4 September 2023

The 4 Types of Apprenticeships

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Choosing your next step after school or college can be tricky. Trickier than winning a staring contest with an owl. With so many options out there, how exactly do you choose the right one?

We’ve put together this guide to help you get your head around the different types of apprenticeships you can apply for. You never know, you may just discover the perfect one for you…

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are specifically designed for young people who want to hop, skip and jump into a career straight after leaving school.

They combine on-the-job experience with academic study. Better yet, they pay you a full-time wage so you can finally buy that car you’ve always wanted.

Unlike those who go straight to university, as an apprentice you’ll know all the theory behind your job, your way around the office or shop floor, and where the best spot for a bite in town is.

Find out what Sir Ian McKellan, Alex Ferguson and Jamie Oliver all have in common in this discussion between MP Rishi Sunak and a panel of CEOs and apprentices…

What are the 4 types of apprenticeships?

There are four levels of apprenticeships: intermediate, advanced, higher, and degree. Keep scrolling to find out what each level involves. And what you need to apply.

Level 2 apprenticeships (Intermediate)

Level 2 apprenticeships are the first step on the apprenticeship ladder. They’re ideal for those who have either:

  • Two GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C)
  • A traineeship
  • Recent work experience.

What you’ll get

As a level 2 apprentice, you’ll gain on-the-job experience alongside qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs. You’ll get a full-time wage for the duration of your apprenticeship as well.


Level 2 apprenticeships take around 12 – 18 months to complete. Doing one will allow you to progress on to a level 3 apprenticeship, a BTEC or full-time employment.

“I really enjoyed the programme as the learning was varied enough to maintain my interest such as research tasks, e-learning and presentations. My tutors’ teaching style complimented my learning. I also liked the end point assessment, and planning this showcase from the start of the programme until completion really reinforced my development over the 12 months.”

(HEO Team Leader, Government Economic Service)

Level 3 apprenticeships (Advanced)

Level 3 apprenticeships are a great option if you’ve:

  • Just completed your GCSEs
  • Been awarded five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C).

What you’ll get

Similarly to a level 2 apprenticeship, level 3 apprentices combine work training with academic study. You’ll earn a wage and gain qualifications equivalent to two A-Levels.


Level 3 apprenticeships take up to 2 years to complete. However, the length of your programme will depend on your employer and capabilities.

“I’ve learnt so many new skills since starting my apprenticeship, from basic skills such as being able to use Excel to being able to manage social media content to increase consumer engagement. I’ve also learnt how to manage my calendar more effectively, which I’ll be able to take into any role in the future.”

(Level 3 Apprentice & Beauty Marketing Associate at Unilever)

Level 4/5 apprenticeships (Higher)

Higher apprenticeships, also referred to as level 4 or level 5 apprenticeships, are designed for school leavers aged 18+. These programmes focus on:

  • Developing management-based skills
  • Practical skills required to work in a particular field.

What you’ll get

Level 4/5 apprenticeships are a great option for school leavers with either two A-Levels or a level 3 apprenticeship under their belt.

They’ll give you work experience, qualifications equivalent to a foundation degree, Higher National Diploma (HND), or Higher National Certificate (HNC).


These apprenticeships can last anywhere between 3-4 years. The academic modules are usually spent in a further or higher education institution. The rest of a higher apprentice’s time is spent working for a company.

“I think there is a pressure for students to go down the traditional route of sixth form, university, then getting a job. And that’s fine if it’s for you. But there’s an alternative route you can take. If I want to take my development further I can now do a Level 5 course, which is the equivalent to a degree – and I don’t have to pay for that.”

(Muhammed, Apprentice at Yorkshire Housing)

Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are the pinnacle of apprenticeships and a once in a lifetime opportunity to earn a degree – for FREE.

So while your friends are taking out expensive student loans that will take them years to pay back, as a degree apprentice you’ll earn the very same qualification without spending a dime.

“I was working in Domino’s and doing a part-time degree in physics. I came across an apprenticeship at the Department of Engineering and it seemed the perfect opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge to the real world and learn more about working in electronics.”

(Catia, Electronics Apprentice at the Department of Engineering, Cambridge University)

Are you a parent? Head over to our ParentsHub, a dedicated space full of comprehensive resources to support your child.

Which industries offer apprenticeships?

Whether you’re hoping to become the next CEO of Tesla or Editor of Vogue, an apprenticeship can pave the way. In fact, you can pretty much do an apprenticeship in any industry these days.

Not got a clue what you want to do? We recommend reflecting on the skills, interests and qualities you already possess, before browsing the list below to figure out which sector appeals to you the most.

What is the most common apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are becoming more and more common these days, with thousands of young people signing up to a scheme each year.

But the most popular schemes are those in business, finance and technology – with a Level 3 Business Apprenticeship receiving 436 applications in 2022.

Below are the top apprenticeship employers in the world of business…

What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?

From learning new skills to getting your first taste of financial freedom, there are countless benefits to doing an apprenticeship…

1) Gain hands-on experience

As you’ll be working with experienced professionals throughout your scheme, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to develop your skill set and gain hands-on experience in the workplace.

2) Earn while you learn

Apprenticeships give you the chance to earn while you learn. Not only will you get paid to expand your knowledge, your tuition fees will be covered by your employer too.

So if the idea of racking up £50,000 in debt gives you brain freeze and has you running in the completely opposite direction, an apprenticeship will bail you out, for sure.

3) Gain industry-recognised qualifications

During your apprenticeship, you’ll be studying towards a nationally recognised qualification, which will improve your employment prospects and show recruiters that you’re the best candidate for their jobs.

4) Student discounts

One of the perks of doing an apprenticeship is that you’ll be entitled to a TOTUM student discount card. So you’ll be able to get some really good deals on gym memberships, restaurants, cinema tickets and shops.