Many people who are interested in apprenticeships wrongly assume they are only for young students who want an alternative to further education in school. This an outdated and incorrect image of apprenticeships. In truth, they offer a vast range of opportunities to people of all ages, helping to advance their career by undertaking new, practical vocational training.

The four levels of apprenticeship available are Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Degree. For detailed breakdowns on these, visit our guide on types of apprenticeship.

The easiest way to understand these types is to view them in conjunction with their qualification level. For example, Intermediate is a Level 2 qualification and is considered roughly equivalent to 5 GCSE’s passes; anybody of any age over 16 can do this level of apprenticeship. Advanced is a Level 3 qualification, approximately equal to 2 A-Level passes. Higher apprenticeships cover Levels 4 to 7 qualifications and Degree Levels 5-7; level 4 being the equivalent to a foundation degree and level 7 the equivalent to a master’s degree.

The vital thing to note is that anybody can begin one of these apprenticeship levels at any time. They are not reserved for the traditional age of the qualification, e.g. aged 18 for a degree. Also, to begin an apprenticeship you do not necessarily have to have completed the previous level or have the last qualification equivalent. This is because entry is decided by the specific employer and training provider.

At times employers may specify for example, that you need 3 GCSE passes to do a Level 3 Apprenticeship, however, it is not uncommon for there to be no formal entry requirements.

Adult apprenticeships and those with existing qualifications

Many adults who are looking to refresh their skills while remaining in employment are choosing adult apprenticeships. It’s common for employees to take on an apprenticeship with their current employer to train for a new position, or to update their skills for their current role. As stated above, there are no age restrictions to each apprenticeship; instead, it’s about finding the right level for you and your skills.

There is a lot of confusing information online about doing an apprenticeship when you already have specific qualifications. Here at Employing an Apprentice, we have done the hard work for you to make this information as straightforward as possible. Here is what you need to know:

If you are changing career or want to train in a new area, you can do an apprenticeship at the same qualification level, or a lower level, of a qualification you already have. For example, if you already have a level 4 qualification in Accounting, that won’t affect you enrolling on an Advanced apprenticeship (Level 3) in media or an Intermediate apprenticeship (Level 2) in journalism.

What you can’t do is an apprenticeship at the same level, or lower level, to a qualification you already have if the content is too similar. For example, if you have a Level 3 qualification in Maths, you can’t then do an Intermediate apprenticeship in Finance or Accounting.

The decision on whether the content is ‘too similar’ or not, depends on how much ‘new learning’ you will be doing. An apprenticeship aims to develop your abilities and teach you new skills; there is no point undertaking an apprenticeship if you already have a qualification that provided similar content.

At times, it can feel unclear as subjects may seem similar, but actually have significant differences in content. For example, you can do an apprenticeship in marketing at the same level as your graphic design degree because there is considered to be enough scope for new learning.

When you apply for an apprenticeship, the training provider will decide whether or not there are enough opportunities for new learning based on your previous qualifications. The training provider will do something called a ‘skills scan’ to assess what skills you already have; this helps them work out a trajectory for your apprenticeship and set appropriate goals. If they believe there is too much overlap with a previous qualification, your application may not be accepted.

For more information, find out the reasons to start an apprenticeship.