Apprenticeships in the UK: How to Apply, Types and Levels

Apprenticeships in the UK: How to Apply, Types and Levels

Uploaded on
Sep 19, 2022
Last updated on
Nov 14, 2022
Uploaded on
Sep 19, 2022
Last updated on
Nov 14, 2022
Apprenticeships in the UK
This ship won't sink!

A straight A student walked confidently into their job interview and was asked, “You have no experience in this field, so why do you expect such a high salary?” The candidate was unphased and replied, “Well jobs are a lot harder when you don’t know what you’re doing.” He didn’t get the job, but he got a good laugh. Well, there’s a bit of truth behind every joke.

More and more students are coming to realise that after graduation, while they hold a degree, they don’t have any actual work experience to show employers. If you’ve already started wondering about your future career and what you can do to help it, you’ve come to the right place. Applying for an apprenticeship is an excellent way for you to get some real job experience alongside your education. Not sure what an apprenticeship is? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

What is an apprenticeship?

Heard of learning on the job? That’s the philosophy of an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are jobs where you can learn, work and gain job experience as a student. Applying for an apprenticeship is a great way for you to gain hands-on experience that will help you in your future career. If you’re hesitant about the idea, this is your sign to let go of any doubts and begin applying for an apprenticeship. 

Who are apprenticeships for?

Anyone older than 16 years of age can consider applying for an apprenticeship in the UK. You don’t need to be enrolled in a degree program to pursue an apprenticeship. Even if you are pursuing an education, if you make time and think you can manage part-time work along with your course load, you should consider applying for an apprenticeship. If you’re residing in the country while pursuing your education, you are eligible to apply for an apprenticeship.

Levels of apprenticeships in the UK

Apprenticeship Levels in th UK

Before applying for an apprenticeship, you should know how they are structured. Once you’ve successfully completed an apprenticeship, you are assigned a basic skill level in that field. In the UK, levels of education range from 1 to 8, with 1 representing low GCSE marks and 8 representing the greatest degree a university may award, the PhD. There are four different levels of apprenticeship in the UK:


Time to complete: 12-18 months

The most common kind of apprenticeships in the UK are intermediate apprenticeships, also referred to as Level 2 apprenticeships. Intermediate apprenticeships are the lowest level in terms of academic achievement. They translate to five GCSEs at the A-C level, or 9 to 4 on the new scale. They remain popular because they provide a strong foundation for starting a new career and allow one to earn a level 2 qualification without having to attend school or college full-time.


Time to complete: 15-18 months

Level 3 or advanced apprenticeships are the next level up and are the equivalent of two strong A-Level passes, a BTEC, or a Level 3 NVQ (National Vocational Qualifications). These apprenticeships offer a fantastic chance for recent graduates to gain experience in their chosen sector while also pursuing a related degree. It's like walking a tightrope with a harness - it may seem scary, but you know your safety is guaranteed. 


Time to complete: 3-5 years

Higher apprenticeships are available at levels 4 through 7. The simplest way to describe them is that: in the hierarchy of education, Degree 4 is the level of education that comes after A Levels and Scottish Highers and is superior to a Btec or Level 3 NVQ (National Vocational Qualifications). In this apprenticeship level, you will leave with a comprehensive understanding of the field you were working in. 


Time to complete: 3-6 years

This is a level 6 apprenticeship in the UK and is equivalent to an undergraduate level degree. A level 6 or degree apprenticeship would be most suitable for someone who is not currently a full-time or part-time student. This apprenticeship program is very time-consuming so you should think carefully before applying for a degree apprenticeship. Once you are done, you will have a solid base of work experience and have already started building up your savings. 

Types of apprenticeship programs 

Given the sheer number of opportunities available, its easy to get overwhelmed when applying for an apprenticeship. To make finding and researching apprenticeships in the UK  easier, they are divided by industry and level. The different apprenticeship levels can be pursued across industries, and the UK has more than 500 apprenticeship programs to offer. 

Business apprenticeships

Business apprenticeships can include a variety of activities and are primarily focused on assisting an organisation in operating efficiently. You can find various options to choose from, like apprenticeships in business administration, company development, consulting, management, or even leadership. Some business apprenticeships include other disciplines like law and finance, and related career paths include accounting and human resources.

