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Higher level and degree apprenticeships

Deciding whether applying for a degree apprenticeship is right for you ultimately comes down to you and your circumstances. For some, debt is a real concern, which is why taking on a degree apprenticeship and having those costs covered by your employer is so appealing. For others, it might simply be that attending university full-time in the traditional sense just isn’t for them. We have tried to provide some information to help you make the right decision for you.

What are degree apprenticeships?

A degree apprenticeship is a job which combines work with higher-level learning, and which leads to an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. Degree apprenticeships are available at levels 6 (full bachelor’s) and 7 (Master’s).

How do they work?

Degree apprentices are employees and have the same rights as other employees, including paid holidays. As an apprentice you would spend most of your week at work, but also at least 20 per cent of your time in off-the-job study or training, which will most likely be at the University or College selected by the employer. At the end of your apprenticeship you will complete an end point assessment, although for some degree apprenticeships this will be the same as for your degree.

How long do they last?

Typically, a degree apprenticeship takes three to six years to complete, depending upon which sector and subject you are studying.

What subjects can I take a degree apprenticeship in?

Degree apprenticeships can be found in a wide range of subjects, (known as ‘Standards’) from Accountancy to Clinical Scientist and lots more. You can see the variety of approved 'apprenticeship standards' on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website.

What qualifications do I need?

Different degree apprenticeships require different qualifications. Some employers may want you to have achieved specific grades at GCSE or A-level. Others focus more on interest, ability, or potential in a particular area. Have a look at some vacancy posts for degree apprenticeships in some of the subjects you are interested in.

What about fees and wages?

Fees: Importantly, degree apprentices don't pay tuition fees. These will be covered by your employer. But you cannot take out a student loan, so you will need to cover your own living costs, including housing, travel, and materials.

Wages: Degree apprentices earn a wage, which must be at least the minimum wage for apprentices, although many employers pay more, particularly at Degree level. Some positions will be advertised as a 'competitive salary', which may mean the salary is in line with similar jobs in that industry, or that the salary will depend on your skills and experience.

What are the benefits?

  • You won't need to pay tuition fees. You will graduate without any student-fee debt
  • You will earn a living while you learn, and develop your skills
  • The knowledge you acquire will be practical and applied
  • You will be well-placed in the job market. You will learn skills that are directly relevant to a particular career, and gain work experience in that area
  • With degree apprenticeships, your degree will be viewed as the equal of a degree earned through traditional routes into higher education, and will be recognised by other employers

When do I apply?

Like any other job, employers can advertise a degree apprenticeship at any time, throughout the year. There is no application cycle for all employers, but each employer may have a fixed timeline each year which will be found on their company website.

Some Degree Apprenticeships are advertised around November/December time for starting the following September, and a lot of Employers release their Degree Apprenticeship vacancies to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week in February. For example, at Nationwide Building Society in 2021, applications were open from mid-February 2021 for apprenticeships starting in September 2021.

If you are still considering your options, you can apply for these apprenticeships and a full time place at university at the same time. You can also apply for as many Degree Apprenticeships as you like and they won’t impact upon your 5 University Applications quota.

How do I apply?

You apply for a degree apprenticeship in the same way you might apply for any job - by looking for opportunities and submitting an application.

It’s important to remember, if the employer has set minimum qualifications to apply for the vacancy, everyone else applying will have the same level of qualifications, so you should not just rely on your grades to secure a possible interview. You will need to demonstrate to an employer why you are a good fit for their company and the position.

Where do I find Degree Apprenticeship vacancies?

  • The Government's 'Find an apprenticeship service' is one of the first places to search for a degree apprenticeship. If you apply through this GOV.UK service you can register, manage your applications and receive alerts when new apprenticeships become available. Note however, that employers are not obliged to advertise their apprenticeships on the government website, and many of them do not. However, there are other places to search, and these are listed below.
  • GOV.UK also publishes a separate list of higher and degree apprenticeship vacancies: Higher and Degree Apprenticeship vacancies
  • UCAS also publish a list of degree apprenticeship jobs: UCAS Career Finder
  • Prospects also provide a searchable listing of degree apprenticeships: Prospects Degree Apprenticeships
  • The Rate My Apprenticeship website publishes a list of the top 100 employers of apprenticeships rated by school and college leavers. 
  • The Amazing Apprenticeships site includes a Vacancy Snapshot which hosts many national companies who have Degree apprenticeship Vacancies such as HSBC, Amazon and BP. 
  • Employers and Providers: As apprenticeships are jobs, employers are ultimately responsible for recruitment. Specific employers will advertise apprenticeship opportunities through the well-known jobs websites and through their own websites. Many will also advertise at jobs fairs. Don’t forget the large public sector organisations either, as they may have a host of different and exciting apprenticeships. Here are just some to keep an eye on:

Both employers and universities will need to be satisfied the applicant meets their respective requirements, so some employers and universities will therefore do recruitment jointly and it is therefore also worth looking at the websites of universities and colleges.

It may also be worth attending any University or College Open Days as employers offering Degree Apprenticeships may well have a stand at the event. Here are a few providers situated not far from Swindon to check out:

What is involved in the recruitment process?

The recruitment process for a degree apprenticeship will depend on the organisation, and can take some time, particularly for larger companies. It will usually involve various stages such as submitting your application, taking online tests and perhaps a telephone interview, before heading to an assessment day or face to face interview.

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