How hard is it to get a Higher Apprenticeship?

  • Billy Sexton
  • Last updated 16 Apr 2020


Higher apprenticeships are level 4 and 5, which means they are the equivalent of a Higher National Certificate (HNC), a Higher National Diploma (HND), or a foundation degree, to use just three examples.  

They’re an amazing opportunity to combine learning on the job, getting a qualification and being paid. It’s not a stroll in the park to land yourself on a Higher Apprenticeship though. With Degree Apprenticeships the only apprenticeships out there, that offer a higher level of qualification at levels 6 and 7, it’s quite hard to get a Higher Apprenticeship!

Higher Apprenticeships: what do the numbers tell us?

The number of Higher Apprenticeships available each year is less than the number of Intermediate or Advanced Apprenticeships but is more than the number of Degree Apprenticeships available.

Statistics from the UK government reveal that just 13.4% of all apprenticeship starts in the 2018/19 academic year were at Level 4 or Level 5, equating to just over 52,500 of roughly 395,000 apprenticeships started.

What are the typical entry requirements for a Higher Apprenticeship?

Higher Apprenticeship entry requirements vary by employer but are likely to be reasonably challenging.

First and foremost, because Higher Apprenticeships are Level 4 and 5, so generally speaking, employers will want you to have a minimum of two A-levels or equivalent.

Additionally, think of it from the point of view of organisations who are hiring Higher Apprentices: they are paying for your learning and course fees, paying you a salary (£15,000-£20,000 a year), and would like to see you continue to work at the organisation for a number of years after you complete your qualification. Therefore, with Higher Apprenticeships lasting anywhere from three to five years, your employer will be making a considerable investment in your future so want to make sure they are hiring the best person.

From checking out the roles available on AllAboutSchoolLeavers at the time of writing, entry requirements include the following:

  • Software Developer at Unilever – 2 A-levels, and at least 5 GCSEs at level 4 or above including Maths, English and ideally either IT or science.
  • EY Business Apprenticeship in Assurance – 3 A-levels or equivalent
  • Software Engineering at Facebook - 2 A-levels, or equivalent, at grade C or above, with preferably one in Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM). Ability to program in some mainstream programming language such as C++, Java, Python, Haskell, PHP or Javascript
  • Global Transaction Banking Analyst Apprenticeship at Lloyd’s Banking Group - Grade C or above in at least five GCSEs, including English and Mathematics and 104 UCAS points, or equivalent.

What else will a Higher Apprenticeship employer be looking for?

Not only do Higher Apprenticeship employers look for decent academic achievements, but they will also want to hire a person who has certain behaviours or characteristics. They will assess these in the initial application you make, and also through any psychometric testing and assessment days that you are invited to undertake and attend.

Every organisation is different, so it’s best that you check their website and research company values before you make any applications. However, generally speaking, employers are looking for the following:

  • Commitment and passion – you’re going to be doing a Higher Apprenticeship for at least two years, so employers want to know that you’re committed to completing the apprenticeships. They’ll also be hoping that you’re passionate about the company and sector of work. Employers want somebody in their firm who will think innovatively and be enthused about helping the business reach their goals. 
  • Able to juggle priorities and deadlines – On an apprenticeship, you will spend 20% of your time learning off the job and Higher Apprenticeships are no different. You will also have a full-time job, which will be busy and demanding at times so could face a situation where you have coursework due and have deadlines at work. Your employer will support you, but you need to be able to juggle priorities yourself too.
  • Willingness to learn – you might feel on top of the world if you secure a Higher Apprenticeship, but there’s always more to learn to improve upon both inside and outside the classroom. Employers will want to hire someone who has achieved a lot but is also will to learn a lot more and continually improve.

I’m ready to apply for a Higher Apprenticeship!

Not put off by the hurdles and obstacles between you and a Higher Apprenticeship? That’s exactly the type of attitude that will bring you success! Head to the jobs section of AllAboutSchoolLeavers to check out the latest opportunities and check out our other advice articles about Higher Apprenticeships.

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