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Jobs & Careers

Degree apprenticeships guide 2024

Keen to start working, but not ready to put away the textbooks just yet? A degree apprenticeship could be ideal.

Man with books and woman with laptop

Credit: Prostock-studio, Twin Design, Mix and Match Studio, Tumpsk – Shutterstock

It's a (commonly believed) myth that you need to choose between either continuing with your education or entering the world of work after leaving school. But it is, in fact, possible to combine them both by doing a degree apprenticeship.

There are a lot of advantages to doing degree apprenticeships – a pretty big one being that you'll earn a salary throughout it.

According to Glassdoor at the time of writing, the average degree apprenticeship salary in the UK is £23,430. This is much more than you can get as a Maintenance Loan. And, as it's a salary rather than a loan, it doesn't need to be repaid!

What is a degree apprenticeship?

team of business people

Degree apprenticeships allow students to learn through a combination of working and studying. They usually involve spending around 80% of the time at work, and the remaining 20% at uni.

Degree apprenticeships are typically available in 'vocational' subjects (ones that prepare you for a specific career path), such as ones related to:

  • Engineering
  • Healthcare
  • Policing
  • Digital and technology solutions
  • Construction management.

When you do a degree apprenticeship, your employer covers the fees and pays you a salary. As such, there's no need for you to take out Student Loans for tuition or living costs.

Despite not being fully based in the classroom/lecture hall, degree apprenticeships still involve a high level of academia. So, if you're thinking about them as an easy alternative to a standard degree... think again.

Degree apprenticeships are only available at universities in England and Wales. However, there are equivalent schemes in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, you can do higher level apprenticeships (HLAs).

And in Scotland, you can do graduate apprenticeships.

What level of apprenticeship is equivalent to a degree?

Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships are equivalent to university degrees.

For a degree apprenticeship that is around the same level as a bachelor's degree, look out for level 6 ones. As a general rule, you'll likely be asked to have A Levels or equivalent qualifications to apply.

And, for a master's-level qualification, search for level 7 apprenticeships. The entry requirements for these courses often include having an undergraduate degree or equivalent.

Even if you haven't got the qualifications listed in an apprenticeship's entry requirements, you may still find you can apply if you have lots of relevant experience. Get in touch with the employer/university to see if you'd be eligible.

How long is a degree apprenticeship?

As a general rule, it takes between three to five years to complete a level 6 degree apprenticeship. However, they vary in length depending on the subject.

Level 7 apprenticeships are often shorter, taking around two years.

Pros and cons of degree apprenticeships

woman using a laptop

Reasons to do a degree apprenticeship

Here are the main positives of doing degree apprenticeships:

  • They are funded by your employer
  • As an employer is investing in your professional development, there's a good chance there could be a job waiting for you after the course
  • You'll get a salary from your employer throughout the apprenticeship, meaning you won't need to take out Student Loans
  • You will get heaps of work experience
  • If you're struggling to choose between going straight into work and going to uni, a degree apprenticeship is a good middle ground.

Downsides of doing degree apprenticeships

These are some of the potential negatives of doing a degree apprenticeship:

  • The applications for degree apprenticeships can be competitive
  • It can be difficult to balance work and study
  • Although you can experience some aspects of uni life as a degree apprentice, it won't be quite the same as if you were a full-time student
  • You'll be qualifying to work in a specific industry, so you won't necessarily get the same flexibility as some standard degrees
  • A full-time job isn't always guaranteed at the end of the degree apprenticeship.
While not all student bank accounts are available to degree apprentices, some of them are. It's worth checking the T&Cs of each account and contacting the bank for clarification if you're unsure.

Which universities offer degree apprenticeships?

Students in a lecture hall

Credit: Matej Kastelic – Shutterstock

Not all universities offer degree apprenticeships, but many do, such as:

Some of the above examples are among the top 10 universities in the UK. With that in mind, if you're keen to go to a leading uni, don't rule out degree apprenticeships as an option.

Interested in a university that we haven't mentioned here? There's still a chance they offer degree apprenticeships even if they're not included in this guide. Check the uni's website or contact them to find out more.

How to apply for degree apprenticeships

The application process for degree apprenticeships is similar to applying for a job.

If you're already employed, talk to your manager about whether it would be an option for you to do a degree apprenticeship. It would then be up to them to approach universities to discuss the courses in more detail.

Not yet employed? Look for apprenticeship vacancies and apply to the employers that are supporting these courses.

You can search for degree apprenticeships in a few ways, including:

Entry requirements can vary, so check you are eligible before applying for a degree apprenticeship.

The application process can also differ depending on the employer. But, you'll often need to send in a CV and may be invited to attend an interview. Good luck!

Unsure what career path to follow? Maybe this list of the highest-paid jobs will provide some inspiration...

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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