What is an apprenticeship after A-levels? (With benefits)

Updated 14 August 2023

After completing A-levels, students have multiple choices to help further their education. They may pursue employer training, attend higher education institutions to complete training for qualifications such as a foundational degree or an honours degree or pursue a post-A-level apprenticeship. Understanding the apprenticeships after A-levels can help you understand the type of apprenticeship to pursue and increase your career opportunities. In this article, we define apprenticeships after A-levels, outline how they work, discuss programmes in post-A-level apprenticeships, highlight their benefits and provide steps to get an apprenticeship position.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

What is an apprenticeship after A-levels?

An apprenticeship after A-levels or post-A-level apprenticeship is a programme that provides higher and degree apprenticeships (levels four to seven) to A-level graduates. Students in these programmes combine academic study and working in relevant industries to develop their skills and gain experience. They earn different certifications equivalent to different educational levels. Some industries with post-A-level apprenticeships include hospitality, manufacturing, engineering, life sciences, accountancy, information communication technology (ICT) and healthcare.

How do post-A-level apprenticeships work?

All apprenticeship levels work similarly, but different employers have different operations and approaches to study. In a post-A-level apprenticeship, the apprentices' schedule includes working on real projects for a better part of their time and learning in training centres such as colleges. Apprentices work under an apprentice supervisor and partner with other apprentices and employees. The apprentice supervisor uses various methods to assess the apprentices' progress and determines if they succeed in the programmes. Apprentices earn at least a foundation degree equivalent after completing higher apprenticeships. They also earn different industry certifications at different levels.

For example, an auditing apprentice earns different accounting certifications at different apprentice levels. The employer determines when the students take certification exams and communicate it early to help apprentices prepare. Some employers let apprentices complete a more significant part of their certification exams over the first years of the programme and the last parts in their final certification years. It enables apprentices to evaluate and apply what they learn to develop skills. Trainees receive pay for their work during the apprenticeship and complete the learning programmes for free because the government and employers sponsor them.

Read more: How do apprenticeships work? Including levels and types

What are the programmes in a post-A-level apprenticeship?

Here are the two main post-A-level apprenticeship categories:

Higher apprenticeship

The higher apprenticeship levels include programmes apprentices pursue immediately after completing A-Levels or level three national vocational qualifications (NVQs). A-level qualifications are prerequisites for beginning higher apprenticeships. There are two levels in higher apprenticeships. They include level four and five apprenticeships. A level four apprenticeship certification is like a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or an undergraduate degree in the first year.

Level five apprenticeships are like a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a foundational degree. Apprentices require at least level three qualifications to start a level five apprenticeship, but some employers may require level four qualifications. The length of a higher apprenticeship depends on the programmes and organisation, but it takes one to five years.

Degree apprenticeship

A degree apprenticeship is the final post-A-level stage for apprentices before becoming independent professionals. They get certifications equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, thus the name degree apprenticeship. Employers require apprentices to complete a level five higher apprenticeship programme before searching for degree apprenticeships. This category has two levels, including level six and level seven apprenticeship. Apprentices complete degree apprenticeships in three to six years, depending on the industry.

To pursue a level six qualification, complete a level four apprenticeship. The qualifications apprentices get after completing level six include a degree with honours (BA and BSc), degree apprenticeship, graduate diploma, graduate certificate, ordinary degree without honours and a level six award, certificate, diploma or NVQ. Level six qualifications are necessary to pursue level seven apprenticeship programmes. After completing a level seven apprenticeship, apprentices get various qualifications, including a master's degree (MA and MSc), an integrated master's degree, a postgraduate degree, a postgraduate diploma or a postgraduate certificate in education. They also get a level seven award, a certificate, a diploma or NVQ.

Read more: Four different types of apprenticeships (With FAQs)

What are the benefits of post-A-level apprenticeships?

Here are some benefits of Post-A-level apprenticeships to help determine if they're an ideal career path:

  • Earn a degree without paying for the running costs because your employer and the government sponsor the learning initiatives.

