How do apprenticeships work? Including levels and types

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 25 January 2023

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An apprenticeship involves an established professional in any career who teaches up-and-coming professionals the ins and outs of the occupation, preparing them to become professionals through practical training and assignments. The apprentice can be a college student desiring to gain practical experience or anyone interested and ready to practise a specific trade/career. Learning how apprenticeships work could assist in which steps to take when you decide to partake in one. In this article, we discuss how apprenticeships work, including the level and types of apprenticeship and skills you can learn during the programme.

How do apprenticeships work?

Taking up an apprenticeship involves working at a real job while learning to improve within the position. You may also get paid for the job done, although the pay is usually lesser than what professionals earn. An apprenticeship can take place at an apprenticeship centre or college. When you're through with the training, you become skilled at a certain trade and prepared to handle the job's responsibilities due to the experience and skills you have gained.

An apprenticeship takes one to five years to complete, depending on the level. The length of service and the certifications earned depends on your area of service. In the end, successful apprentices receive a certification of completion. These certifications may include:

  • GCSE-Level qualifications in English, maths and IT, usually awarded for functional qualifications.

  • City and Guild Professional Award and BTec, which are technical certifications.

  • Level 2 to Level 5 national vocational qualifications, equivalent to five GCSEs and a post-graduate degree.

  • Higher National Diploma (HND), Higher National Certificate (HNC) and foundation degrees, which are academic degrees.

Related: GCSE equivalent qualifications

Who participates in an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship, like every other profession, isn't suitable for everyone. You can consider the following to decide if the training is ideal for you:

  • Practical learners**:** They learn best in a practical environment.

  • Self-reliant**:** They don't have anyone to rely on to pursue a college degree.

  • Passionate about the career**:** They may overcome any challenges they encounter to keep advancing in their career.

  • Skill-based careers**:** Most careers related to skill acquisition use apprenticeship as the primary mode of training new professionals.

Related: Internships vs. apprenticeships: similarities and differences

Apprenticeship levels

Apprenticeships have different levels; you may decide to not continue with a class or to move to the next level once you complete a level. Typically, it takes one to one and a half years to complete an intermediate apprenticeship, two years to complete advanced training and three to six years to complete both higher and degree apprenticeship. The time required to complete each level depends on the career, the employer requirements and your commitment. The different apprenticeship levels include:

  • Intermediate: You can complete this level after passing an equivalent of five GCSEs.

  • Advanced**:** You can complete this level after passing an equivalent of two A-levels.

  • Higher**:** You can complete this level after passing an equivalent of a foundation degree.

  • Degree**:** This is the last level, which is equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree.

Related: Q&A: what Is an intermediate apprenticeship?

Types of apprenticeships

Most professional bodies offer apprenticeship opportunities as a way to train new professionals. The different types of apprenticeships include:

  • Transportation**:** Apprenticeships in the transportation sector involve railway, logistics, automotive and airline industries.

  • Retail**:** Apprenticeships in the retail sector usually involve selling merchandise under an established retail outlet until you gain a good knowledge of the business model.

  • Media**:** Apprenticeships in the media industry involve working on TV channels and radio stations until you become a professional in your chosen interest.

  • Marketing**:** Apprenticeships in the marketing industry involve learning the act of marketing under an established firm until you become a professional.

  • Law**:** You can serve as an apprentice under a solicitor, legal executive or paralegal level in a law firm.

  • Information technology (IT)**:** You can serve as an apprentice under an experienced IT professional.

  • Human resource**:** Apprenticeships can occur under an experienced HR consultant or HR manager to learn the challenges involved in working in the HR department.

  • Health care**:** Apprenticeships can happen under a professional nurse or dentist.

  • Engineering**:** If you're interested in an engineering role, you can serve as an experienced civil, electrical or mechanical engineer to gain more knowledge.

  • Construction**:** To gain hands-on experience in the construction industry, you can become an apprentice in the building, quantity surveying or plumbing sector.

