What apprenticeship is right for me?

16 January 2019 | Careers Advice | Guest Author

If you’re looking to avoid crushing student loan debt and considering that 89% of apprentices are satisfied with their apprenticeship according to gov.uk, it’s definitely worth taking the time to consider apprenticeships and what they can offer you.

With apprenticeships available in over 170 sectors, and with more and more companies offering apprenticeships at every level with various qualifications such as BTECS, NVQs, HNDs and even degrees, selecting the right pathway for you can seem a bit confusing.

Don’t panic though! If you’re having trouble figuring out the differences between apprenticeship levels, we’ve compiled some hints and tips about picking the right pathway for you, including what you need to apply, the qualifications you could achieve and how to choose the right industry for you.

First of all, the things common to all apprenticeships

All apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job learning and classroom learning and, regardless of the level you choose, include the following three elements:

  • Competencies qualification – a certificate saying that you’re competent in your apprenticeship trade or occupation – the level of this qualification varies depending on the apprenticeship level that you choose
  • Knowledge-based qualification – showing that you have specialist knowledge and understanding of your chosen industry
  • Key Skills/Functional skills qualification – helping you achieve a good standard of literacy or numeracy


Moreover, of the main attractions is that unlike going to university, you’ll also be paid to do an apprenticeship. The minimum wage for apprentices is £3.70 an hour* but many companies pay their apprentices more, and if you’re aged 19 and over, you’re entitled to the National Minimum Wage of £5.90*.

(*correct in January 2019)

Apprenticeship levels: a quick summary

Level Type of apprenticeship Equivalent to
Level 2 Intermediate 5 GCSEs
Level 3 Advanced 2 A-Levels
Level 4 Higher Education certificate or diploma
Level 5 Higher Foundation degree
Level 6  Degree Bachelor’s degree
Level 7 Degree Masters degree


Entry requirements vary from employer to employer and from entry level to entry level, so when applying make sure you check out the job description to see what the qualifications you need.

First and foremost, the Intermediate Apprenticeship

What do I need?

This is the most common apprenticeship level. Normally you’ll need a couple of GCSEs (A*-C), with two of them preferably being English and Maths.

However, some intermediate apprenticeships might not require you to have any formal qualifications, which is great for school leavers who want to focus on developing skills on-the-job while earning a wage.

Most companies will require you to take a basic literacy and numeracy test if you don’t have above a C in GCSE English or Maths, but again, check the job description to see what qualifications you need.

What will I gain?

A level 2 based competency qualification, a functional skills qualification and a knowledge-based qualification. You’ll also work towards a NVQ at Level 2, which is the equivalent to achieving 5 GCSEs A*-C. Completing an Intermediate Apprenticeship also means you’ll be able to apply for an Advanced Apprenticeship.

Already have 5 GCSEs A*-C? Then go for the Advanced Apprenticeship

What do I need?

If you’ve already come out of school with 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, or have completed an Intermediate Apprenticeship and want to continue developing your skills, then an Advanced Apprenticeship could be for you.

What will I gain?

With an Advanced Apprenticeship, you’ll gain a level 3 competency qualification, a functional skills qualification and a knowledge-based qualification such as a BTEC. Completing this level of apprenticeship is the equivalent to achieving two A-Level passes.

Already have 2 A-Levels? Check out Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships offer a great way to continue your studies further while still earning. They are available in a range of fields from banking to engineering and more employers are offering them every day so make sure you keep an eye on what's on offer. So if you’re looking to avoid the high cost of university fees, but still want to come out with a great qualification, then maybe this level is for you.

What do I need?

Many doing this apprenticeship are aged 18 and over, have already completed an Advanced Apprenticeship or have at least two A-Levels.

What will I gain?

Completing a Higher or a Degree apprenticeship means that you’ll earn qualifications like an NVQ Level 4 or a foundation degree, HND or even an undergraduate degree depending on the specific programme you follow.

Picking your industry

Picking a particular industry can either be the hardest or easiest part of the application process. To start with, you might want to consider subjects that you enjoyed at school or, if school wasn’t really for you, think about subjects that you wish you’d had the opportunity to learn about.

Ask advice from people you know – parents, friends of parents, teachers and careers advisors can all offer you insight into your strengths and help you make a decision about which industry is best for you.

If you don’t know anyone personally, then Internet is your best friend; many apprenticeship advice websites will have case studies and profiles for various industries, which will help you gain and insight to what working in that sector will be like.

Probably the best way of figuring out whether you like a role or not is by simply looking at job descriptions, which will give you an overview of your responsibilities, as well as a quick summary of the company and what they’re looking for.

If you’re looking for more information and would rather speak to someone face-to-face about the variety of apprenticeships and the opportunities they can offer you, then come along to What Career Live? for free to speak to employers and industry professionals.

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