Skip to content
Main Menu
Our programmes
Browse by Category
Our programmes
View all programmes
Our programmes
Medicine & psychology
Our programmes
Engineering & architecture
Our programmes
Business & finance
Our programmes
Law & politics
Our programmes
Culture & media
Our programmes
Tech
Our programmes
STEM
Browse by Ages
Our programmes
Ages 12-14
Our programmes
Ages 15-18
Community
Who we are

Our Summer Experiences are now over 75% full. Places are highly limited; register now to avoid disappointment.

Our Summer Experiences are now over 75% full. Places are highly limited; register now to avoid disappointment.

YOUR GUIDE TO DEGREE APPRENTICESHIPS

02 February 2024

YOUR GUIDE TO DEGREE APPRENTICESHIPS

Contents

To mark National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we’ve created a short guide to explore one of the most sought-after pathways for students across England today – degree apprenticeships.

Please note that apprenticeship systems vary between regions, and this guide has been written to focus on Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships available across England and Wales. For information on graduate and higher level apprenticeships available in Scotland and Northern Ireland, take a look at the UCAS page here.

 

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, degree apprenticeships have emerged as a solution to an age-old dilemma for many students, of choosing between pursuing a degree and gaining practical work experience. Since their introduction in 2015, demand for degree apprenticeships has grown rapidly, with over 40,000 new starters in England in 2022/23, a 9% increase on the previous year (UK Government, 2023). Degree apprentices are enjoying the option of ‘earning while learning’, with their courses bringing together the best of higher and vocational education.

Continue reading below as we answer some of the frequently asked questions around degree apprenticeships, and help you decide whether this might be a desirable next step for you!

What is a degree apprenticeship?

Level 6 or 7 (degree) apprenticeships integrate traditional academic learning with on-the-job training, providing the opportunity to study towards an undergraduate or master’s degree, whilst earning a salary and working within your chosen industry.

On a degree apprenticeship, the apprentice spends around 80% of their time working for their employer, with the remaining time dedicated to studying for a qualification at a partner apprenticeship training provider.

Degree apprenticeships typically last for between 3-6 years, with the length varying depending on the course selected. At the end of your degree apprenticeship, you will have gained a full undergraduate or master’s degree, without having to pay for your tuition.

What degree apprenticeships are available?

The availability of degree apprenticeships is expanding, with opportunities now available in many different industries and fields, and new programmes being introduced all of the time. Currently the majority of Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships are focussed in the fields of engineering, finance and management, although opportunities in industries such as law, healthcare and the creative arts are also available.  

To explore the variety of programmes available, take a look at UCAS’ ‘Industry Guides’ page here.

What are the benefits of a degree apprenticeship?

  1. Industry Experience

One of the main advantages of a degree apprenticeship is the opportunity to gain real-life experience within your chosen industry, all whilst studying for a degree. By the end of your apprenticeship you will have gained over three years of work experience at a company, providing you with the professional skills and practical knowledge highly valued by employers.

Learn more about the benefits of practical work experience by taking a look at our recent blog here.

  1. Employability

Degree apprenticeships are designed in collaboration between employers and training providers, to ensure that apprentices acquire skills and knowledge directly related to the industry you are working in. This can help make you stand out amongst other graduates, as you will be able to demonstrate your extensive practical knowledge, professional skills and work experience to employers in the future.

It is also not surprising, therefore, that upon completion of their programme many apprentices are offered full-time employment within their apprenticeship company. Employers often wish to retain the skills and knowledge apprentices have demonstrated during their time on the programme for the benefit of the company going forwards.

  1. No Tuition Fees

With tuition fees for students at university averaging at £9250 per year across the UK, it is not surprising that one of the main attractions of a degree apprenticeship is having the opportunity to gain your qualification for free. Your employer covers the costs of your tuition or training, reducing the financial load often associated with traditional full-time education.

  1. Earning While Learning

Degree apprentices are able to earn a competitive salary whilst working for their employer, with many employers offering over £20,000 a year as a starting figure (UK Government, 2023). Due to their employability at the end of their apprenticeship, many apprentices also go on to succeed in well-paid jobs on completion of their training. 

