A Complete Guide to Higher Apprenticeships

A mechanical engineer training a young apprentice
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Going to university isn’t for everyone, and with the exorbitant tuition fees and accommodation costs, many school leavers are looking for alternatives.

One such alternative is completing an apprenticeship, which allows you to gain hands-on experience in the career path you want to follow, earn a qualification while you’re at it, and get paid for it, too!

There are four different levels of apprenticeships available in the UK, but we’re going to explore higher apprenticeships in this article, including entry requirements, pay and advantages.

So, if you want to discover whether a higher apprenticeship is right for you, read on to find out all the details.

What Is a Higher Apprenticeship?

Higher apprenticeships are suitable for school leavers who want to develop their skills and qualifications on a higher level. With off and on-the-job training, apprentices get to work in the line of work they are training to pursue, gaining the hands-on experience that a university degree doesn’t always offer.

What’s great about higher apprenticeships is that they also work as credits towards a university degree. As they are equivalent to a foundation degree (Level 4), you can continue to pursue a degree in the relevant subject. Alternatively, you can continue to work through the different levels of your apprenticeship and gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree.

How Does it Work?

During your higher apprenticeship, you will attend educational classes and partake in training while working full time for a company. Depending on the organisation that you’re working with, you may have one or two full days of classes and will be expected to work on the remaining days (a minimum of 30 hours per week).

The apprenticeship can last between one and three years (depending on the agreement with your employer), and you will usually have a job waiting for you once you’ve completed all your training.

What Are the Entry Requirements?

Entry requirements may vary based on the type of apprenticeship you pursue, but you’ll usually need to be aged 18 or over and have successfully completed your high school education.

In the UK, this will include five GCSEs (grades A*–C), including English and maths, and three A-levels or an equivalent (NVQ or BTEC). Some employers may also expect a grade in a subject that’s relevant to the apprenticeship.

In the USA, entry requirements vary – for some, you’re required to be a student or a recent college graduate, while others may simply require a high school diploma or equivalent.

Will I Get Paid?

Luckily, as you’ll be working for over 30 hours per week, you’ll get paid for your efforts! From April 2019, the UK minimum wage rates are officially going up, meaning that you’ll receive £3.90 per hour instead of the previous rate of £3.70. As you’ll be training on a higher level, though, many apprenticeships pay a lot more than that, and you could earn up to £25,000 per year.

In the USA, there aren’t any set rules in place regarding payment, but you can typically receive up to $20 per hour.

What’s the Difference Between a Higher Apprenticeship and a Degree Apprenticeship?

While you achieve vocational qualifications in a higher apprenticeship and can work your way up to earning a Level 6–7 qualification, a degree apprenticeship mainly focuses on obtaining a full bachelor’s or master’s degree.

A higher apprenticeship can last anywhere between one and three years, while a degree apprenticeship will typically take three or four years to complete.

Although degree apprenticeships are more beneficial, they are harder to come by, as they were only introduced in 2015. So, if you find an opportunity to complete a higher apprenticeship, you should definitely take it, as it can result in full completion of a degree.

What Are the Advantages?

  • You’ll gain a qualification. If you complete all levels of a higher apprenticeship, you’ll earn the equivalent of a university degree.
  • There are no fees involved. The best part? You don’t have to pay university prices to get the qualification. Apprenticeships are funded by the government and the employer, so you don’t have to pay a penny to invest in your career!
  • You’ll gain credible work experience. No matter the qualification, you usually need work experience to secure entry-level jobs. Luckily, with a higher apprenticeship, you will get the experience you need to succeed and climb the career ladder.
  • You’ll earn a salary. You can earn while you learn with apprenticeships. As you’ll be working over 30 hours per week, you’ll get pocket money while you train to earn your certificate.
  • You’ll be more employable. AN ICM Research survey found that ‘qualified apprentices are 15% more employable than those with other qualifications’.
  • You’ll gain transferable skills. No matter what you chose to do after your apprenticeship, you will gain transferable skills that will be beneficial within any workplace. For example, skills like time management, organisation and multitasking can be used in any profession.
  • You’ll work alongside an industry professional. You’ll be learning from the best in the field and will gain inside information that university students typically don’t in a lecture hall.

What Are the Disadvantages?

  • You start from the bottom. Similar to work experience, you’re literally starting from the bottom of the chain. Although you won’t be required to complete coffee runs for most of the day, you will have to work extremely hard to prove yourself within the workplace.
  • You’ll receive a low salary. For the amount of work that you’re doing, the salary is relatively low. And although it sounds great to be paid while you learn, you’ll need to take into account transport costs to get to and from work (as these usually won’t be reimbursed).
  • It can be tricky to gain an apprenticeship if you are a graduate. If you’re a university graduate or aged over 24, your apprenticeship will not be funded by the government, so you will need to ensure that the employer is happy to cover the costs of your education and training.

Where Can I Find My Apprenticeship?

One of the best ways to find your desired apprenticeship in the UK is through the GOV.UK website, where you can search for suitable roles and submit your application online by following the on-screen instructions.

You could also consider sending your CV to organisations that you know offer apprenticeships but aren’t currently advertising. They’ll appreciate your use of initiative and may even open a position specifically for you.

In the USA, you can search the apprenticeships website sponsored by the Department of Labour to find suitable positions. You can then follow the on-screen instructions to complete your application.

You may also consider searching through job boards like Indeed or our very own CareerAddict Jobs where you might find something of interest.

So now that you know all there is to know about higher apprenticeships, you will be better equipped at deciding what type of career you want to follow and what method of education is ideal for you.

Let us know if you’re applying for a higher apprenticeship or if you have successfully completed one in the comments section below. We’d love to hear about your experiences!