Key differences between a traineeship vs apprenticeship

Updated 31 August 2023

Traineeships and apprenticeships are both training programmes that combine working for an employer with studying. They both aim to equip participants with the skills and knowledge they require to be successful in employment, but they differ in some key ways. If you're considering either option, it helps to understand their differences. In this article, we share an overview of the difference between a traineeship vs. apprenticeship, explore the key features of each and provide some questions that can help you determine which type of training programme is best for you.

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An overview of the difference between a traineeship vs. apprenticeship

Traineeship vs. apprenticeship are similar concepts. They both provide the opportunity to learn new skills while gaining work experience, but there are a few key differences between them. Both options have their benefits and drawbacks, so carefully consider each option before you make a decision.

Read more: Work experience: definition, importance and tips

Differences between traineeships vs. apprenticeships

Here are the most notable differences between traineeships and apprenticeships:


Traineeships and apprenticeships serve similar yet distinct purposes. Traineeships focus more on developing general employability skills, whereas apprenticeships are job specific. Traineeships provide training to enable people to get a wide range of jobs and apprenticeships focus on specific occupations. Apprenticeships provide employment and more focused training for those who want to learn the skills needed for a specific trade or profession. A person might complete a traineeship and then become an apprentice, but it would be unusual for someone to complete an apprenticeship and then do a traineeship.

Related: GCSE equivalent qualifications

Who can apply

Due to traineeships and apprenticeships each serving a different purpose, they're suitable for different subsections of people. Traineeships are more suitable for those with little or no work exposure who don't yet have the skills or experience that employers are looking for. As such, applications for traineeships tend to have an age limit of 16–24 years, catering to younger people who don't have a job when they apply.

Many apprenticeships also require applicants to be 16 years or over, although some may require 18 years or over. There's usually no upper age limit to complete an apprenticeship, and they're open to people regardless of their current employment status. Apprenticeships are available at different levels, so apprentices can range from school leavers with no employment experience to people with higher qualifications who have been working for many years.

Related: Types of apprenticeships for 16-year-olds and how to apply

Study component

While both types of programmes include a study component, the focus and delivery of this aspect differ. The study portion of traineeships is suitable for developing more general skills. During a traineeship, participants work on developing employability skills that are transferrable to a wide range of careers. Trainees receive guidance in writing CVs and cover letters, help with applying for jobs and advice for interviewing. There's also the option for those who need it to improve their maths, English and basic digital skills.

The study component of apprenticeships is more specific. Participants learn job-specific skills that are relevant to a chosen trade or profession. The study aspect is usually available off-the-job, often in a college or at a training provider. Whereas those on a traineeship may achieve certifications, apprentices usually work towards a more formal qualification, such as a National Vocational Qualification or professional certification.

Related: 11 top job skills: transferable skills for any industry


There can be a considerable difference between the duration of a traineeship and an apprenticeship. Traineeships can run from a few weeks to a year, although most last less than six months. Regardless of the length of a traineeship, it's necessary that the trainee spend a minimum of 70 hours in their work placement. Apprenticeships can vary from one to seven years, depending on the level of apprenticeship and the trade or profession you're learning.

Related: Certificate vs diploma vs. degree: key differences

Application process

The government provides online search services for finding both types of programmes, but employers also post apprenticeships on online job boards as they do with non-apprentice jobs. In most cases, requesting an apprenticeship is much the same as applying for a job. Candidates apply directly to the employer using an online application form, which usually requires them to upload their CV. The employer then invites shortlisted candidates for interviews.

The application process for a traineeship is usually less formal. Potential trainees can search for and browse traineeships in their area on the Find a traineeship website. The results list available traineeships and clicking on them provides additional information, such as the duration of the programme and the length of the work placement. Once they find a position that interests them, they register and apply through the government website.

Related: How to become an apprentice in 3 simple steps


Apprentices get compensation for their work, although the amount varies depending on the employer, age of the apprentice and level of apprenticeship. A first-year apprentice can expect to earn at least £4.81 per hour, while a second or third-year apprentice may earn more. Apprentices receive pay for their normal working hours and the training that's part of their apprenticeship. Trainees don't receive compensation for their work, but they may be eligible for expenses, such as travel and childcare. There are also several bursaries and scholarships available to help cover the cost of living for those on a traineeship.

Related: All you need to know about apprenticeship vs. university


Upon completion of a traineeship, participants usually find themselves in a better position to apply for jobs, apprenticeships or other learning opportunities. The employer provides the trainee with feedback on their performance and may furnish them with a reference. In some cases, a traineeship can lead to an apprenticeship or permanent job with the same employer. Those who complete an apprenticeship finish having gained job-specific skills and experience along with a formal qualification that's recognised by employers in their chosen field. On completion of an apprenticeship, an apprentice is more likely to receive a permanent position.

Related: The most useful skills for apprenticeships and apprentices

Questions to consider regarding which is best for you

Here are some questions to consider that can help you decide which of the two is the best training option for you:

  • What is your highest level of education? Apprenticeships are available for people with various levels of education, although some may require you to have certain qualifications, such as A-levels or a degree. If you don't have any higher education qualifications, such as a degree, you're eligible for a traineeship.

  • Is there a career you'd like to pursue? If you know which profession or trade you'd like to work in, an apprenticeship may be the best choice, as this training option is suitable for those who have a clear idea of which job they want to pursue. If you're not sure what you want to do, traineeships can give you the opportunity to try out various roles and sample different professions.

  • Do you have any work experience? If you don't have any work experience, a traineeship can give you the chance to gain some. If you already have some work experience, an apprenticeship can help you attain more job-specific skills in a distinct field.

  • Is earning money a necessity while you train? If you have savings or other financial support, undertaking a traineeship is an option. If you have financial obligations, an apprenticeship is likely the better option, as they allow you to earn money throughout the programme.

  • What would you like to gain by the end of the programme? If you want to gain employment in a specific role, an apprenticeship may be best. If you want to try out various roles or gain general skills, a traineeship may be more suitable for you.

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

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