  1. Balanced Approach

For many students, degree apprenticeships are the ideal option for further qualification after leaving school, with many students looking for a pathway which provides a balance between academic learning and gaining practical experience. The holistic and well-rounded education provided by degree apprenticeship programmes perfectly caters to many students’ typical learning styles, and can result in graduates who have theoretical knowledge, but also the ability to apply it effectively in the workplace.

  1. Strong Network

Throughout the programme, degree apprentices are meeting and learning from professionals and other apprentices working directly in their industry of interest. Not only are these connections fantastic for helping degree apprentices gain extensive knowledge of their chosen field, they will also be highly valuable contacts for the future, providing advice, guidance and up-to-date insights into the industry.

What are the potential drawbacks of a degree apprenticeship?

  1. Competitive Selection Process

Securing a degree apprenticeship can be challenging, with their growing popularity meaning many opportunities are often oversubscribed. Similar to many typical job applications, degree apprenticeship selection processes often consist of multiple stages of recruitment, which can lead to some individuals struggling to secure a placement. More information on the typical selection processes used for degree apprenticeships can be found below.

  1. Work-Life Balance

Balancing employment with academic studies whilst on a degree apprenticeship can be demanding. You will be expected to manage your time effectively to ensure you are able to keep up with your studies outside of your working hours. This is definitely worth considering when applying for a degree apprenticeship, as this type of programme typically suits candidates who have an ability to work independently and are able to manage high workloads effectively.

To learn more about the importance of time management, take a look at our blog here.

  1. Less flexible options for studying

Unlike traditional university applications (e.g. those made through UCAS), on a degree apprenticeship the programme has been designed in partnership between the employer and the training provider, which is often a university. Due to this partnership, when candidates apply for a degree apprenticeship programme with a particular employer, they are also by default applying to study for their qualification at the university the employer partners with. It is important that, if you are considering a degree apprenticeship, you do thorough research into the programme specifics and the training provider the company works with to see whether you would want to study there.

  1. Student Experience

On a degree apprenticeship, apprentices spend 80% of their time in practical work for their employer, meaning their experience of university can be quite different from that of a typical university student. For example, degree apprentices are working for a company, and therefore are given an annual leave allocation rather than designated holidays and reading weeks like many other university students. Do some research into the day-to-day life of a degree apprentice to see whether this style of working is attractive.

When do applications for degree apprenticeships open?

Unlike traditional university applications made through UCAS, employers advertise degree apprenticeships throughout the year, meaning there is no fixed cycle. Vacancies can appear as and when they are available, with many employers choosing to begin recruitment in early January or February for an Autumn start date.

Due to this lack of fixed cycle, many application windows will close as soon as there have been a sufficient number of suitable candidates for the role, meaning it is important that you research into the degree apprenticeship you are interested in and make sure you get your application in before the deadline.

What is the application process like?

As many degree apprenticeship opportunities are oversubscribed, the recruitment process is often longer and more competitive than typical applications to university. It’s therefore worth making sure you do thorough preparation beforehand, including researching into your programmes of interest and starting your application early. It’s worth noting that there is no limit to the number of degree apprenticeships you are able to apply for.

The application process itself can vary quite considerably, however there are some common steps and components that candidates typically encounter:

  1. Decide on your degree apprenticeship: Begin by doing some research into the degree apprenticeship options available in your chosen field or industry. It’s important to consider certain factors of your degree apprenticeship such as programme structure, the employer you will work for, the qualifications offered, the training provider the employer works with and, of course, the salary.

 

  1. Send off application materials: Candidates will apply directly to the employer and often will submit a CV, application form and cover letter as the beginning stage of recruitment. Make sure you read the job description thoroughly beforehand, so you are able to highlight the key skills, experience and requirements needed throughout this stage.

For advice on CV writing, take a look at our previous blog here.

