Everything you need to know about Higher Apprenticeships.

Like all apprenticeships, higher level apprenticeships give you the chance to gain a qualification while working, build your skills and get paid to do it.

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Higher Level Apprenticeships

What is a higher apprenticeship?

Following on from advanced apprenticeships (level 3), higher apprenticeships offer the chance to earn a variety of different qualifications in a number of industries.

As a category, higher apprenticeships contain all apprenticeship schemes from level 4 through to level 7 and are designed for people who are aged 18 or over. Covering several levels of qualifications, they can vary greatly in a number of factors, including the time they take to complete, their entry requirements, and their balance of hands-on work and classroom study.

Apprenticeships have gone through a bit of a revival over the last ten years. No longer just associated with trades and low-paying jobs, some of the biggest UK employers now offer higher apprenticeships, with well defined and often lucrative career paths.

If you are 16, you can get onto a higher apprenticeship by completing an advanced apprenticeship or by attaining A Level or other level 3 qualifications.

Higher apprenticeships can lead you to a fast progressing career, a degree apprenticeship, or give you the admission requirements for a university degree course.

Higher apprenticeships are the fastest growing apprenticeship. In 2017/18, there was 48,150 higher level (level 4+) apprenticeship starts, compared to just 3,700 in 2011/12.

How do I get a higher apprenticeship?

To get onto a higher level apprenticeship (level 4+), you will need all of the qualifications required for an advanced apprenticeship, at least five GCSEs grade A*–C (9–4). On top of this, you will also require a minimum of two A-levels or a level 3 equivalent qualification. You may gain a further competitive advantage if the subjects you have studied are relevant to the apprenticeship you are applying for.

There can be a lot of competition for higher apprenticeships, as they are available to everyone, including adults in fulltime employment and current employees of the business who might be given the opportunity to move onto an apprenticeship to further their training. Because of this high competition, it is important to submit the best application that you possibly can.

If you are trying to start your apprenticeship at levels 5, 6, or 7 then these entry levels will scale, requiring higher qualifications. Although apprenticeship levels are a great way to tell the appropriate education level of an apprenticeship at a glance, be sure the check the detailed requirements for each individual job, as they will vary.

What qualifications can I achieve?

Higher apprenticeships offer some fantastic qualifications. The qualification you ultimately receive will depend on the level (4-7) that your higher apprenticeship goes up to. This means there is a real host of different qualifications on offer, ranging from NVQ level 4’s, to foundation and full University degrees.

Check out the individual job description and be sure that the qualifications you are getting on your scheme are suitable for your learning level and future ambitions.

How do higher apprenticeships work?

Higher apprenticeships are a combination of work and study. You will spend roughly 20% of your time in a learning environment (in-house, training provider, college, or university) and the other 80% of your time working in your job role.

With a higher apprenticeship, you will be given responsibility from the get-go and will have the chance to make an impact on your business. To help you succeed you are also given lot of support, both from your workplace tutor/mentor and from your manager.

On the best apprenticeships, employers and training providers work together to ‘sync up’ your learning and working experience. This means they are designed to put the skills you learn in the classroom straight into practice around the business. Well-designed apprenticeships are agile in this regard; if they assess that you already have a particular skill, they will progress you quickly, rather than train you in something you already know how to do.

Contrary to popular belief, being an apprentice doesn’t make you a junior member of staff. Apprentices can be tasked with managing people, projects, and processes, so if your future career involves any type of management, expect to start learning it now.

Depending on your scheme, your study time may be rationed in different ways. Some providers like to dedicate 1 day a week to your learning and education. However, others will allocate this time differently. This means you may spend a whole week, month, or even your first year at college or university.

There have never been more opportunities at higher apprenticeship level. The National Apprenticeship Service lists 105 different higher apprenticeship pathways with more on the way.

What do I get paid?

Like any other full-time employment, higher apprenticeships pay you for your time and hard work. Higher apprenticeship wages can vary depending on your age, level of study, previous qualifications and experience, and the company and sector your apprenticeship is in.

All apprenticeships follow wage guidelines and are governed by an apprentice minimum wage.

All apprenticeships are different, but due to the competitive nature of higher apprenticeships, many do offer wages well above the minimum required. Moreover, many schemes allow apprentices to gain pay rises as they complete different sections of their apprenticeship.

Your wage after completing your apprenticeship is also equal to that of a recent university graduate, with many commanding starting salaries of £25,000-£30,000.

Why should I do a higher apprenticeship?

There are so many reasons to apply for a higher apprenticeship:

Get paid

Apprentices are paid a wage throughout their entire course. Get paid to keep learning and skill up faster.


Get a head-start on the competition. With an apprenticeship, you will be working in your job role before any of your university peers. This means faster progression in your chosen profession.

Pay nothing

All training costs are co-funded by the government and your employer, so you don’t need to worry about tuition, exam fees or other learning-related costs.

Equivalent qualifications

Earn higher and even university qualifications, all without the cost of higher education.

All professional

Work and learn from professionals from day one. What better way to learn than from years of experience?

Bright future

Higher apprentices are very employable, with 90% of apprentices in England staying in employment after completing their qualification, 71% with the same employer.

Academic success

Once you’ve finished a higher apprenticeship you can advance to a degree apprenticeship or university degree.

Flexible career

Even if you decide not to stick with your current employer or career, the skills gained on an apprenticeship are easily transferable, setting you up to easily transition into a new career path, sector, or further education.

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