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Is a higher or degree apprenticeship right for you?

Like the idea of graduating in a cap and gown, while also having several years of work experience in the bag and no debts to pay off? A degree apprenticeship could be the answer…

What is a degree apprenticeship?

If the word ‘apprentice’ conjures up images of 16 year-olds leaving school, it’s time to do a bit more research.

Higher and degree apprenticeships offer a combined package of work and study, giving you a real qualification and loads of real world experience. You’ll be employed by a company and even paid a wage for the work that you do.

What options are available?

Around 30 universities in England currently offer higher and degree apprenticeship courses, covering a wealth of job roles, from accounting and advertising to aerospace engineering - you can even become a qualified solicitor.

Big companies like Rolls Royce, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs and BAE Systems offer degree apprenticeships, but you’ll also find smaller companies offering them.

 A new multi-million pound fund has been set up to develop new degree apprenticeships for students starting in September 2017. This should introduce 5,200 new opportunities and help 18 universities develop courses in a range of areas, from nursing to construction and food manufacturing.

Have you got what it takes to do a degree apprenticeship?

There are no formal entry requirements - they vary from programme to programme, so it's important to research the courses you’re interested in to see what’s needed.

But don't opt for an apprenticeship because you think it's an easy option – it isn't.
  • It really helps if you have a particular interest in the area of work you’re applying for and can demonstrate this from previous experience.
  • You’ll be starting a challenging job and establishing yourself in the workplace, while getting to grips with studying for a degree.
  • You will be expected to achieve academically and at work, working full-time hours with fewer holidays than friends who are at school or university.
A mix of work and study suits some people perfectly – like Sam Butler, a student on a chartered management degree apprenticeship at Nottingham Trent University:

'I feel this route is suited to people who have come straight out of college but also to people like myself who have been in full-time employment and want to further their career by gaining some higher qualifications,' he says. 'It would be a big step to go straight back into full-time education, so I enjoy the balance of work life and student life.'

Sought-after skills and qualities

Do you have the right attitude and aptitude? This is what employers and course leaders will be looking for:
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Enthusiasm
  • Motivation
  • Communication
  • Analysis
  • Creative solutions
  • Attention to detail
  • Logical thinking
  • Initiative.

Fees and finances for apprentices

Get ready for the brilliant news – degree apprentices don’t pay tuition fees!

Your employer will contribute and the remaining funding comes from the government. Even better, you’ll be paid a wage by your employer, so you will be able to earn while you learn.

Compare that with English students taking a full-time university degree, and it’s easy to see how the figures stack up in favour of apprenticeships. University students typically pay around £9,000 per year in tuition fees, and on top of that are day-to-day living costs, rent or travel costs, equipment and materials.

What next after finishing a degree apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are designed by employers, so you can be pretty confident that you’ll be developing the right skills and knowledge to be a success in your chosen industry.

'On successful completion of the course, I’ll be given a leadership role within the company, so in a way I am guaranteed a job when I graduate,' explains Sam. 'The work experience gained along the way will mean I am not only a graduate but also have relevant on the job experience and an array of transferable skills if I choose to change employer or profession.'

And the statistics are impressive, too. According to the 2015 apprentice survey by the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, an impressive 96% of apprentices stay in employment on completion.

The vast majority (83%) of employed higher apprentices said it was likely that they would remain with the same employer for the next two to three years. And, half of graduates received a promotion within 12 months.

Find out more about apprenticeships – download our free guide

If this article has whet your appetite, then download our Complete Guide to Higher and Degree Apprenticeships below to find out more. You’ll find in-depth information about what courses are on offer, how to apply and loads of useful resources.


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