Higher Apprenticeships | What you need to know

Higher apprenticeships are a fantastic career route if you’re looking for a viable alternative to university. Whether you’re thinking about a higher level apprenticeship after your A Levels or you’ve just completed an advanced level apprenticeship, a higher apprenticeship can help pave the way for your future career. 

A range of qualifications come under the higher apprenticeships category from the first year of an undergraduate degree (level 4) to a masters apprenticeship (level 7), there is a world of opportunities available to you. They give you the chance to gain workplace experience while developing your skills and qualifying in your chosen industry/sector.

What is a higher apprenticeship?

If you’re considering a higher apprenticeship, you might be wondering what one is. If this is the case, a higher apprenticeship is similar to intermediate and advanced apprenticeships with the difference being you will be awarded a higher level qualification upon completion. With a higher level apprenticeship, you could become qualified up to a level 4, level 5, level 6 and in some cases even a level 7. Apprentices spend 20% of the working week studying towards a qualification with a training provider, college or university institute, while the remaining time is spent with your employer learning on the job. 

Levels of apprenticeships

The levels of apprenticeships vary depending on your level of previous experience and qualifications. Here is a list of higher level apprenticeships that you can do:

Level 4 apprenticeships

What is a Level 4 apprenticeship?

A level 4 apprenticeship is equal to gaining a foundation level degree. They give you the opportunity to work while learning and gaining knowledge, skills and qualifications. 

How long is a level 4 apprenticeship?

The length of a level 4 apprenticeship will vary depending on your employer and your own competencies, but a level 4 apprenticeship typically lasts between 3 and 5+ years. The minimum length of apprenticeship for any level is one year.

Level 4 apprenticeship equivalent

These are equivalent to a CertHE, Level 4 NVQ, HNC, BTEC, a foundation degree or first year undergraduate degree. 

higher apprenticeships

Level 5 apprenticeships

A level 5 apprenticeship is equivalent to a DipHE, Level 5 BTEC or NVQ, HND, foundation level degree or second year undergraduate degree. Typically, these do not provide access to postgraduate programmes. 

Level 6 apprenticeships

A level 6 apprenticeship is also known as a higher degree apprenticeship. These enable you to gain a debt-free degree while getting paid and gaining lots of valuable on the job work experience.

What is a higher degree apprenticeship equivalent to?

Degree apprenticeships are the equivalent of a BA, BSc Degree, Level 6 NVQ or BTEC, Graduate Certificate. These provide access to postgraduate programmes such as a Master’s  degrees and Apprenticeships.

Level 7 apprenticeships

A level 7 apprenticeship is also known as a graduate apprenticeship or master’s apprenticeship. These provide equal qualifications to a Meng, MSc, MA, PGCSE, postgraduate certificate or a Level 7 NVQ. 

If you haven’t already, you might need to complete your Level 2 or 3 Functional Skills qualifications alongside your apprenticeship programme. These will help you qualify in English, maths and sometimes IT. The training provider will check your previous exam grade prior to the start of your apprenticeship and will let you know if you need to complete your functional skills exams. 

Employers may also give you the chance to gain a variety of other qualifications which are related to your job. For example, if you’re working in engineering, you may receive training and qualifications in operating machinery.

What qualifications do I need to be accepted onto a higher level apprenticeship?

Higher level apprenticeships are challenging so you’ll need to be hardworking and committed to your studies, as well as to the organisation you work for. Due to the academic nature of a higher apprenticeship, you will need formal qualifications to gain access to the apprenticeship. This typically includes:

  • 5 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4 on the new grading system, this will also include English and maths)
  • A Levels or the equivalent (advanced apprenticeship, BTEC, NVQ)

If you have been working in a particular sector or industry for a while, then you may be accepted onto an apprenticeship with qualifications which are lower as experience will also be taken into consideration. 

Some employers and educational institutions will also set specific requirements. For example, you may need to have a qualification relevant to the industry/sector so it’s always advisable to check the job description of the vacancy you are applying for. 

Higher apprentices are given a lot of responsibility, however, don’t let this put you off as you’ll receive plenty of support from your manager and normally you will be assigned a mentor who will be there to support you with any queries or issues you may have. 

As you continue growing and developing, your responsibilities will too. By the end of the programme, you might even be managing your own team! Throughout a higher apprenticeship, you’ll undertake a structured training programme which specialises in making you become an industry expert. Depending on the industry of apprenticeship you might even be given the opportunity to gain Chartered status. This could be sponsored by your employer or part of the programme. 

