Guide To NHS Apprenticeships

Did you know that the NHS is the largest employer in the UK and 5th largest in the world? It just misses out on 4th place to McDonald’s… There are more people serving Happy Meals and McChicken Sandwiches than there are doctors and nurses - that’s frightening.

Guide To NHS Apprenticeships

Our NHS is pretty spectacular. But it's also one of the most under-appreciated sectors in the UK (loads of us take the luxury of free healthcare for granted).

On top of that, it's one of the largest employers in the WORLD. The NHS deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. That's the entire population of Birmingham.

In this guide, you'll find a breakdown of some of the coolest apprenticeships on offer, from paramedic and physiotherapy apprenticeships to the new medical doctor apprenticeship. You'll also get insights into what it's like working in this incredible sector.

Want to make a real difference in the world? Read on to discover how an NHS apprenticeship can set you up for a lifetime of rewarding work.

Can you do an apprenticeship in the NHS?

The good news is there are hundreds of NHS apprenticeships to choose from.

You could become a nurse and provide hands-on care to patients in a cancer ward. Or work as a maternity support worker, looking after mums as they move from pregnancy to childbirth.

Interested in business administration? Why not jump into an office management role. You'll work behind the scenes - meeting or hiring staff, managing enquiries and putting your client services skills into full swing. How awesome is that?

NHS apprenticeships are a BRILLIANT way to kick-start your career after leaving school. They allow you to receive on-the-job training, nationally recognised qualifications and a fab wage too.

Three for the price of one - sign us up!

"My role involves being based at reception, greeting visitors, pointing them in the right direction, and letting the executives know when visitors arrive. Also, I manage the Trust's retirement gifts process. So I organise the gifts for the retiree based on their eligibility to the criteria, then arrange for the manager to sort the gifts out, ready for presentation." (Business Administration Apprentice, NHS)

NHS roles

Here are some examples of NHS apprenticeships that are currently available:

  • Pharmacy services assistant

  • Dental nursing

  • Associate ambulance practitioner

  • HR consultant.

How do NHS apprenticeships work?

As an apprentice, you'll split your time between working for your employer and studying at college. Your schedule depends on your employer. However, you'll usually spend four days a week at work and one day a week on independent study.

Throughout your programme, you'll develop key skills and broaden existing ones until you become fully qualified in your chosen sector. Once you've finished, you'll either:

  • Continue working for your employer - in a permanent role

  • Work for a new employer

  • Further your professional training with a higher level apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship levels

NHS apprenticeships come in levels, a bit like car gears. The higher the gear, the faster the car - the more advanced your qualification.

There are four apprenticeship levels, depending on your age and experience:

Intermediate apprenticeships

If you're 16 and starting your career, you'll be on a level 2 apprenticeship. These apprenticeships introduce you to your chosen industry and allow you to experience working in a real-life setting.

Advanced apprenticeships

Once you've gained some experience, you can move up to a level 3 apprenticeship. Level 3 apprenticeships are a step above level 2 apprenticeships. They allow you to put everything you've learnt at intermediate level straight into practice and take up more responsibilities too.

Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are the meatiest of apprenticeships. You'll earn a degree, tuition fee - FREE. What? That's right - you won't have to pay a single penny towards university fees as the government and your employer will cover those for you.

Really? Yes - they're THAT good.

Hear what this degree apprentice had to say about their apprenticeship in healthcare.

"My role as a healthcare assistant is to chaperone doctors and nurses when a patient is having a procedure. I set up the clinic rooms. order stock for the whole unit, monitor daily temperatures, carry out phlebotomy and update paperwork as required." (Healthcare Assistant, NHS)


How long is an NHS apprenticeship?

NHS apprenticeships can take anywhere from one to four years to complete. They're a marathon, not a sprint. Unless you're an Olympian of course!

If you're an intermediate apprentice, you'll need around 12 - 18 months to finish your programme. However, if you're an advanced apprentice, you're looking at 2 - 4 years.

Degree apprenticeships tend to be the longest. They take 3 years (full-time) and 6 years (part-time).

But the rewards are invaluable. Imagine going to work every day knowing what you're doing is changing someone's life. Or saving it. Nothing beats that feeling.

