If you'd like to pursue further study while gaining a head-start in your career, a degree-level apprenticeship could be the first step - without the price tag of a traditional degree

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?

You can enrol on a degree apprenticeship even if you've already got a degree - but it must be in an unrelated subject.

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?

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 that of 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 Montford University, Northumbria University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Chartered manager - Aston University, University of Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), The Open University, University of Portsmouth and University of Salford.
  • Civil engineering - University of Brighton, Leeds Beckett University, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Nottingham Trent University (NTU), University of Portsmouth and University of Salford.
  • 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 Montford University, University of Greenwich 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 and Solent University Southampton.
  • Healthcare science practitioner - Aston University (Audiology), 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 Huddersfield, The Open University, UCLan and University of West London.
  • Postgraduate engineer - De Montford University, University of Plymouth and University of Portsmouth.
  • Power engineering - Newcastle University.
  • Professional engineering - Aston University.
  • Project management - Aston University, University of Cumbria and University of Portsmouth.
  • Risk management - Middlesex University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Senior Leadership - University of Brighton, De Montford University, The Open University and University of Portsmouth.
  • Social work - University of Brighton, MMU, The Open University, Oxford Brookes University, University of Salford and UCLan.
  • Surveying - Birmingham City University, University of Brighton, LSBU, University of Portsmouth, University of Salford and UCLan.

According to a House of Commons briefing paper on degree apprenticeships (December 2019), 13,587 people started a degree apprenticeship in England in 2018/19, with the programme experiencing a rapid rise in popularity since it was first introduced in 2015.

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, however, 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 Tech Partnership Degrees.

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.

Find out more

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