Published on: 20 July 2023

An apprenticeship is a job

First and foremost an apprenticeship is a job, with an employment contract, holidays, and pay. If you want to combine working in a job role with studying for a qualification then an apprenticeship might suit you. Today apprenticeships are available in every sector of the economy including animal care, engineering, retail, hospitality, digital, healthcare, marketing, accountancy, construction, business administration, law, and management.

An apprenticeship is a journey from being a novice in a role to becoming an expert over at least a year, and some programmes are much longer. During your apprenticeship, you are paid as an employee with holidays and benefits. Pay rates vary but cannot be less than the minimum apprenticeship wage for the first year, and more thereafter.

Apprenticeships should be expansive and focus on developing the whole person for a job, a career (and other careers), and for life, through knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Going beyond that, an apprenticeship will instill a sense of curiosity, lifelong learning, discovery, and improvement.

You will work as part of a team, practicing your skills and putting knowledge into practice every day. You will need to be committed to juggling work, study, and social life for the duration of your apprenticeship! So if you‘re keen on university life and want to travel for a couple of months every summer then an apprenticeship won’t suit you.

Where do I start?

Each apprenticeship programme lasts a minimum of one year and includes some kind of an assessment at the end. This could be a project, a discussion, or an observation of practice. Entry requirements to apprenticeships vary but it is useful if you have GCSE A-C (9-4) in English and Maths to start, although some employers will let you do this at the same time as your apprenticeship.

Depending on what qualifications you have already will depend on your starting point. Some employers use apprenticeships to develop their existing staff into different or more senior roles. They might also employ new staff members as apprentices and use this opportunity to train them over at least a year to work safely and competently within their organisation. If you are looking for an apprenticeship it is useful to know what area/s you wish to study. This might be based on your GCSE, A-Level, or College course or on your interests. Do some reading on careers that might interest you as this will help you search later.

  • Levels of apprenticeship

Apprenticeships have equivalent educational levels.

  Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A level
Higher 4,5,6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree

Some apprenticeships may also give you an additional qualification, such as a diploma.

To start an apprenticeship you have to be aged 16+, living in England and not in full-time education, or have a similar qualification to that which you want to study.

Preparing to look for apprenticeships

You need to do some reading and investigating in your research for an apprenticeship. It is the same as applying for a job, so you must give it the same focus, and dedicate a good amount of time and energy into preparing yourself and writing your applications. 

It is important to know what kind of field you want to train in, as you can set alerts on search engines (like Indeed) so the vacancies pop into your email on a weekly basis. If you are looking for degree apprenticeships, and you already have, or are studying on A Level courses then you will need to start searching in October of Year 13. A number of large employers advertise early, and although they may leave the advert open for months, applying early gets your application started and gives less pressure later.

It is best to go for a general area at first, then read as many adverts as you can – this will help you to understand what roles exist in your chosen fields, you might have lots of choices, and then you can eliminate those you don’t like the sound of, or are too far to travel to. This reading will help you understand what your role might be as an apprentice, what responsibilities you would have and what qualification you will study during your apprenticeship. It also helps you to understand what the entry requirements are and what the required grades might be for key subjects. This is especially important in key areas where your apprenticeship builds on GCSE study in the sciences, or maths and English.

You need to do some reading and investigating in your research for an apprenticeship. It is the same as applying for a job, so you must give it the same focus, and dedicate a good amount of time and energy into preparing yourself and writing your applications. 

When you have a good idea what area you’re looking for

Now you can search employers for apprenticeship vacancies in your chosen field. You can set alerts for specific companies that operate in your chosen field and look online at company jobs pages. The big employers will have an ‘apprenticeship or early careers’ offer. Some employers like the NHS, only use their own portal (NHS jobs – so you will have to explore around.

Indeed will allow you to set alerts for both companies and job roles that include the word apprentice so look at this also. You can then get emails weekly to review.

The government ‘find an apprenticeship’ website – is particularly useful and again you can search by keyword, level of apprenticeship, or location. Spend time trying different words so you know what areas your searching covers. Have a look at UCAS Apprenticeships information – and use their search facility.

It is important to spend time preparing a CV so you have all your information in one place. Please read our page on job applications as this provides useful advice even for a CV.

Your CV needs to be written on a template so that for apprenticeships where you need to upload a CV you can modify the one you have for each apprenticeship application. Don’t just use the old one! Tailor each CV to the application and store everything separately on a Word document so you can paste it into a portal application later.

This guide is really helpful – PDF-a-guide-to-apprenticeship-applications ( and includes advice on how to write a cover letter and the value of your hobbies. So even if you’re a school leaver make the most of the skills you have in your hobbies and integrate these into job applications.

Some apprenticeship recruiters let you know the stages of your application. Initially, you might just upload your qualifications into a portal (use your CV to remind you), then they might email you and ask for further information, or for you to complete some kind of online test or assessment or a virtual interview. Employers all have different processes, but they should keep you informed by email if you need to action anything, so please check your inbox regularly, and action any requests promptly.

Some will have an advert open for many months, but applying sooner, rather than at the last minute will work to your advantage if they check through applications in between. If they run a screening programme and you get through the first process, they will email asking you to complete something within a very specific timeframe, and if you don’t your application will be rejected. Others will advertise last minute with a short deadline, so you do need to look often. Employers will advertise all year round, so don’t despair if you haven’t anything secured by July, just keep looking.

It is important to apply for several apprenticeships that you are interested in, even if you are waiting to hear back from others. It’s common to apply for several and see how you get on. It can be very competitive, especially with large employers, and you may be up against many people for only one apprenticeship post. This feels a bit like juggling as you might have a few applications open or progressing but don’t be put off, this is the way to gain experience of the process and increase your chances of an offer.

You will get a chance later to see if the company is the one for you, perhaps at a face-to-face interview or an assessment centre, but for now, keep your options open. Make sure you know the basics like what you’ll be studying, whether you can commute from home or will need to move, what the salary is, and the options available to you afterward, or if there is a guaranteed job with the company.

All this background reading is important. You need to personalise each application as they will often ask ‘what attracts you to an apprenticeship with our company?’ and they want to see a personal specific response. So upload something you have written or adapted for them, and remember to double-check this as you don’t want to send something with errors in!

Some degree apprenticeship employers will have many stages of application and may request a CV, then a maths and problem-solving assessment, personality preferences assessment, and virtual interview. At the early stage, this might be a pre-recorded one where you have to read a question, have a timed rehearsal, and then 2 minutes to record your answer. If you get an invitation to one of these re-read your CV before you start and read the instructions carefully. Initially, they might just want to find out a little about you and how you might deal with situations outside your comfort zone.

 For extra information and tips read our blogs  

Finally, don’t be disheartened if you are not offered something quickly. Keep applying and make sure you are looking in a variety of places. If you get to interview and are not successful always ask for feedback, that way you will hear about sections that you did well and areas you can improve for next time. Best of luck!