Choosing an apprenticeship

If you are currently trying to decide what to do next in your career, then one of the many options that you might have thought about is an apprenticeship.

However, making this decision is important, as it will help to shape your future career, so you will need to think about whether it is the right choice for you and, if it is, whether you are choosing the apprenticeship that will best suit you and your needs.

This guide will help you with some key things to think about – so you don’t need to worry about making the wrong choice.

1. Decide if it's the right step for you

Many people choose to do an apprenticeship because they may not be suited to academic study – but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still some of this type of studying involved.

Lots of people learn better if they are able to get hands-on experience, and this is something that can definitely be gained from an apprenticeship.

There are also financial issues which may make it a good choice – in that most university courses cost money, whereas if you do an apprenticeship you will be earning.

You should ensure that you feel ready to enter the workplace, though, as this can be demanding – particularly when you are balancing it with study.

2. Explore sectors you're interested in

There are lots of things that you can do as an apprentice, including mechanics, plumbing, electrician work, care, and much more.

There are many different sectors that you could work in, and you need to think about which one you would like to work in and why.

You will probably find that if you’re doing an apprenticeship just so that you have something to do, you won’t thrive.

Think about what your passions are, what subjects you enjoyed at school or college, and how you might be able to link this into the type of work that you're interested in applying for.

3. Select the right level of apprenticeship

There are different levels of apprenticeship to choose from, depending on your prior attainment:

  • Intermediate apprenticeships - these are great if you're just starting out or have less than 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C (or grades 9-4 under the new system).
  • Advanced apprenticeships - if you already have at least 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C  (grades 9-4) then you can apply directly for an Advanced level apprenticeship.
  • Higher apprenticeships - these are the equivalent to a foundation degree, and are designed for applicants who already have 2 or more A-levels.
  • Degree apprenticeships - these are equivalent to a full Bachelor's degree (level 6) or Master's degree (level 7). This means you can qualify at the same level as a university graduate, but without a huge debt at the end of your studies.

Make sure you know which one you need to look at applying for, otherwise you might not have the correct pre-requisites for your application to qualify.

4. Decide which vacancies to apply for

Unlike applying for a college or university place, you will need to search a lot harder for apprenticeship vacancies, to make sure you have considered everything that might be right for you.

When you are this stage, you should consider:

  • The company that you will be working for - do you want to be a part of a large company, or would you prefer to be involved in a small business, where just one apprentice is taken on?
  • The pay - there is a minimum wage for apprentices, but that doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll get in all roles. Some employers will pay more, so look out for these vacancies.
  • The working hours - this will differ depending on which company you work for, so you should try to choose one that would fit your lifestyle as best you can. Some companies may expect you to work evenings and weekends, whereas others wouldn’t.
  • Location - if you are travelling to your job, this will cost you a little more than if you were able to walk, so this cost should be taken into account. If you’re unable to drive, you need to ensure that there is public available for the journey you need to take, at the time you need to take it. If you are awarded a role, and then find that you have to take four different buses to get to it, you may find that it is a struggle to stay motivated.

Research is everything, and the more questions you ask, the better prepared you will be likely to be. For this reason, you should get in touch with companies who advertise vacancies, and ask them lots of questions about their apprenticeship scheme. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to make a decision that will suit you.

Apprenticeship vacancies can be found in many places across the internet. Here are some of the best websites to begin your search:

If you know which subject/sector you wish to apply for, you can find more specific vacancies through search engines via the correct phrase, e.g. "Engineering apprenticeships".

Please note that all apprenticeship vacancies may be posted on generic boards, so if there's a particular company(s) you would like to apply to, it's best to check their own website for more information.

5. Think about the future

Once you have a firm idea about the type of apprenticeship you’d like to pursue it’s time to think about the bigger picture. For example:

  • Will the apprenticeship you’ve chosen ultimately help you meet your career goals?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?
  • Will your apprenticeship programme help you gain the skills, knowledge and experience you’ll need to get there?

Perhaps you’re keen to choose an apprenticeship in a growth sector, with great opportunities for career development. Maybe you feel it’s more important to gain transferable skills that can be used across a broad range of industries. These are all factors that will influence your choice of apprenticeship.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying for apprenticeships, please see: