3 qualification or apprenticeship, BTEC national or NVQ.
Degree apprenticeships — Level 5, 6 and 7
At this level, an apprenticeship is the equivalent to a foundation degree (level 5), a bachelor’s degree (level 6) and a master’s degree (level 7) and takes 3–6 years to complete. For an apprenticeship at this level, employers will expect either 5 GCSE passes above a C and either A levels, a level 3 qualification or apprenticeship, BTEC national or NVQ, preferably in relevant subjects.
Types of apprenticeships
With so many kinds of apprenticeship in the UK, it’s easy to get flustered. So, we have broken them down into those available by industry and at which level they are typically offered. With over 500 varieties of apprenticeship on offer, there are plenty of programs available. Some of the best apprenticeships are offered by large, well-known companies, such as BT and BMW, but we’re going to show you the vast range available to you.
Agriculture, environmental and animal care
This is a popular industry for an apprenticeship, with options ranging from intermediate to higher. As the population grows, so too does the animal population and the need for farming and roles relating to the environment. Apprenticeships in this field are great for people who love to be outside and active. You will need a passion for animal care and environmental preservation. Possible apprenticeships include:
- Parks, gardens and green space
- Water environment
- Environmental conservation
- Animal welfare care assistant
- Apprentice agricultural service technician
- Poultry production
- Veterinary nursing
Business and administration
This type of apprenticeship is perfect for building day-to-day business skills and can be an entry point for a career in any business, with the prospect of moving up to senior positions. All levels are available in this field, from office support roles to team leader roles at degree level. Options include:
- Business administration
- Business development
- Business support
- Human resource management
- Customer service
- Office assistant
- Public relations
This industry includes public health, social care and child services and there are options available at all levels, from entry-level care roles to influencing policy. These careers are in constant demand and are best suited to people who want to make a difference, who care about supporting the most vulnerable people in society and who want a rewarding career. Apprenticeship options include:
- Public health degree practitioner
- Social worker degree apprenticeship
- Early years
- Community care assistant
Catering and hospitality
Apprenticeships in this industry can help you launch your career as a chef, as manager of a hotel chain, or even to start your own business. It’s a diverse sector with plenty of opportunities for those that want them. This industry is suited to people who like excitement, variety and to be on the go. Types of apprenticeship in this industry include:
- Management and leadership
- Hospitality team
- Production chef
- Hospitality assistant
- Hospitality management
Apprenticeships in construction offer pathways leading to professional and trade qualifications in a number of different industries. There are traditionally known apprenticeships, such as carpentry, and more specialist options, like renewable energy and infrastructure development. These apprenticeships are popular and available at all levels. They suit people who are active, technical minded and who like to be outside. Options include:
- Project control
- Construction management
- Electrical servicing
- Building surveying
Creative and design
Creative and design apprenticeships cover a wide range of career options, from graphic design to interior design to music. Apprenticeships are a great way to get into these industries that are growing and developing. As a growing, innovative industry, lots of employers are offering apprenticeships at all levels, including some big names such as Channel 4 and the BBC. Options include:
- Assistant technical director
- Production assistant
- Events assistant
- Graphic designer and content producer
- Live events and promotion
- Costume and wardrobe
Digital media is an ever-expanding category and the apprenticeships available reflect this. People with IT and technology skills are in high demand, with every business needing to be on top of technology and digital advances in their field. Apprenticeships in this field are popular and offered by a number of big names, including Amazon and Google. Options include:
- Software engineer
- Digital and technology and solutions degree
- Digital skills consultant
- IT helpdesk analyst
- SEO specialist
- Game design
- Information security
Education and healthcare
Education and health are areas that will continue to grow as the population grows. We will always need teaching professionals and health professionals in a wide range of positions. If you enjoy a certain subject, want to work with a particular demographic, or are looking to make a difference to people’s lives, there is something for everyone at all levels. Options include:
- Certificate of education
- Academic professional
- Learning support
- PE teaching support
- Learning and development
- Healthcare assistant
- Health and care rotational apprenticeship
Engineering and manufacturing
Engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships are available across a range of sectors, including motor racing and infrastructure. Engineering and manufacturing underpin everything we use and so it’s important that people continue to learn this valuable skill. Apprenticeships in this area cover the hands-on work as well as the operational side of things. They suit people who are innovative and natural problem solvers. Options include:
- Nuclear engineering degree apprenticeship
- Machine engineering
- Engineering technician
- Multi-skilled manufacturing engineering
- Production control
- Aviation operations
- Public transport engineering and maintenance
- Marine industry
- Power engineering
- Rail engineering and services
- Refrigeration and air conditioning
Hair and beauty
Apprenticeships in the field of hair and beauty are what you might consider traditional subjects for apprenticeships. As time has gone on, they are still popular, as these subjects go well with practical on-the-job learning. They vary in levels and skillset. Options include:
Health and science
When we talk about health and science, we are covering anything from dental to medical to pharmaceuticals, and any science related to health and medicine. An apprenticeship is an excellent alternative to university and is a great way to get into the medical field. The potential for continual development and progression is huge. Some options include:
Legal, finance and accounting
Accounting and finance professionals are needed in all businesses, so taking an apprenticeship in this area gives you on-the-job experience that isn’t available on other routes. The same is true of an apprenticeship in law. There will always be people who need legal support. There are so many roles you can achieve starting with an apprenticeship, such as bank manager, insurance broker, financial director, barrister or lawyer. Options include:
- Assistant accountant
- Financial service administrator
- Accounts and finance administrator
Roles in protective services, such as emergency services and armed forces, that focus on keeping people safe, can be accessed via an apprenticeship. The armed forces are one of the biggest apprenticeship providers in the UK, covering a range of subjects, from engineering on aircraft carriers to logistics and humanitarian aid. Options include:
- Aircraft maintenance
- HM Forces service person
- Operational firefighter
- Custody and detention officer
- Community safety advisor
- Security services
Sales, marketing and procurement
Careers in sales, marketing and procurement are varied and in demand. Businesses and services all need sales teams and expert marketers, particularly with skills in digital marketing, which is ever evolving. Procurement of products goes hand in hand with sales and marketing. Many large and well-known brands offer apprenticeships in this area, including Amazon, Microsoft and ITV. Options include:
- Digital marketing
- Advertising and media
- Sales negotiator
- Lead generation specialist
- Procurement apprenticeship
- Vehicle sales
- Warehousing and storage
- Mail and package distribution
- Property services
Transport and logistics
Transport and logistics cover anything that includes transporting passengers directly to the logistics involved with transportation of any kind. This can cover a range of vehicles, as well as working in the logistics of transporting stock globally. Building on-the-job experience in these areas is valuable to employers and would suit someone highly organized with a passion for transport. Options include:
- Cabin crew
- Marine officer
- Transport planning
- Heavy vehicle technician
- Logistics coordinator
An apprenticeship is a fantastic way to gain a qualification, whilst also benefiting from experience that isn’t always available through other routes. Having real word experience, as well as learning theory, makes people who have gone through an apprenticeship highly desirable.
As there are varying levels of apprenticeships, options are vast and there is a clear line for progression. If you’re looking for something specific, it’s worth looking on the “Find an Apprenticeship” section on the government website for information about apprenticeships in your area.
If you’re still unsure which industry is the best for you, it’s worth taking a career assessment like the one at CareerHunter. It analyzes your skills, interests and personality to give you a detailed report, including job suggestions and course recommendations. Give it a go, the results might surprise you!
Apprenticeships are a great way to enter the world of work if you don’t want to go to university to study, and they allow you to earn a salary whilst also learning a profession. Winner winner!
Are you considering an apprenticeship? What kind do you think would be the most interesting? Let us know in the comments below!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 27 February 2017.