If the prospect of learning on the job while earning a wage and studying towards a vocational further education (FE) qualification sounds appealing, discover more about higher apprenticeships

What is a higher apprenticeship?

As with other apprenticeships, a higher apprenticeship is a route into a real job, where you'll also get to study towards a recognised qualification. Taking between two and five years to complete, higher apprenticeships are available at Level 4 and Level 5 through study at a further education (FE) college.

The former level is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree or Higher National Certificate (HNC), with the latter directly compared to a Higher National Diploma (HND) or foundation degree (FD).

Read more about the various apprenticeship standards at what is an apprenticeship?

Who is a higher apprenticeship for?

The Association of Colleges (AOC) has revealed through its College Key Facts 2022/23 report that 700 16 to 18-year-olds, 7,500 19 to 24-year-olds and 12,900 people aged 25 and above are studying a higher apprenticeship at college in England. Get an overview of the UK's FE sector.

What can I study?

Higher apprenticeships are available in a range of subjects, including:

  • accountancy
  • business management
  • childcare
  • computing
  • construction
  • engineering
  • health and social care
  • human resources (HR)
  • leadership and management
  • marketing
  • sales
  • sport
  • supply chain and logistics
  • teaching.

Where can I find a higher apprenticeship?

Leading recruiters across all sectors run annual higher apprenticeship programmes, including:

To discover what's currently available, search for higher apprenticeships near you at GOV.UK - Find an apprenticeship.

How do I apply?

As with most jobs, you'll apply for your apprenticeship directly to the employer.

In the first instance, you'll typically complete an online job application or submit a CV and cover letter. This is then followed by an interview and then you may be asked to attend an assessment centre.

What are the entry requirements?

You'll need to:

  • be aged 16 or over
  • live in England
  • not already be enrolled in full-time education.

In addition to this, employers will set their own criteria for entry onto their programmes. These typically involve a combination of GCSEs and A-levels (or equivalent).

If you haven't got GCSEs in maths and English, you'll need to take the functional skills qualification as part of the apprenticeship.

To give you an idea of what might be expected of you, Jaguar Land Rover's four-year Level 4 engineering apprenticeship looks for five GCSEs at grades 9-4 (including maths and English language) and at least a C in your maths A-level (or equivalent).

On the other hand, Network Rail's Level 5 HR consultant apprentice based in London or York asks for five GCSEs at grades 9-5 (including maths and English), plus at least 120 UCAS Tariff points.

Will I get paid?

As an apprentice on a higher apprenticeship programme, you'll receive at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for your age group.

For all those aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over and who've completed their first year, the current apprenticeship wage (from April 2023) is £5.28.

Read more about what you're entitled to as an apprentice at GOV.UK - Become an apprentice.

While employers are under no obligation to pay their apprentices over and above the NMW, many do offer more competitive salaries. For example, those on Thames Water's Level 4 accounts technician apprenticeship will earn £20,000 per year.

Am I guaranteed a job?

While there are usually no promises that you'll be taken on permanently following the completion of your apprenticeship, if you perform well during the programme you've got a great chance of landing a position.

According to the St Martin's Group's Apprenticeship outcomes and destinations report (October 2022), over two-thirds (71%) of apprentices had a positive outcome with the employer they took their apprenticeship with, either through a pay increase, promotion or permanent job offer.

Upon completion of an apprenticeship, some apprentices decide to continue their studies by progressing to a Level 6 or Level 7 degree apprenticeship.

Alternatively, if staying with your employer isn't an option, you could decide to go to university and study for a Bachelors degree full time.

Consider whether to go to university or do an apprenticeship and discover other alternatives to university.

Find out more

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