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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…

Nearly three-quarters of students we asked didn't apply or consider applying for a degree apprenticeship.* 

Some 21% said they considered it, but did not apply in the end, while 5% said they applied for a degree apprenticeship as well as university.

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. They're growing in popularity and options.

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.

Watch now: What are degree apprenticeships?

What options are available?

Around 64 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 called the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017. The funding from the levy will help develop new degree apprenticeships and help 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.

Watch now: University vs apprenticeship, which is right for you? 

Apprentice 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 £9,250 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.

And the statistics are impressive, too. According to GOV.UK, after finishing an apprenticeship, 77% of apprentices stay with the same employer, 46% received a pay rise, and 36% reported getting a promotion.

Considering an apprenticeship? Here's a checklist of what to ask yourself...

  • Are there apprenticeship opportunities in your subject area? A third of students who didn't apply said there weren't any. This answer was given more often by those studying medicine and dentistry (61%) and those studying life sciences (44%). Rest assured that the list of industries offering apprenticeships is growing - banking, law and fashion all have opportunities.
  • What about apprenticeships generally? Just over one in ten of those who didn’t opt for an apprenticeship said there was a lack of practical opportunities in their local area. You can find out what universities are offering apprenticeships in our up-to-date higher and degree apprenticeships guide below.
  • Do you have the right information? Three in 10 of students in this pool said they received little or no information about degree apprenticeships. Explore an alternative route to getting a degree with our apprenticeships advice and guidance.
  • Would an apprenticeship narrow your options? One in five students who didn't apply said that degree apprenticeships would be too focused on one career path. 
  • Do you want to keep university on the cards? Six in ten didn't apply because they wanted to go to university, and 12% said their parents wanted them to. But, as the 5% above know, you can apply for a degree apprenticeship and university at the same time.


* Data source: The Which? University Student Survey, conducted by YouthSight on behalf of Which? University, surveying 3,874 undergraduate students at UK universities between 20 March and 12 April 2019. 

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