Apprenticeships for 18 year olds

More and more school and college leavers are choosing to do an apprenticeship. More and more of your peers are gaining great qualifications, valuable skills and work experience, and are getting paid a cracking salary at the same time.

Perhaps you weren't aware, there are now apprenticeships for 18 year olds in a wide-range of industries. Did you know, a higher level apprenticeship is a pathway to a career in law, engineering or accounting?

"Crumbs! Higher apprenticeships sound great! How do these schemes work?"

Read on for our guide to apprenticeships for 18 year olds... we will reveal secrets about how apprenticeships work, we will tackle some myths and pre-conceptions surrounding them, and show you how to find the scheme that is right for you.

If an extended overview of apprenticeships sounds spectacular, read our Guide to Apprenticeships. Our guide has all you need to know about the apprenticeship market, and more...

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are schemes which combine academic study with on-the-job training. All apprentices are employed as a full-time member of staff within a company, and develop practical skills through real-work. On the side, apprentices work towards the relevant qualifications they need for a career in that industry.

There are three main levels of apprenticeship; intermediate (level 2), advanced (level 3), and higher apprenticeships (level 4/5). While all three levels are available to candidates aged 18 or above, higher apprenticeships have been specifically designed for school and college leavers.

In addition, the government have released frameworks for a new type of apprenticeship, a degree apprenticeship (level 6/7).

All of these schemes are an opportunity for you to enter the world of work, to gain nationally certified qualifications and earn a salary. They are an alternative route for you to make your first steps towards a senior level position in an array of different industries.

Applying for an apprenticeship? Brilliant. You're going to need an apprenticeship CV and cover letter for an apprenticeship application. Follow the steps in our Guide to Writing an Apprenticeship CV, and A Guide to Writing an Apprenticeship Cover Letter, and employers will fight off a pack of starving wolves to get to you.

How do apprenticeships work?

Apprentices spend the majority of their time in the workplace. These schemes are designed to prepare an apprentice for a specific role within a company or industry, which is why there is a focus on on-the-job training.

If you do an apprenticeship, you will be working with experienced professionals from an industry. It is from working alongside these experienced professionals, that you will develop the practical skills and knowledge which is needed to work in that field.

When you are not working with your employer, you will be working towards qualifications at a training centre or college. The arrangement of work and study periods will depend on the company that organises the apprenticeship.

Some schemes are structured so that apprentices work with their employer for consecutive weeks or months, with week-long intervals to attend college. In contrast, there are schemes in which an apprentice will spend four days in a week with their employer, and one day at college.

It is best to check the information provided in job vacancies, or on company websites, for specific information about how an apprenticeship is structured.



School leavers that go to university are always better off than those who don’t


An apprenticeship is an opportunity to fast-track your career, so many apprentices get onto the career ladder more quickly than graduates


University is NOT always the quickest route towards a career in a wide-range of industries. Some apprenticeships for 18 year olds will fast-track your career, meaning you qualify faster than a graduate. In fact, a study by the Sutton Trust suggests that higher level apprentices can earn more over their lifetimes than the majority of graduates

The best apprentices – those with a level 5 qualification – will earn £50,000 more in their lifetime than someone with an undergraduate degree from a university outside of the Russell Group, taking home close to £1.5m over their career. (The Sutton Trust, 2015)


University is the best path for high achievers


Now that there is a broad range of programmes, not all high achievers go to university


Some apprenticeships for 18 year olds and other school leaver schemes require applicants to have three A-levels to be considered. The Top 70 Employers hiring apprentices look for university-quality school leavers who want to kick-start their career. Entry requirements range from two Cs to three As at A-level, but employers also look out for good GCSEs, aptitude, enthusiasm and commercial awareness.


Apprenticeships are just for tradespeople


There are now apprenticeships for 18 year olds in white collar industries like law, banking and engineering.


Modern apprenticeships have changed a lot in recent years. You can now do apprenticeships in an exciting range of industries, from accounting to business, to pharmaceuticals and engineering. As apprenticeships have developed and improved, other programmes like sponsored degrees and degree apprenticeships have been designed, to widen the horizons of school leavers in the UK.

Apprenticeships for 18 year olds

There are three different types of schemes which have been designed for 18 year olds - higher apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships and school leaver programmes. Keep reading for an overview of each scheme, including the entry requirements and the qualifications you could achieve.

Higher Apprenticeships

Higher apprenticeships, also called level 4/5 apprenticeships, are the highest level of the modern apprenticeship. Last year, there were 27,160 higher apprenticeship starts.