Law apprenticeships

The law apprenticeships offered in the UK are primarily government-funded schemes. People that apply to this particular apprenticeship are usually fresh out of school or young professionals looking for a change in their career. These programs are usually split across three broad levels: legal administration/support, paralegal, or solicitor. There is also a specialised program for becoming a chartered legal executive.

Music apprenticeships

Music apprenticeships are a fairly new trend and although there are more people taking up music apprenticeships, you'll still need to research to find the best path for you. In the music industry, record labels, talent agencies, and PR firms offer apprenticeship programmes. You can work in marketing, business administration, publishing music, and foreign promotions. You can also work as an apprentice in digital media or as a music assistant.

The BPI or British Phonographic Industry (you misread that didn't you) founded the BRITs Apprentice Scheme, which is supported by the BRIT Awards and offers 10 people from England and Wales the chance to work at a prominent independent record label or music company. Apprentices will work at the BRIT Awards and receive specialised business administration or digital marketing training. The 14-month programme is available to anyone 18 years old or older.

IT apprenticeships

There are a variety of UK organisations, from creative small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) to top global corporations, that provide IT apprenticeships. They are available across different industries and are not just those for which IT and digital are their primary business functions, as technology supports everything we do. Employers like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM also have a few IT apprenticeship programs. 

Marketing apprenticeships

As a marketing apprentice, you will be able to gain valuable experience and training within the industry and learn about industry trends, and emerging business practices and will also be able to gain valuable experience from experts in your field. Marketing is a dynamic discipline ensuring that your time as an apprentice will never be dull.

Not sure which field to commit to? Read our blog on the Top 15 In Demand Jobs in UK and try to map out your future!

Best apprenticeships in the UK

What classifies as a good apprenticeship is honestly up to you to decide. As long as you’re applying for an apprenticeship that aligns with your overall career goals, you should feel confident in your choice. However, with that said there are a few coveted apprenticeships across the UK. These apprenticeships are very well paid and often offer candidates full time offers once their apprenticeship is over. A few of the most popular apprenticeships are:

  • Government apprenticeships
  • Engineering apprenticeships
  • Banking apprenticeships 

How to apply for an apprenticeship?

Apply for an apprenticeship

Applying for an apprenticeship is a lot like applying for a job or internship. For many young adults, applying may seem like a daunting process, but it gets much easier once you break it down step by step. 

  • Do your research: The first step is to do your research and figure out what field you want to do your apprenticeship in. Once you’ve narrowed that down, you can start looking at different companies offering apprenticeships at the level you want. 
  • Create a CV and resume: Creating a resume or CV that accurately reflects your skills and interests is essential to help you stand out to potential employers. Your resume should contain all your educational and work experience to date. Read our blog for information on how to write your resume.
  • Draft a cover letter: Some apprenticeship applications will also require you to submit a cover letter. This gives companies a better idea of why you would be a good fit for their program over other candidates. 
  • Prepare for the interview: After applying for an apprenticeship, there will likely also be 2 or 3 rounds of interviews. At interviews, your employer will be able to gauge your skill level and whether or not you’d be suitable for their program. The interview is also a great way for you to judge whether or not this is a company you would like to work for, so make sure to ask them questions as well. 

Apprenticeships for international students

If you’re an international student, you are still eligible to apply for an apprenticeship in the UK. You will even be able to find paid opportunities for you to apply for within the UK. Ensure that you can balance your course load along with your apprenticeship. Before applying for an apprenticeship, check the status of your visa and whether or not you’d need to apply for separate permission to work as an apprentice. Depending upon your visa type, you will be limited to working only a specific number of hours per week as an international student. Your university will likely have an office for international students where you can check your allotted work hours.

From explanation to applying - that was everything you needed to know before applying for an apprenticeship in the UK. Apprenticeships are a great way to get work experience, especially for those who don’t think the traditional college route is for them. Whatever path you choose to take is all up to you. We hope you found this helpful and wish you all the best on your journey!