With options in TV, radio and film production - plus other areas including business, design, engineering and journalism - media apprenticeships provide a gateway into the UK's thriving digital industries
Working on the production side of film and television has always required new starters to join as runners and develop their skills on the job. With the more technical roles, such as video editing and visual effects (VFX), previous qualifications in these areas may be welcomed.
If you're looking to enter this competitive landscape straight from sixth form/college or university, a media apprenticeship may provide the ideal stepping stone to a full-time job or contract with the company.
By becoming a media apprentice, you'll receive the latest industry training while applying it to your role and being paid a salary. Whether you land a permanent position or not, the contacts you make during this time will prove to be invaluable to your career.
What media apprenticeships are available?
You'll find media apprenticeships in a number of disciplines, including:
- advertising and digital marketing - see marketing apprenticeships
- broadcast media production and editing - television and radio
- film production
Media apprenticeships are typically offered at the following levels:
- Advanced - Level 3, equivalent to A-level.
- Higher - Levels 4 and 5, equivalent to a foundation degree or above.
- Degree - Level 6, equivalent to a Bachelors degree.
Which media companies offer apprenticeships?
When it comes to structured early careers programmes, the UK's major media organisations all offer a number of options, including apprenticeships:
- BBC apprenticeships - available in four areas, including business, production, journalism, and design, engineering and technology. With opportunities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, BBC production apprenticeships are focused on college leavers with a passion for TV, radio or online media. The two-year, Level 7 BBC Advanced Journalism Apprenticeship, which can be undertaken in locations including Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, London or Salford, enables you to achieve the industry-recognised NCTJ National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ). Read more about journalism courses.
- Channel 4 apprenticeships - most likely to be based in Leeds or London, you could be working in a range of areas, such as its in-house digital content studio, 4Studio, or its creative agency, 4Creative. A Level 2, 3 or 4 qualification can be achieved within 14 to 24 months.
- ITV apprenticeships - as well as offering a nine-month ITV News traineeship, they also run an apprenticeship programme lasting a minimum of 12 months in areas including studio production, news, commissioning and global entertainment. You could be based in London, Manchester, Leeds or a regional office.
- Sky apprenticeships - the media organisation offers programmes in customer service/sales, business (HR, marketing, finance and business administration) and technology (IT solutions, cyber security, network engineering, software development). Roles are available across the country, with apprenticeships lasting for between 18 months and two years.
- Virgin Media apprenticeships - these schemes are available in technology and engineering or business disciplines so aren't media focused. However, they'd be ideal if you'd like to work for a media company in an IT role such as a digital UX specialist or data analyst.
If you want to work in the UK film industry, you'll find that film production apprenticeships with studios are rarely advertised, as entry-level positions (usually starting as a runner) are often filled through word of mouth and having the right contacts. Explore the different roles at jobs in the film industry.
However, organisations such as ScreenSkills have partnered with the likes of Netflix and Warner Bros in taking on around 20 apprentices a year for its 14 to 17-month apprenticeships in TV and film. With this apprenticeship programme, you can choose to become either an assistant production accountant or broadcast production assistant. The 2021 intake was disrupted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but it should be available again in future years.
The National Youth Film Academy also helps to place young people (aged 16 to 29) with UK and global film companies such as Vertigo Films.
What do media apprenticeships involve?
The nature of these specific programmes will depend on the area of specialism - for instance, TV production apprenticeships generally involve you working behind the scenes, performing a range of tasks on set to help everything run as smoothly as possible.
On the BBC's 18-month Level 3 Production Apprenticeship Fast Track (UK), available across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there's the opportunity to gain content (editorial or craft skills) or production management experience while achieving a qualification.
For example, in Scotland, you can work towards the Level 3 Creative Media apprenticeship by studying at Glasgow Kelvin College. In England you can complete a Level 3 Production Assistant (Screen & Audio) apprenticeship or Content Creator apprenticeship and Certificate in Creative Content Production.
While on these schemes you'll get to come up with stories and ideas for content (editorial) or learn how to successfully bring a production to life (production management). By the end of the apprenticeship, you'll understand the various stages of the application process from the initial idea all the way through to the finished piece of content.
Whether you're interested in radio, TV or digital media apprenticeships, with a large employer such as the BBC, there's always plenty of choice.
To explore different roles and how an apprenticeship might allow you to put your skills to good use, see graduate media jobs.
Who are they aimed at?
With no upper age limit, as long as you're over 16 and meet the employer requirements, you're eligible to apply for a media apprenticeship.
Despite this, apprenticeship providers will have a particular skillset or education background in mind when inviting candidates to apply for one of their programmes. This is mainly due to the level of the apprenticeship.
For example, ITV see their apprenticeships as ideal for school or college leavers as an alternative to university - as they're set at Level 4 (equivalent to a foundation degree). They don't expect you to have acquired much relevant work experience at this point but are hoping to find new talent from all walks of life who can flourish in the media industry.
How much will I be paid?
As an apprentice, you'll be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW), which currently stands at £4.81 per hour for those under 19, as well as apprentices aged over 19 who are in their first year (from April 2022).
If you're over 19 and have completed your first year, you'll be paid the minimum wage for your age. See GOV.UK - National Minimum Wage Rates for more information.
While working as an apprentice, you'll be paid for your regular working hours, as well as for any training that's part of the scheme. You'll also be entitled to 20 days paid holiday each year, plus bank holidays.
As your salary is set by the employer, you may be paid more than the minimum. For example, if you're on the BBC Production Apprenticeship Fast Track (UK), you'll get a starting salary of £15,074 (those based in London receive an additional £4,729) a year plus 25 days holiday and all your training fees paid for.
How do I become a media apprentice?
Most applications will be made online as you would when applying for any job. See the individual employer's website for details of what they expect from you.
You'll find that media apprenticeships could start at any time of year. For example, Channel 4 applications for the 2022 cohort are open until April or May of that year, with apprenticeship start dates in July or September.
What about media work experience and internships?
Even if there aren't any apprenticeship vacancies being advertised in your chosen field, you may still be able to land an internship or gain some form of work experience through a media company.
For instance, the Royal Television Society provides information for those interested in entry-level training opportunities in television production.
While big studios in the thriving video game industry rarely offer apprenticeships, internships may be available as a route into this popular field - see video game careers.
Set up to tackle a lack of diversity in the sector, Creative Access is an organisation that helps students from underrepresented ethnic groups and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds to secure media internships. Read more about diversity and improved opportunities.
Also, by building a digital portfolio of your work, making a showreel of your talents, learning how to start your own blog or vlog, these are all creative ways of increasing your chances of gaining media experience. Discover our 5 tips for getting media work experience.
Find out more
- Explore what else is involved with an apprenticeship.
- Get an overview of the UK's media sector.
- Consider careers in music.