  1. Psychometric tests and exercises: Many employers will require candidates to complete personality and aptitude tests as one of the first stages of recruitment, to assess their skills and competencies and see whether they are suitable for the role applying for. These might include the likes of situational judgement tests, verbal reasoning tests and work-style preference tests (with many examples and practice tests available online).

 

  1. Interviews: If the employer believes you have the skills required for the role and are passionate about the opportunity, they will invite you to an interview. This may be face-to-face with an employer, over the phone or via video interview. There may be multiple interviews you have to go through, so it’s important you practice beforehand and have a go at answering the types of questions that typically crop up at this stage. Thoroughly researching the company and industry beforehand will mean you have the knowledge and confidence to truly impress them with your answers at this stage.

 

  1. Assessment Centre: Often a popular final stage for a lot of recruitment processes today are assessment centres, where employers can gather their final candidates into the same space and assess how you each approach specific tasks and activities.

To read more about assessment centres, take a look at UCAS’ advice page here.

  1. Onboarding: If successful, candidates will be onboarded with their employing company and enrolled at their education institution.

How can I make my application stand out?

Due to the competitive selection process for degree apprenticeship programmes, it’s important to consider how you can make your application stand out and make a great impression early on.

For advice, we spoke to InvestIN’s Operations Manager and previous degree apprentice, Claudia, who gave the following tips for a successful application: 

  1. Demonstrate Your Skillset

“One of the main ways you can stand out is through your research. Spend some time thoroughly researching into the specific requirements for the apprenticeship programme, including any key employability skills or qualities the company is looking for. Throughout your application, try to include as many detailed examples of your skills as possible, so employers can clearly see the competencies you possess and the positive impact you could bring to their workplace.”

  1. Show Your Passion

“It's also important that you are able to demonstrate your passion for that particular degree apprenticeship programme throughout the selection process. Make sure you’ve thoroughly researched into the company beforehand and are able to clearly justify why you would want to work for them. It is also worth doing some further research into the industry you want to go in to, so you are able to demonstrate your knowledge during interviews and show your passion for that field.”

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

“Each selection process often has many stages, most of which you might not have encountered before. The more practice you can do of psychometric tests and answering interview question beforehand, the more confident you will be in the actual process”.

Can I apply to university at the same time?

Degree apprenticeship applications are just like applying for typical jobs, and are made directly to the employer you are looking to work for. Therefore, if you are looking to keep your options open, you are also able to apply to university through UCAS at the same time.

How do I know if a degree apprenticeship is right for me?

Degree apprenticeships offer a practical and alternative route to education and employment, providing the perfect opportunity for many students to continue academic learning, whilst gaining industry experience.

Whilst we have celebrated the advantages of degree apprenticeships throughout this article, it’s important to remember that this is only one potential pathway you could take. Ultimately, the choice between a degree apprenticeship and other alternative pathways is a personal one, and is dependent on your individual goals, learning styles and career aspirations.

By carefully weighing the pros and cons, conducting thorough research, and thinking about your personal career journey, you will be able to decide whether a degree apprenticeship is right for you.

Useful resources for your own degree apprenticeship exploration:

  • Amazing Apprenticeships – An organisation providing in-depth advice and support for people interested in apprenticeships across the UK.
  • UCAS – Regularly publishes a list of available degree apprenticeship vacancies.
  • UCAS’ Apprenticeship Podcast Series – Listen to advice on degree apprenticeships and opportunities available in a variety of different fields.
  • RateMyApprenticeship’ – Search and apply for apprenticeship and school leaver jobs across the UK.
  • Prospects – Provides a listing of degree apprenticeships available, as well as current university and training providers available through degree apprenticeships.
  • UK Government’s ‘Find an apprenticeship’ service - Lists all available apprenticeships available across the UK, ranging from Level 1 to Level 7.

Looking for practical career experience today? InvestIN can help…

Register now for our career experience programmes, taking place in 15 of the most popular careers, including Investment Banking, International Politics, Psychology and many more. Head over to our programmes page where you can find out more information!

Keep up to date with the latest career advice on our blogs page here!

Contents

Related Articles