Apprenticeship programmes are a brilliant option if you want to gain on-the-job experience and professional qualifications straight out of school. And the best part? You'll earn a real salary from day one.

If you’re unsure about going to university, you have two options. Join the circus, or bag yourself some extra qualifications that will help you thrive in your future career.

The circus is tempting, it has claimed many school leavers, but there’s a lot of back-flipping involved. Perhaps then, if university or the circus are not the right path, you should consider doing an apprenticeship.

Keep reading to find out exactly what an apprenticeship is, how they work, and which apprenticeship scheme is the right choice for you...

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What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a paid work opportunity for school leavers. As an apprentice, you’ll gain on-the-job experience and professional qualifications. You’ll also be paid a wage and build vital skills that are relevant to your chosen industry.

Apprenticeship schemes are a great choice for school leavers, or those between the ages of 16 and 24, who don’t intend to complete sixth form or attend university.

They involve working with experienced staff who can teach you the ins and outs of a profession. Apprentices learn from the best; the seasoned pros who know their way around a building site or a trading floor, and know where the best sandwich shops are.

Apprenticeships are smashing, and previous Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Alex Burghart, agrees.

"Apprenticeships are a fantastic way for people of all ages to develop the skills they need to progress across a huge range of exciting and in demand industries. Designed and developed by industry, they provide the skills that individuals need to get on the path to a well-paid job and for businesses to build a skilled workforce." (previous Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Alex Burghart)

Watch this video from AMRC Training Centre to hear more about the structure of apprenticeships and how they work:

How do apprenticeships work?

As an apprentice, your time will be split between gaining hands-on experience and studying for an industry-recognised qualification.

Apprentices typically work for a minimum of 30 hours a week for 30 weeks a year. However, the structure of an apprenticeship programme can vary depending on the type of scheme and employer that you work for.

Some apprenticeship programmes may require you to work four days a week and study for your qualification on the fifth day, while others involve working full-time for a set number of weeks and then spending an entire week studying.

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"For some people, the archetypal education system just doesn’t work. Learning through theory does nothing to spark the imagination, or even hold the attention. In contrast, a hands-on approach, where an individual can be given the trust and responsibility to work on projects and learn through practice, can provide the fastest and most enjoyable way to learn." (Jordan Richards, founder and CEO of RCCO)

What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship schemes offer a variety of fantastic benefits. Check out our top 5 below...

1. Earn while you learn

An apprenticeship is a real job, which means you’ll be paid a full-time wage for the duration of the scheme. You could save up for the latest iPhone or even your first car, all while gaining a qualification too!

The apprentice wage depends on your age and the type of apprenticeship programme you are doing, but you could earn up to £21,799 a year. (That’s £1,500 in your pocket every month!)

At the very least, you will be paid in line with the National Minimum Wage.

"Earning my own money is one of the best things about being an apprentice. I can contribute at home, do what I want with my mates, and take good care of myself." (Alim, Channel 4 Apprentice)

Read our blog on the Highest Paid Apprenticeships in the UK to find out more.

2. Enjoy employee perks

If getting paid wasn’t enough, as an apprentice you will also be entitled to employee benefits like paid holiday, gym membership discounts and healthcare.

3. Upskill yourself

An apprenticeship is a great way to get work experience straight after leaving school. It will also teach you invaluable skills in your chosen industry that you can add to your CV to kickstart your career.

4. Gain professional qualifications

All apprentices must spend 20% of their time studying for professional qualifications, which are industry-recognised and highly valued by employers. Armed with these qualifications, your career will skyrocket almost as quickly as TikTok star-turned-popstar Olivia Rodrigo’s.

5. Achieve your potential

A whopping 91% of apprentices go on to secure employment or further training after completing their scheme.

Apprenticeship programmes are specifically designed to help you workyour way up the career ladder and, ultimately, achieve your dreams. So whether you want to be the next editor of Vogue or a high-flying investment banker, an apprenticeship can pave the way.

To get the inside scoop on what it’s like to do an apprenticeship, have a read through these honest reviews submitted by former apprentices...

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Which industries offer apprenticeships?

Many of the UK’s biggest and brightest companies offer apprenticeships in a wide range of industries. Below is a list of some of the industries that are currently running apprenticeship schemes...

This should give you an idea of what’s on offer, however, don’t panic if you can’t see your dream job there. You can find apprenticeships in 1,500 occupations across more than 170 industries. So you’re bound to find something that fits your career goals.

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What are the different types of apprenticeships?

