With a range of popular programmes to choose from, including business, computer science and engineering, apprenticeships in Northern Ireland are available at all levels
Providing on-the-job training to those aged 16 and over, apprenticeships offer a defined pathway into your chosen career.
According to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), there were 6,729 participants in the country's apprenticeship programme in 2021/22.
Apprenticeship levels in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, apprenticeships are currently available at:
- Level 2 - equivalent to five GCSE passes.
- Level 3 - equivalent to two A-level passes.
- Higher level apprenticeships (Levels 4-7) - equivalent to a higher national certificate (HNC), foundation degree or the first year of a university degree.
Each level typically takes two years to complete.
Read about apprenticeships in Northern Ireland at NI Direct - Apprenticeships.
You can also get more general information on apprenticeship levels and the rates of pay for apprentices at what is an apprenticeship?
In Northern Ireland, there are around 150 apprenticeships at Level 2 and Level 3, with over 45 higher level apprenticeships to select from, in a range of subjects including:
Search for apprenticeships at NI Direct - Search for apprenticeship opportunities.
To become an apprentice in Northern Ireland, you need to be:
- aged at least 16
- employed or be ready to take up a permanent, paid position in the country
- working at least 21 hours per week
- eligible to live and work in the country.
In addition, you shouldn't already hold a recognised vocational qualification in this field.
Level 2 and Level 3 apprenticeships
The government statistics revealed that NI apprenticeships at Level 2 and Level 3 accounted for 57% and 38% respectively of all lower-level apprenticeships in 2021/22.
The three most popular broad subjects were food manufacturing, construction and mechanical engineering services (plumbing) at Level 2, and electrotechnical, food manufacturing and construction at Level 3.
In terms of entry requirements, for Level 2 apprenticeships you'll need to demonstrate that you can complete the programme, while at Level 3 employers may expect three or more GCSEs or some previous work experience. However, this will all depend on the requirements of the apprenticeship.
Higher level apprenticeships (HLAs)
According to the Apprenticeships in NI Fact Sheet 2021/22, which considered Department for Education (DfE) funded apprenticeships at Levels 2-7, 874 (11.5%) of the 7,608 apprenticeship starts, were at Level 4 or above, with most at Level 5 (foundation degree standard).
It also showed that of the 11,642 apprentices on programmes in this academic year, 1,111 were studying at Levels 4-6 at a further education (FE) college, with 650 studying at Level 6 or 7 (widely known as degree apprenticeships) at a higher education (HE) institution.
Most of the latter were studying business and management (285), followed by computing (170), and engineering and technology (100).
These HLAs are best suited to those who've just completed their GCSEs or A-levels and are thinking about what to do next.
Major NI employers running HLA schemes include:
- Almac Group
- Danske Bank
- Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS)
- Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) Networks
HLAs are typically offered in partnership with local educational establishments such as:
- Northern Regional College
- North West Regional College
- Queen's University Belfast
- Southern Regional College
- Ulster University
Read more about HLA programmes at NI Direct - Higher Level Apprenticeships.
You can also consider should I go to university or do an apprenticeship?
Find out more
- Explore how to apply for an apprenticeship.
- Get the lowdown on apprenticeships in Scotland and Wales.
- Read about the future of apprenticeships in the UK.