  • Business: Working as a business apprentice involves gaining practical business experience under established business personnel.

  • Accounting**:** To gain practical experience in payroll and taxes, banking and bills and expenses without college, you can serve as an apprentice in an accounting firm.

Skills learnt during an apprenticeship

The skills acquired during an apprenticeship may include:

  • motor skills

  • teamwork

  • communication

  • problem-solving

  • negotiation

  • strategic thinking

  • saying no

  • resilience

  • Microsoft program usage

  • administration

  • confidence

  • personal development

How to become an apprentice

Similar to applying to study at a college or university, the application process for working as an apprentice involves some required steps. Follow the steps below when applying to become an apprentice:

1. Know the age requirements

The age required to work as an apprentice in the UK is 16 years and above. It is also necessary to possess the relevant credentials required by your sector. You can find out more by visiting the apprenticeship centre, as they're industry-specific. If you are over the age of 19, you may be eligible for additional funding from the government.

Read more: How to become an apprentice in 3 simple steps

2. Know the entry requirements for each level

Each apprenticeship level demands different qualifications before you can gain an entry, and you can only continue to a higher level if you possess the requirements. The following are requirements for each level:

  • Intermediate apprenticeship**:** It is necessary to be 16 and above and no longer doing a full-time study to be eligible for this level.

  • Advanced apprenticeship**:** To be eligible for this level, you may require proof of previous work experience in a similar role, a certification equivalent to 9-4 grade GCSEs or an intermediate apprenticeship certification.

  • Higher apprenticeship**:** To be eligible for this level, you may provide a five 9-4 grade GCSE and a level three qualification certification, which may include a BTec National or A-level.

  • Degree apprenticeship**:** To be eligible for this level, you may provide proof of previous work experience, a five 9-4 GCSE grade, a higher apprenticeship qualification certification and three A-levels.

3. Do research

Most of the time, employers will not publicly display they are looking for apprentices. To know if there is an open position, visit your preferred company website and do some research. Then send an application to show your passion for the trade and your knowledge of the company.

Related: 11 examples of graduate apprenticeships (with definition)

4. Learn new skills

Employers will primarily consider those who are resourceful and can learn new concepts at a fast pace. Acquire new skills, especially those relevant to the industry you want to serve. Learning about what employers are looking for and being able to demonstrate your ability in this area can make you more competitive than other candidates.

5. Prepare a suitable CV

Write a professional CV containing relevant information and keywords to demonstrate your skills and experience. Ensure you write it in a simple font and properly segment it. The profile subheading requires your name and contact information, your ability, skills and experience. The education subheading includes your academic qualifications, awards and achievements. A work experience section includes any previous work experience you had relating to the position. It is not necessary to include any unrelated work experience, but you can include interests and hobbies that interest you as it relates to the role.

6. Write a cover letter

Your cover letter elaborates on the points and qualifications noted in your CV. Write a cover letter to give more insight into your passion, goals and how you plan on achieving them. Also, state how beneficial the position can be to achieve your goal and contribute to the organisation's growth and development.

Related: How to write an apprenticeship cover letter (with examples)

6. Prepare for an interview

Although not always the case, you may participate in an interview. Prepare by doing adequate research of the organisation, their value and mode of operation. Research your roles and possible questions that your potential employer may ask and prepare answers to them. Also, come up with questions to ask your potential employer. Improve your communication skills and be punctual to the interview.

Read more: 6 apprenticeship interview questions (with example answers)

Benefits of an apprenticeship

The following are benefits of an apprenticeship:

  • gain relevant industry knowledge in your chosen career

  • discover yourself at an earlier stage of your career

  • gain relevant work experience to prepare for the job market

  • get an opportunity to earn while also learning

  • identify with a community of industry experts and professionals

  • build a relationship with prospective clients

  • gain a practical approach towards skill acquisition

  • earn a nationally/globally recognised certification that is equivalent to a college degree

  • have a stable career with an opportunity for growth


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  • Tips for Writing a Great Apprenticeship CV

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