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Apprenticeship Levels

Whether you need a new job or you’re in search of an alternative to university, there is an apprenticeship out there for you. 

Intermediate (Level 2)

Intermediate (or level 2) apprenticeships are designed to cover entry-level roles and provide the basic skills and knowledge required to begin a career. If you’re aged 16, they represent the ideal opportunity for you to embark on further training outside of the classroom. Typically over 12 months, you’ll work toward obtaining qualifications equivalent to GCSEs, usually in the form of a diploma relevant to the area you’re working in.

Entry requirements will vary from one or more GCSEs to no formal qualifications or experience. However, employers are encouraged to make their apprenticeships as accessible as possible, so relevant experience and skills will be considered. Upon completing an intermediate apprenticeship, you’ll be able to seek advancement at your current employer, undertake an advanced qualification at your current employer or elsewhere, or move into further education at a higher level than when you left school.

Advanced (Level 3)

Advanced (or level 3) apprenticeships are the next step on the apprenticeship ladder, offering an alternative to A-levels. They’re considered equivalent and are suitable if you have skills, experience or qualifications in a sector already and are looking to progress. Typically over an 18-month to 24-month period, you’ll delve into technical detail and gain expertise in your chosen sector.

Entry requirements are stricter for advanced apprenticeships, with many employers often requiring up to five GCSEs, including maths and English. However, you may achieve professional recognition upon completion by the relevant professional organisation or institute at this level and depending on the apprenticeship.

Higher (Level 4, 5, 6 0r 7)

Higher or (level 4, 5, 6 or 7) apprenticeships are designed to offer degree-equivalent qualifications and experience while doing the job. They typically take between 12 and 60 months to complete, with a significant proportion of that time spent with a training provider, college or university, to develop knowledge and skills.

Employers offering higher apprenticeships will usually expect some form of previous experience or subject knowledge.

The entry requirements are tough, with five GCSEs and level 3 qualifications such as A-levels tending to be prerequisites to entry. As ever, equivalent experience is acceptable, and higher apprenticeships tend to be the level at which those already in work or leaving higher education such as university will apply, so expect competition to be that much more intense.

Degree Apprenticeships

A degree apprenticeship is similar to a higher apprenticeship, but apprentices will also work toward a bachelor’s degree at level 6 or a master’s degree at level 7.

Degree apprenticeships are a popular alternative to obtaining a degree directly from a university because the employer will cover the cost. Going to university to study for a three-year bachelor’s degree as an individual student, for example, will set you back thousands of pounds. The employer entirely funds degree apprenticeships. 

As an apprentice, you’ll also be paid a salary while studying and being entitled to a holiday.

Where degree apprenticeships and traditional degrees differ is the method of learning. On a degree apprenticeship, you’ll mix learning with working, so you’ll split your time between a training provider, increasingly one of England’s many universities, and an employer, meaning you’ll be able to put your knowledge and skills into immediate practice, and take away those burning questions that you want to pose to your teachers.

Updated on December 23, 2021

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