Entry requirements

Typically, you'll find the entry requirements for each apprenticeship type are…

Intermediate apprenticeship: two GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (or A* - C) - in Maths and English

Advanced apprenticeship: five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (or A* - C) - in Maths and English

Higher apprenticeship: two A-Levels at grades 9 to 4 (or A* - C) - sometimes in specific subjects

Degree apprenticeship: three A-Levels at grades 9 to 4 (or A* - C) - required subjects usually depend on your employer.

Types of NHS apprenticeships

Did you know that over 1.7 million people work for the NHS? In 350 different roles? That's huge!

So if you haven't found your dream job yet, don't panic. There are tons more opportunities out there for you.

In the meantime, here's a bunch of roles that'll tickle your taste buds for sure…

Doctor apprenticeship

Want to become a doctor, but feeling iffy about all the debt you'd rack up? Don't worry. Apply for a medical doctor apprenticeship and become a doctor for FREE.

You'll get the same high standard training you would doing a traditional degree. And work with lots of people too - including patients, carers, nurses and social care staff.

The only difference is you'll earn a wage AND gain years of practical experience in the process - making you work-ready by the time you finish your programme. That's quality.

The whole point of the doctor apprenticeship is to make the industry diverse and accessible for all. So if you're talented and hard-working - and passionate about helping others, absolutely go for it.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for the doctor apprenticeship will be set by the NHS and your medical school. So make sure you check their website and read through the job description carefully before applying.

Physiotherapy apprenticeships

Physiotherapists help those with injuries or disabilities by using their knowledge and expertise to improve patient health. They assess patients and come up with a range of treatment programmes that will help them with their recovery.

Physiotherapy apprenticeships involve:

  • Manual therapy, such as joint mobilisation

  • Therapeutic exercises, like knee, shoulder or lower back stretches

  • Electrotherapy.

Patients are likely to need physiotherapy if their condition is:

  • Neurological (Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis or stroke)

  • Neuromusculoskeletal (cramps, aches, pains)

  • Respiratory (cystic fibrosis, asthma, COPD)

  • Cardiovascular (heart disease).

Entry requirements

  • Three A-Levels at grades 9 to 4 (or A* - C) - including Maths, English and Science (Biology or Human Biology).

Watch this video to learn more about physiotherapy apprenticeships.

Paramedic apprenticeships

Paramedics are heroes. Quite literally. They respond to 999 calls, quickly assess a patient's condition and get them to urgent medical centres as quickly as possible. But that's not all.

As a paramedic, you'll deal with situations that aren't as urgent either. You'll work with GPs, nurses and pharmacists, managing patients living closer to home. You'll also support their families and friends (or members of the public) by providing medical advice as and when needed.

On a daily basis, a paramedic apprenticeship will have you:

  • Assessing a patient's health and providing emergency treatment

  • Resuscitating and stabilising patients using CPR techniques

  • Driving emergency vehicles

  • Collecting stats, writing up patient notes and creating reports.

Entry requirements

  • Four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) - including Maths, English and Science (Biology or Human Biology).

"My paramedic apprenticeship involves providing emergency care to members of the public including life support, wound care, and social services, as well as transporting patients to hospital. I also perform medical interventions like cannulation and medication administration." (Paramedic Apprentice, East Midlands Ambulance Service)

Want to find out more about what it's really like to work for the NHS? Have a read of over 40,000 student-written reviews.


How much do apprentices get paid?

One of the many reasons NHS apprenticeships are AMAZING is - the pay. As an NHS apprentice, you'll get paid a salary just like any other employee.

An apprenticeship pays you for:

  • Your working hours

  • Any training that's part of your programme

  • Extra courses you might have to take, for example - Maths and English.

National Minimum Wage

While your salary depends on your employer and apprenticeship level, you'll still earn the National Minimum Wage. This is the minimum hourly wage that all employees are entitled to. Some employers will pay you more, so do check their website when applying.


NHS pay comes in bands. Not rubber bands. Or those orthodontic bands you use on fixed braces. Bands, as in categories. Those are the bands we're interested in.

As a new starter, you'll be joining the industry on a Band 2 salary (£20,758 a year). The more experienced you become, the more you'll earn. Until you work your way to - who knows - a podiatric consultant and take home a giant £100K+ a year.

It's possible!

Working for the NHS is tough. You'll work long hours and deal with difficult situations. However, it's also one of the most fulfiling things you can do. Bringing exciting challenges, opportunities and friendships along the way.

Find a career with meaning. Apply for the NHS, today.

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