Degree apprenticeships allow you to gain a degree for free, while you’re employed as a paid apprentice.
- What is a degree apprenticeship?
- Why should you do a degree apprenticeship?
- Who’s eligible for a degree apprenticeship?
- How to find a degree or graduate apprenticeship
If you’re worried about the financial cost of going to uni, you could avoid student debt by taking a degree apprenticeship. This is a higher-level apprenticeship where you work for a company or organisation while also studying for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.
It may sound the same as taking a university degree part-time, but it has key differences:
- Degree apprenticeships offer degrees specific to an occupation
- Your university tuition fees are paid for you
- You’ll be a paid for the work you do – and get paid holidays too
- You'll spend 20% of your working time studying, which might be a day a week, a block of study at uni, or blended learning online
Degree-level apprenticeships are most common in England and Wales. They’re known as graduate apprenticeships in Scotland and higher-level apprenticeships in Northern Ireland (although these include lower-level qualifications).
While many aim to recruit school leavers or those with A Levels, degree apprenticeships in England can be open to graduates.
The degree itself taught and awarded by a university. Qualifications take one to six years to complete, depending on your working hours.
Because the focus is vocational, they’re mainly available in subjects like engineering, IT, business and accountancy. England has a wider range, including NHS degree apprenticeships to train as a midwife, nurse, dietitian or other allied health profession roles.
They tick two very important boxes for students:
- You’ll gain on-the-job skills and relevant experience
- You’ll gain a degree without paying for it
Employers often say they can’t recruit graduates with the right skillset. By taking a degree apprenticeship, you gain skills and knowledge directly related to a specific profession. You’ll also be employed for the duration of your apprenticeship, giving a great start to your CV.
Secondly, you won’t have a tuition fee loan. You’ll be paid at least a minimum wage, but many employers pay more. For NHS degree apprenticeships, salaries of £20,000–£25,000 are common.
Overall, a degree apprenticeship is likely to suit you if you have a clear idea of your future career and want to study for a university degree directly related to that occupation.
If you’re a UK resident over 16 and meet the minimum entry standards, you should be eligible. Northern Ireland has restrictions on the apprenticeships available if you’re over the age of 25; elsewhere there’s no age limit.
Entry requirements may specify grades or subjects at A Level, or a related degree. If you have a degree in that subject already, it may exclude you from applying.
You can be already working for the employer in question or taken on by an employer advertising a degree apprenticeship.
Unlike university applications, degree apprenticeships are advertised by an employer. Vacancies can arise anytime, so you’ll need to keep watch – much as you would if you’re after a particular job.
Each nation has a website listing the degree-level apprenticeships available. Employers aren’t required to use these services so it’s also worth checking sites like NHS Jobs.
Check the vacancy to see what the training offers – some may include higher level qualifications that aren’t a degree. You’ll also want to do your research on the company and the training provider to see if they’re right for you, and vice versa.
Competition can be stiff. If you’re selected for interview, you’ll need to show your commitment to being an apprentice and the academic work involved in studying.
If you’re appointed, you’ll sign an apprenticeship agreement. This outlines the length of the degree apprenticeship and your working hours and pay (‘work conditions’). It also covers the programme of study for the qualification you’re working towards.