An apprenticeship can be a great stepping-stone in your career. Whether it is your first move into employment through a Level 3 course, or completing your education through a master’s apprenticeship, you can’t go wrong gaining experience and a wage whilst you learn.

The ability to earn and learn at the same time is a major attraction with apprenticeships and the experience gained can stand you in good stead for future career advancement. By way of comparison, a new University graduate may not have any actual experience of working in their chosen field by the time their degree is finished.

Although the potential for gains is enormous, apprenticeships often take longer to complete than the equivalent qualification in a full-time study environment. Therefore, an essential step in applying is to research the apprenticeship beforehand to make sure you are making the right decision for your own circumstances.

With tuition fees for university undergraduate courses costing as much as £9,250 per year, the ability to earn money instead of paying fees, but to have the learning component spaced out over a longer period of time, can seem like a very attractive option to many people who would struggle to find that money.

Many students end up working to fund their way through University anyway so by taking the apprenticeship route, you can at least be working in a field that is relevant to your career progression while you study.

Apprenticeships have been standardised to improve their quality and consistency across the length and breadth of the country. Those which have been agreed and released are known as apprenticeship standards.

There are now so many choices out there spanning across a variety of industries, and new apprenticeship standards are being developed and released every month.

Who Can Apply?

Anyone with the right to work in the UK who is 16 or over can apply for an apprenticeship. However, there are some restrictions on which apprenticeships you can apply for, especially if you already have a qualification in the same field.

For more details on whether you are eligible for a particular apprenticeship, visit our page on who can start an apprenticeship.

Finding the Right Level

You don’t have to have a preceding qualification in that field to do an apprenticeship. This means you can apply for whichever level is right for you, decided by the training provider.

However, if for example you only have level 2 or 3 qualifications and are applying for a level 6 or 7 qualification, it is unlikely that the employer will see you as being capable of taking on the academic side of it at that level.

It is important to be realistic about your own academic abilities when considering which apprenticeship to apply for and to be honest with yourself about which of the levels you are confident of attaining.

There can, of course, be exceptions and it may be that you can make a compelling case for taking on a higher level than your previous educational results may suggest you are capable of. Such cases will be rare though and most people will tend to stick to the academic range that looks most suitable based on their experiences to date.

For more information on finding the right level of apprenticeship for you, visit our page on the types of apprenticeships.

Finding the Right Apprenticeship

There is a useful tool, provided by the Institute for Apprenticeships which details all the apprenticeship standards. It is largely aimed at employers, so you can ignore much of the information about the training providers and funding bands. However, it includes all the skills and content of the apprenticeship you will be undertaking so is a good resource to have a look at prior to applying.

It is good to remember that you will still be spending up to 80% of your time with an employer, so finding the right company for you is just as important as the training itself in the apprenticeship.

Sometimes it’s best to work backwards. Find the Career Paths section on our site. This section has lots of information on roles within different sectors so you should be able to develop a better idea of what is out there and available to you.

By exploring where you may want to end up, you can figure out the types of skills and experience you need to develop in order to succeed. Based on that information, you can see which apprenticeship suits you best, so you can reach your future potential.

Applying for an Apprenticeship

Once you have found the right apprenticeship standard for you, it is time to find the actual apprenticeship itself.

However, before you search, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Apprenticeship Applications are Just Like Job Applications

This means you are likely to miss out on a few apprenticeships before you get accepted. Don’t lose heart, the key to success is to keep trying, persistence will pay off in the end.

For tips and guidance on applying, visit our apprentice’s document library for essential tools to help you succeed. Take a look at our 5 tips on applying for apprenticeships too! 

2. Keep What You Want in Mind

It is unlikely that you will find the right employer providing the exact apprenticeship you want right away. If you do decide to look for apprenticeships other than the one you have selected, keep in mind why you chose it.

Make a shortlist of potential apprenticeships and rank them in your order of preference, applying for them in that order. That way you can try all of your top choices first and maximise your chances of getting something that you are enthusiastic about starting.

An apprenticeship is a big commitment, so don’t apply for an apprenticeship just because it’s available. It is important that you feel like you will be able to see the apprenticeship through to the end, but if for whatever reason that doesn’t happen, you will still have options.

With nearly half of all experienced professionals in the UK considering switching careers because they jumped into the wrong one at an early age, it’s better to take some time now to get it right than having to switch at some point further down the line.

Now you’re ready to search and apply for an apprenticeship. Good luck in finding a suitable pathway into your new career! Take a look at our apprenticeship interview advice as well as some common apprenticeship interview questions

Currently, the best place to visit to find and apply for an apprenticeship is our specialised apprenticeship jobs board.