There are three different types of apprenticeship programmes available: intermediate, advanced, higher and degree level. Each one has different entry requirements and awards you different qualifications.

Let’s break it down...

Level 2 apprenticeships (Intermediate)

Level 2 apprenticeships are designed for students with two or more GCSEs graded at levels 9 to 4 (A* to C). However, if you do not have GCSEs, you can complete a traineeship or relevant work experience to qualify for an intermediate apprenticeship instead.

Level 2 apprentices spend their time developing skills on-the-job and studying towards a vocational qualification. At the end of your Level 2 apprenticeship, you will have gained a qualification equivalent to five GCSEs. After this, you can then work towards a BTEC, or begin a Level 3 apprenticeship.

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"In the first two quarters of the 2020/21 academic year, there were 41,500 intermediate apprenticeship starts." (Research Briefings, Apprenticeship Statistics for England)

Level 3 apprenticeships (Advanced)

Level 3 apprenticeships are the next step after Level 2 apprenticeships. To apply, you’ll need 5 GCSEs graded at 9 to 4 (A* to C) and, similarly to a Level 2 apprenticeship, you will combine on-the-job training with studying for a vocational qualification.

If you complete a Level 3 apprenticeship programme, you’ll be rewarded with a Level 3 NVQ and a knowledge-based qualification equivalent to two A-Levels. To find out more about what it’s like to be a Level 3 apprentice, check out this review from a Level 3 apprentice at NatWest.

Search for Level 3 apprenticeships →

Level 4/5 apprenticeships (Higher)

To apply for a Level 4 or 5 apprenticeship, you need to have either gained two A-Levels or completed a Level 3 apprenticeship. Level 4 apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with academic study.

Level 4 apprenticeship schemes give you the opportunity to gain qualifications equivalent to a foundation degree, Higher National Diploma (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC). They typically take 18 to 24 months to complete.

Completing a Level 4/5 apprenticeship makes you highly employable in your chosen industry. In fact, when a higher apprentice walks into a room, everybody stops talking. One person claps, then another, and soon enough, the entire room is cheering and stamping their feet. The crowd demands autographs, selfies and a speech.

And you’re just one click away from becoming one...

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Degree Apprenticeships (Level 6/7)

A degree apprenticeship is a marvellous option if you’d like to start working straight out of school and also gain a university degree. Indeed, as the name suggests, a degree apprenticeship allows you to earn either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree - just like any of your fellow classmates that attend university.

However, unlike university students, as a degree apprentice you will also pick up on-the-job experience and earn a salary throughout your degree. And that’s not all! Your employers will also pay your university fees, so you won’t have to take out any student loans or use up your savings to get qualified.

Apply for degree apprenticeships →

"I love my programme because it offers me flexibility by going into different rotations and experiencing different aspects of the business. I am also treated as a full-time employee and able to study for a degree at the same time."(Technology Degree Apprentice at Visa)

Where can I do an apprenticeship?

With apprenticeships available all over the country, there is no limit on where you can do an apprenticeship. Major organisations are constantly rolling out new apprenticeship programmes and taking on apprentices across the UK.

Each year, reveals the Best 100 Apprenticeship Employers & Training Providers. These companies have been voted for by over 4,500 apprentices. (So you know they’re legit.)

Apprenticeships in London

Some of the world’s largest companies, including PwC, IBM, Accenture and Aon, have their headquarters in London and, as such, offer their apprenticeship programmes there.

Alongside an apprenticeship, think of all the exciting things you could do while you’re in London!

You could visit the Houses of Parliament. You could ride a London bus, that’s always an experience. You could even have an awkward chat with a commuter on the underground. If you’re feeling really bold, you could go to Hyde Park - feed the ducks, hire a pedalo.

If that doesn’t sound like the time of your life, there are also plenty of apprenticeship opportunities outside of London. If you visit the jobs page on, you can filter your search to find apprenticeships near you.

Search for apprenticeships in London →

How can I apply for an apprenticeship?

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and apply for an apprenticeship! How exciting. All that’s left for you to do is pick a programme you like the sound of and convince the employer to take you on.

Apprenticeships have become even more popular since COVID-19, with 75% of young people considering doing one to future-proof their career. But you shouldn’t let that put you off. Remember, as long as you meet the entry requirements and put the time in to prepare, you’ve got as good a chance as anyone else.

The application process usually goes something like this...

Check out our blog on the Application Apprenticeship Journey to make sure you understand what will be expected of you at each stage.

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