Everything You Need to Know About UK Apprenticeships

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Amira Adel

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17 July, 2022

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4 mins read

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It is hardly surprising that more and more students are exploring alternatives given that universities can currently cost as much as £9,250 a year. Although attending university may be the most common route to follow, school dropouts have access to a wide range of alternatives. 

Apprenticeships are one of the best alternatives to university, but which is better—an apprenticeship or university? To help you make up your mind, here’s everything you need to know about UK apprenticeships.

What is an Apprenticeship?

A new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession can be trained through an apprenticeship programme, which combines classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Apprenticeships can also help professionals get a licence to work in a regulated profession.


An apprenticeship combines one day per week of education with on-the-job training, and the result is a qualification recognised by the industry. From level 1 (GCSE Pass) through level 5/7 (Bachelor's and Master's Degree), there are several apprenticeship levels that match various qualification levels. As a result, when your apprenticeship is over, you'll have the necessary skills and transferable qualifications to prove your expertise to potential employers. Depending on the level of education you choose, an apprenticeship can last anywhere from one to five years.

In 2015, the government introduced degree apprenticeships, which involve workplace training in addition to university attendance to work towards a full Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.


Aside from receiving qualifications recognised by the industry, an apprenticeship offers a lot more benefits. You will have the chance to collaborate with subject-matter experts and contribute significantly to the success of internal teams. You will develop a deeper understanding of the company's operations and expectations as you work and learn on the job, handling actual responsibility and working under time constraints to produce outcomes for the business. 

Depending on your chosen placement, apprentices can expect to brush up on their teamwork, verbal and written communication, presentation skills, and much more.


What if we told you that you could attend college without accruing debts of tens of thousands of pounds? What if we told you that you could earn money even as you pursue your degree? An alternative to university that is more financially feasible is a degree apprenticeship, which allows you to earn a wage and take advantage of employee perks like paid time off while also obtaining accredited qualifications.

In comparison, the annual tuition for a university degree will be £9,250 in addition to the cost of books, accommodation, and living expenses.


While most apprenticeship programmes do not include accommodation options, individual renters moving away from home for the first time have access to a wide range of options. One of the most popular options is to live in a house or apartment with other apprentices or students. By doing so, you will have the chance to meet new people who share your interests and form lifetime friendships. Although the "university lifestyle" may appear luxurious from the outside, you'll be happy you don't live in the halls when it comes to getting up early for work every morning!

Earning Potential 

In contrast to enrolling in a university programme, where you must wait until you have finished your degree, signing up for an apprenticeship allows you to begin earning a wage right away. Since you won't have any student debt, you'll have a few extra years of experience working as an apprentice. Some firms choose to pay apprentices more, even above the national minimum wage. 

An extensive study was conducted by The Sutton Trust to compare the average lifetime incomes for degrees and apprenticeships in the UK. According to the research, apprenticeships had an earning potential of over £1.3 million, which was much higher than having only A-levels or no qualifications. Level-5 apprenticeships also produced better incomes than degrees from non-Russell Group universities. The highest average lifetime earnings, which were close to £2 million over a lifetime, were earned by those with Oxbridge or Russell Group degrees.

Since the National Minimum Wage has been raised since this study's completion in 2015, the figures are probably substantially higher today than they were then. Similarly, businesses are increasingly acknowledging and respecting apprenticeships.

Employer Attitudes

Despite the widespread misconceptions about apprenticeships, employers hold them in high regard and value their practical knowledge and years of practical industry experience. Following COVID, a record number of apprenticeship programmes are now being offered by some of the most recognisable companies in the world, including Coca-Cola, Royal Mail, Microsoft, Google, and the NHS. There has never been a better moment to begin an apprenticeship since the government is spending more money than ever on apprenticeships and because businesses are recovering from the pandemic and are ready to hire new talents.

Employers favour graduates with sandwich degrees, according to data from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), since they offer real-world working experience and the added skills that go along with it — something you can also get through doing an apprenticeship!

Job Outcomes

According to research, 85% of apprentices continue to work after completing their apprenticeship programme, with 64% of trainees working for their original employers. The National Apprenticeship Service reports that 92% of companies who have implemented apprenticeship programmes think their workforce is more satisfied and motivated. Even better, employee retention has increased at 80% of these companies. 

There you have it! That’s everything you need to know about UK apprenticeships. A higher education degree isn't the only way to career success, so keep that in mind when deciding between apprenticeships and university. And in the end, just do what feels right and what best suits you. Also, here’s a guide on How to Work in the UK after finishing your studies.


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