  • Gain a head start over other job candidates with a traditional university degree because apprenticeships help you develop work experience, create a network and build your CV.

  • Earn a salary from your apprenticeship work because it's a full-time employment programme with learning and networking opportunities.

  • Develop hard and soft skills employers value for your position, such as industry-specific, teamwork, ability to work under pressure, problem-solving and communication skills.

  • Receive ongoing mentorship and support from the employer and employees around you.

  • Access many progression opportunities because of the three to six years of work experience and networking opportunities from the apprenticeship.

  • Receive various student benefits such as student discounts and student cards.

  • Get many job offers at the end of the apprenticeship, such as a job offer from the employer, because you are familiar with the industry, company, position, culture and people.

  • Join professional bodies and gain industry training and certifications recognition for your skills and experience.

How do you get a post-A-level apprenticeship?

Here are some steps to help search and get a post-A-level apprenticeship:

1. Determine the career path you want to pursue

Determine the career you want to pursue to identify potential career growth and opportunities and research apprenticeship programmes available. Consider other factors, such as your interest and talents, to help select a career that suits you. Research a career thoroughly to help identify its work environment, determine the job goals, identify necessary skills and assess potential income. Examples of fields that have post-A-level apprenticeships include:

  • Digital and technology featuring research and development

  • Health and sciences

  • Education

  • Construction

  • Aerospace and engineering

  • Business management

  • Accountancy and finance

Related: 11 examples of graduate apprenticeships (With definition)

2. Search for apprenticeship opportunities

Search for apprenticeship programmes to identify opportunities and submit applications after choosing a career. There are various sources available to help find apprenticeship opportunities near you. Research post-A-level apprenticeship opportunities on job sites like indeed.com, review government sites and find colleges and universities with post-A-level apprenticeships. Networking with your A-level instructors and colleagues also helps you to find post-A-level apprenticeship opportunities.

Compare different opportunities to find one that suits your requirements better. For example, some apprenticeship programmes offer online study while others offer in-person classes. Apprenticeship programmes may also provide different industry certifications. Research certifications in your field with high employment potential and pursue programmes that provide these certifications. For example, accountants for financial experts can choose between pursuing an Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) and Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) certification. Product management apprentices may also select between pursuing a programme that offers Agile or Scrum certifications.

3. Ensure you meet their requirements

Evaluate the requirements to join every apprenticeship programme to determine the ones you qualify for and apply for them. For example, some employers may request level four certifications for a degree apprenticeship, while others require candidates with level five qualifications. Points for General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) also determine if candidates qualify for the apprenticeship position.

Related: How to become an apprentice in 3 simple steps

4. Create an apprentice CV

An apprentice CV highlights your education, describes transferable skills you gained from school for other work opportunities and explains your interest in the field. Here are some tips for creating an apprentice CV:

  • Use an easy-to-read structure: Divide your CV into sections with headers to make it easy to read and show organisation skills. Arrange information in reverse chronological order, use bullet points to list responsibilities in your work section and write a one-page CV to keep it short.

  • Include a personal summary: Summarise your skills and educational background to make up for minimal work experience. Describe your personality, highlight any school projects and keep the summary short by writing three to four sentences.

  • Provide any experience you have: Add any work experience, even if it's irrelevant to the apprenticeship field because it highlights transferable skills. Mention any school projects and attach achievements to your responsibilities to help emphasise your abilities.

  • Outline details for your educational background: Apprenticeships usually have educational requirements such as GCSEs for specific subjects. Outline your current education level and list your grades to help employers determine if you meet the requirements.

  • List the skills that make you unique: Create a section for your skills and outline the skills you've developed, some work experience and education training. Research some apprenticeship skills requirements and include a few to show you're a suitable apprentice on your CV.

  • Attach an apprentice cover letter: Consider attaching a cover letter to introduce yourself and discuss various aspects of your background, even if it's optional. Describe any work experience, including school projects, outline your career goals and explain why you're the right apprentice for the position.


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