If you'd like to pursue degree-level study while gaining a head-start in your chosen career, degree apprenticeships enable you to get the best of both worlds

Degree apprenticeships at a glance

  • Combine full-time paid work and part-time university study.
  • Work towards a full Bachelors or Masters degree.
  • Degree apprenticeships typically take three to six years to complete.
  • You won't be eligible for a student loan, but your employer pays your tuition fees.

Who is a degree apprenticeship for?

Degree apprenticeships are primarily targeted at 18 to 19-year-old school leavers as an alternative route to gaining a degree, especially those who are unsure about university due to high tuition fees and student debt. However, they're also suitable for mature students.

The degree apprenticeship supports progression from craft and technical roles into management. This means that programmes are suitable for those who have completed lower-level apprenticeships but wish to advance their career through further study.

If your academic history means that you're not eligible for a degree apprenticeship, you can find out more about intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships at what is an apprenticeship?

For those from elsewhere in the UK, you'll need to read about apprenticeships in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If you're still unsure about which route to take, consider should I do a degree or apprenticeship?

Can you do an apprenticeship if you have a degree?

Yes, you can enrol onto a degree apprenticeship programme even if you've already got a degree - but it must be in an unrelated subject.

What about a Masters apprenticeship?

As well as degree apprenticeships set at Bachelors-level, for professions that typically require additional qualifications - such as accounting or engineering - you may wish to pursue a postgraduate apprenticeship and study towards a Masters degree.

While Masters apprenticeships typically require a longer period of study, as you'll likely be starting the programme after your A-levels, these Level 7 apprenticeships often provide opportunities to gain accreditation from a professional body.

For instance, the Level 7 Architect Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Nottingham, which involves 50 months of study, is accredited by the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

What can I study?

As degree apprenticeships are only available in vocational subjects that require a high level of academia, the range of subjects on offer is narrower than with traditional apprenticeships.

Opportunities are currently available in the following sectors:

  • aerospace engineering
  • aerospace software development
  • automotive engineering
  • business management
  • construction
  • defence
  • digital industries
  • electronic systems engineering
  • financial services
  • life and industrial sciences
  • management
  • nuclear
  • nursing
  • power engineering
  • public relations
  • social work
  • surveying.

Where can I study?

As the scope for degree apprenticeships expands, so does the range of provider universities and employers. These currently include:

  • Aerospace engineering and Aerospace software development - University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and University of the West of England Bristol (UWE Bristol).
  • Architect - De Montfort University, Northumbria University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Chartered manager - Aston University, University of Hertfordshire, University of Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), The Open University, University of Portsmouth, University of Salford and Teesside University.
  • Civil engineering - University of Brighton, Leeds Beckett University, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Nottingham Trent University (NTU), University of Portsmouth, University of Salford and Teesside University.
  • Construction - Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), Birmingham City University, University of Brighton, LJMU, London South Bank University (LSBU) and Sheffield Hallam University.
  • Embedded electrical systems design and development - Aston University, De Montfort University, University of Greenwich, University of Hertfordshire and Sheffield Hallam University.
  • Digital and technology solutions - Aston University, University of Brighton, University of Exeter, University of Greenwich, MMU, The Open University, Sheffield Hallam University, Solent University Southampton and Teesside University.
  • Healthcare science practitioner - Aston University (Audiology), University of Hertfordshire, LJMU, MMU, NTU, University of Salford, Sheffield Hallam University and Staffordshire University.
  • Life and industrial sciences - University of Greenwich and MMU.
  • Management - MMU, The Open University, University of Portsmouth, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Salford and UCLan.
  • Nuclear - UWE Bristol and National College for Nuclear.
  • Nursing - University of Brighton, University of Hertfordshire, University of Huddersfield, The Open University, Teesside University, UCLan and University of West London.
  • Postgraduate engineer - De Montfort University, University of Plymouth and University of Portsmouth.
  • Power engineering - Newcastle University.
  • Professional engineering - Aston University.
  • Project management - Aston University, University of Cumbria, University of Portsmouth and Teesside University.
  • Risk management - Middlesex University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Senior Leadership - University of Brighton, De Montfort University, University of Hertfordshire, The Open University, University of Portsmouth and Teesside University.
  • Social work - University of Brighton, MMU, The Open University, Oxford Brookes University, University of Salford and UCLan.
  • Surveying - Birmingham City University, University of Brighton, University College of Estate Management (UCEM), LSBU, University of Portsmouth, University of Salford and UCLan.

In 2019/20, there were 271,890 apprenticeship starts - 66,730 of these were higher apprenticeships at either Bachelors (Level 6) or Masters (Level 7) degree level.

Organisations of all sizes can take advantage of degree apprenticeships, but they are especially common among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has published The Complete Guide to Higher and Degree Apprenticeships (2020/21), a collaboration between the National Apprenticeship Service and Which? University, revealing that around 87 universities now offer higher and degree apprenticeships.

The guide lists many of the employers and higher education institutions currently involved in degree apprenticeships.

However, some of the most high-profile employers currently involved in the scheme include:

  • Aerospace engineering and Aerospace software development - Airbus and BAE Systems.
  • Automotive - BMW Group UK, Rolls-Royce, Toyota Manufacturing UK and Vauxhall Motors.
  • Construction - BAM Construct UK Ltd, Laing O'Rourke and Willmott Dixon Holdings Ltd.
  • Defence - General Dynamics, Raytheon and Serco.
  • Digital and technology solutions - BT, Fujitsu and Network Rail.
  • Financial services - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Santander.
  • Life and industrial sciences - Astra Zeneca, GSK and Pfizer Inc.
  • Nuclear - EDF Energy and Sellafield.
  • Power engineering - Amey, Siemens and SSE.
  • Surveying - AECOM, Axis and Faithorn Farrell Timms.

Course structure will vary across universities and employers, as each programme is tailored to suit individual employer needs and delivered in the style of the university's teaching model.

How much will it cost?

As with other apprenticeships, you won't pay for your training or tuition - your employer will cover the costs.

You'll have to plan ahead to cover your living costs, as degree apprentices aren't eligible for student loans. However, you'll receive at least the apprentice National Minimum Wage (NMW) on your course - see GOV.UK - Become an apprentice for details of pay and conditions.

Will I be guaranteed a job?

No, but even if you aren't offered a permanent role, you'll be an employable graduate. You'll have benefited from studying a course that's been designed to meet industry needs, plus you'll also have amassed several years of highly relevant work experience. This means you'll have gained critical skills valued by employers in your chosen career.

How do I apply?

You can search and apply for degree apprenticeships at GOV.UK - Find an apprenticeship. You'll be redirected to wherever your chosen course accepts applications, as some are sorted by employers or universities directly.

If you're looking for opportunities specifically in the digital and technology solutions sector, visit TechSkills.

Unlike traditional degrees, there's no fixed cycle for degree apprenticeship applications. The majority of organisations will begin their recruitment processes in January or February for an August or September start date, but larger organisations will start advertising their positions from the previous autumn onwards and smaller enterprises may wait until spring.

Get more advice on applying for an apprenticeship.

Find out more

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