What are higher level apprenticeships like?

Higher apprenticeships can be extremely beneficial, however, they are also challenging. If you’re thinking about doing one because you consider it to be the ‘easy route’ you might want to rethink. You will need to find a balance between your studies and job. 

During your higher level apprenticeship, you’ll receive a wealth of support from your manager, mentor, tutor and colleagues who will all support you to succeed. Normally, you’ll be given an induction which will outline your key responsibilities and support. Your apprenticeship will be split between 80% on the job training and 20% study at college, university or with your training provider where you’ll be working towards securing a qualification alongside developing knowledge.

How you split your time will vary depending on the training institute and your employer. You may spend a block release away from the job so you can concentrate on your training or you might spend time once a week training. Your trainer might come to visit you in the workplace, you might have to travel to the external training provider (college, university, training centre) or it may be done virtually, which is becoming even more common due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, it is expected that the majority of training will be migrated online. 

businessman working on desk office with using a calculator to calculate the numbers, finance accounting concept

Can I do a higher apprenticeship?

To undertake a higher apprenticeship, you will either need to have formal qualifications including 5 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4 on the new grading system, this will also include English and maths), Level 3 qualification (A Levels, NVQs, BTEC, Advanced Apprenticeship). If you’re applying for a level 7 apprenticeship, you’ll normally need a level 6 qualification.

For higher level apprenticeships, you might also be required to have qualifications in relevant subjects but this varies depending on the employer. You can still be eligible to apply for a higher apprenticeship even if you don’t have the necessary qualifications but you will need relevant experience. Again, this varies depending on the employer so it’s important that you check the job specification when applying.

How much will I get paid for a higher apprenticeship?

As of April 2020, the minimum wage for higher apprentices is £4.15 per hour. If you are under 19 years of age or 19 years old and over but in the first year of your apprenticeship, you will be paid a minimum of £4.15. Apprentices aged 19 and over in their second year of the apprenticeship must be paid the minimum wage for their age group. However, it’s worth taking into account that many employers will pay more than the minimum apprenticeship wage, even in your first year!

What type of apprenticeships are available at higher levels?

If you think apprenticeships are just for trades, think again! This is a myth we can bust right here. Apprenticeships are available across a wide range of industries including the following:

This list contains some of the most popular routes but there are a wealth of opportunities available. To see the full list, visit the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Here we go into more detail about a couple of the most popular higher apprenticeship routes, these include:

Engineering higher apprenticeships

Engineering higher apprenticeships offer a credible alternative to university and with hard work and determination they can be a rewarding career route. You’ll undertake structured training on the job and off the job, where you’ll study towards gaining relevant qualifications while also gaining experience and work specific skills. Engineering higher apprenticeships can lead to careers in the following areas:

  • Aerospace engineering
  • Maintenance
  • Wind generation
  • Nuclear technology
  • Automotive
  • Research and Development
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Railway engineering
Male and Female Industrial Engineers in Hard Hats Discuss New Project while Using Laptop. They Make Showing Gestures.They Work in a Heavy Industry Manufacturing Factory.

Accounting higher apprenticeships

Accounting higher apprenticeships combine academic study with on the job training so you can gain work experience, on the job skills and a nationally recognised qualification at a level 4 or above. 

Alongside your apprenticeship qualification, you can also gain an additional professional qualification, which includes one of the following:

  • AAT - Diploma in Accounting
  • ATT - Tax Technician
  • ACCA - Diploma in Accounting & Business
  • CIMA - Certificate in Business Accounting
  • ICAEW - Certificate in Finance, Accounting & Business
  • CIPFA - Professional Certificate
  • ICAS - Professional Diploma in Accounting, Finance & Tax

Upon completion of your apprenticeship, you could be working in tax, assurance, audit, management, financial accounting or forensic.

What can I do after a higher level apprenticeship?

After completing a higher level apprenticeship,  the world really is your oyster. You might choose to continue your studies at university or continue onto another apprenticeship, this could go up to a level 7! You might also decide that you’re now ready to enter the world of work with a full-time position at a different organisation or continue working with the company you did your apprenticeship with. It’s completely up to you!

Now you know everything there is to know about the higher level apprenticeship route, it’s time to find the right opportunity for you. Whether you’re interested in a healthcare job or engineering, we have lots of options for you to choose from! Ready to start your job search for a higher apprenticeship?

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