There were noticeably fewer level 4/5 apprenticeships starts compared to intermediate and advanced apprenticeships last year, and this issue is being addressed. The Skills Funding Agency have reported that 'there are 75 higher and degree apprenticeships available, with more in development'.

A higher apprenticeship can last between three to four years.


The entry requirements for a higher apprenticeship will depend on the company you are working for. However, the minimum requirements an employer will be looking for are:

  • two or more A levels
  • or an advanced apprenticeship
  • Applicants also have to be aged 18 or above.


    Higher apprentices are awarded with a level 4 competence qualification, and a knowledge based certificate (likely to be a higher national diploma (HND), foundation degree or undergraduate degree).

If you're interested in a more comprehensive overview of higher (level 4/5) apprenticeships, check out our Guide to Higher Apprenticeships.

Degree Apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships (level 6/7) are the newest level of apprenticeship. These schemes have been developed through a collaboration between the Tech Partnership and universities.

They are similar to intermediate, advanced and higher apprenticeships in structure. Degree apprentices work full-time for an employer, and study towards a full honours degree on the side. There are no tuition fees, and all degree apprentices receive a salary!

A degree apprenticeship can last anywhere between three to five years, with a Bachelor's or Master's degree awarded on completion.


The entry requirements set by employers can vary from scheme to scheme. The majority of employers look for applicants with at least two relevant A-levels. There are other programmes which have a set number of UCAS points as an alternative requirement, typically between 104-120.

Employers also accept candidates who have completed lower level apprenticeships. If you have an advanced, or higher level apprenticeship under your belt, you may also be eligible for a degree apprenticeship!

In a survey, 'The Age of Apprenticeships', carried out by the Chartered Management Institute, 78% of parents believed that degree apprenticeships were better value for money than a traditional university degree. (The average debt of university graduates is an eye-watering £44,000!)

Even if money were no object, 62% of parents also maintained they would rather their child applied for a degree apprenticeship, instead of a traditional degree.


Degree apprentices will gain a full Bachelor's or Master's degree if they complete their programme. Furthermore, candidates may also receive professional qualifications, if they are needed for the job role on offer.

If a degree apprenticeship has tickled your fancy, check out our Guide to Degree Apprenticeships, for jobs, reviews and advice on applying for a degree apprenticeship.

Reviews of apprenticeships for 18 year olds

Higher apprenticeships... degree apprenticeships... school leaver programmes... the possibilities are endless. There are almost too many fantastic apprenticeships for you to apply for.

'How do I find the right scheme?'

We can feel your anguish, and RateMyApprenticeship is here to help. We have over 7000 reviews of apprenticeships for 18 year olds.

Each review is written by an apprentice who has finished, or is still completing a scheme. They provide a candid insight into what it is like to be an apprentice at one of the UK's biggest companies. The reviews reveal valuable information about the content and structure of different apprenticeships, the support received from the employer, and the opportunities available outside of work.

If you are applying for a scheme, the reviews are a must-read!

Click here to disappear to our reviews page.

“A higher apprenticeship will enable people in work to gain a qualification and gain the skills and competence they need to do a senior level role in a particular industry."

5 reasons why YOU should choose an apprenticeship...

1. WIDE-RANGE OF SCHEMES  There is an incredible range of apprenticeships on offer. Whatever industry you dream of working in, or career path you want to take, there is an apprenticeship designed to help you get there.

2. FANTASTIC QUALIFICATIONS  Apprenticeships for 18 year olds are a pathway to fantastic qualifications. Whether it be a full bachelor's degree, a foundation degree, a higher national diploma or a higher national certificate, all apprentices gain the qualifications they need to carve out a career in a particular industry.

3. WORKING ALONGSIDE EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS  An apprenticeship is an opportunity to work with, and learn from experienced professionals in an industry. These colleagues are not only crucial to your training, but are contacts that might come in handy in your future career.

4. SALARY  All apprenticeships and school leaver programmes pay a salary for the duration of the scheme. Apprentices earn and learn at the same time! Furthermore, apprentices avoid tuition fees and the debts that saddle university graduates.

5. WORK-READY  The majority of higher apprentices and degrees apprentices secure a permanent role at the end of their scheme. In fact, in 2014/15, 71% of apprentices were retained by their employers after their scheme had ended. However, even if you are not offered a permanent job at the end of your apprenticeship, you will be highly employable! Apprentices are work-ready. The combination of work experience, qualifications and the development of job specific skills will have employers stalking you - in a good way.

Apply for an apprenticeship today!