Why do a Higher Apprenticeship?

Explore the advantages of doing a Higher Apprenticeship, from the qualifications you could gain and paid work experience, to where the programme could take you next.

Placeholder

Why do a higher apprenticeship? 

A Higher Apprenticeship can be a great choice for school leavers, especially for those who have done relatively well in their GCSEs and/or A-levels, or who have completed an Advanced Apprenticeship, but want to progress without taking the standard further education route.

Higher Apprenticeships: qualifications

Higher Apprenticeships are the third level of apprenticeships, launched in 2009. They lead to a Level 4 or above qualification – the equivalent of a higher education qualification – without any of the debt associated with university…and with a salary. If you’re under 19, you’re entitled to the national apprentice minimum wage. Once you are over 19, you’re entitled to the National Minimum Wage. However, many employers pay higher apprentices more than the national minimum.

Higher Apprenticeships: pay

As Higher Apprentices are a step above Advanced and Intermediate Apprenticeships, you’ll likely get paid a little bit more than other apprentices. For example, PwC offer £23,000 for their three-year Higher Apprenticeship programme.

Higher Apprenticeships: training

Higher Apprenticeships give you the opportunity to earn while you learn. Qualifications that Higher Apprentices might work towards include a Level 4 or above Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification, such as a foundation degree or HND.

To put it simply: completing a Higher Apprenticeship is the equivalent to higher education, with added work-based experience. You’ll also gain relevant technical certificates or qualifications (depending on your type of apprenticeship) – how many more reasons do you need to do a Higher Apprenticeship?

Who can do a higher apprenticeship? 

The great thing about a Higher Apprenticeship is that it is designed to be an accessible alternative to university, although obviously there are some prerequisites.

Higher Apprenticeships: entry requirements 

If you want to become a Higher Apprentice you will need to show that you have the ability to complete the programme. The entry requirements will vary depending on the training provider and employer. Generally, to be eligible to do a Higher Apprenticeship you must have either completed an Advanced Apprenticeship or hold five or more GCSE grades (A*-C) or equivalent and often a certain number of A-levels / amount of UCAS points gained via A-levels, but that’s not always the case.

Higher Apprenticeships: industries

The prerequisites Higher Apprenticeships can also vary from industry to industry: some employers might be looking for applicants with specific experience or academic results in certain subjects related to their industry. They also might be looking for people happy to work in specific situations or with particular skills and experience.

For example, here are the prerequisites GSK specifies for its Higher Apprenticeship in Finance:

You do not need any prior finance experience. We’re looking for good communicators who enjoy working with people.

To be eligible for our finance apprenticeship programme, you will need:

  • A minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above or equivalent, including maths and English literature both at grade B
  • 300 UCAS points from three A-levels not including general studies

Severn Trent Water’s specification for its Digital Information Systems Higher Apprenticeship requests a willingness to travel and drive:

What we’re looking for…

- At least five GCSEs at grade C or above (or equivalent), including Maths, English and ideally a Science subject

- Willingness to get your full UK driving licence (if you don’t already have it

- Ability to get to work and college independently – not all our sites are on public transport routes

- The full right to live and work in the UK (without restrictions)

Higher Apprenticeships could take you from school to a highly-skilled, well paid job: perfect for ambitious school leavers.

"To put it simply: completing a Higher Apprenticeship is the equivalent to higher education, with added work-based experience."

What qualifications do higher apprenticeships offer? 

Higher Apprenticeships were launched in 2009 to give apprentices the opportunity to obtain qualifications at – you guessed it – a higher level.  

Higher Apprenticeships: qualifications

Qualifications an apprentice might work towards as part of a Higher Apprenticeship include a Level 4 – 6 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills or a knowledge-based qualification such as a foundation degree, HND or undergraduate degree.   

Qualifications at Levels 4 and 5 are equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or a foundation degree. Level 6 is equivalent to an undergraduate degree.

Higher Apprenticeships: career progression

You might then be able to 'top up' the university qualification gained on a Higher Apprenticeship (say, the equivalent to two years at university) to a full degree, or pursue a master’s or a relevant professional qualification.

These serious apprenticeships require serious applicants: normally you will need to have already completed an Advanced Apprenticeship or gained a minimum of two A-levels to be considered for a Higher Apprenticeship. However, employers might look at your work experience or other criteria if you don’t have these.

If it sounds like a Higher Apprenticeship might be for you, you can take a look at the vacancies on offer. 

Degree vs. higher apprenticeships 

If you’ve done A-levels then you have plenty of career options open to you: two of which are university degrees and Higher Apprenticeships. These are both great options if you’re looking for something to further boost your skills and knowledge before entering the world of work.

Higher Apprenticeships: qualifications

Higher Apprenticeships are the third level of apprenticeships, leading to a Level 4 or above qualification – the equivalent of a higher education qualification – without any of the debt associated with a university degree…and with a salary.

Higher Apprenticeships: pay

As Higher Apprentices are a step above Advanced and Intermediate Apprenticeships, you’ll likely get paid more than other apprentices. For example, PwC offer £23,000 for their three-year Higher Apprenticeship programme.

Higher Apprenticeships give you the opportunity to earn while you learn. Qualifications that Higher Apprentices might work towards include a Level 4 or above Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification, such as a foundation degree or HND.

Completing a Higher Apprenticeship is the equivalent to higher education, with added work-based experience. You’ll also gain relevant technical certificates or qualifications (depending on your type of apprenticeship).

Higher Apprenticeships: employers

The range of employers offering Higher Apprenticeships is also pretty impressive – doing a Higher Apprenticeship could mean being employed by a seriously high-profile company. Here are a few examples:

  • PwC
  • National Grid
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Deloitte
  • CGI

Higher Apprenticeships can also be shorter than university degrees, meaning that you could get ahead on the career ladder sooner than your peers who go to university, and you’ll get a head start on building up practical experience of the workplace and important ‘soft skills’ – leadership, teamwork, communication skills – and problem-solving skills right away. These are vital for the world of work, which many employers say that university degree graduates are lacking – going on to a Higher Apprenticeship could give you a better grounding in these skills than a degree.

A Higher Apprenticeship will also not leave you saddled with the student debt associated with a university degree: a typical student on a three-year course outside of London will to graduate with around £35,000 - £40,000 of student loan. This loan accrues interest; in England, for example this is 5.5%. After graduation, yearly repayments are set at 9% of whatever is earned above £21,000, regardless of the total loan amount.

Why go to university?

However, there are advantages to doing a university degree. Some careers (e.g. doctors) and jobs (e.g. graduate positions) specifically require a degree, so if that’s the case then a degree is obviously the only choice for you.

There’s the wider range of options too: If you decide to apply to university, you will have the luxury of choosing from hundreds of universities and thousands of courses; Higher Apprenticeships, on the other hand, are fairly restrictive – you can only take one with the companies that offer them.

Furthermore, you will be required to study a vocational course which is relevant to your Higher Apprenticeship, rather than having the total freedom to apply to any university course if you do a standard degree (assuming you have the right A-levels). If you fancy studying art history, for instance, you won’t get the chance to do so as part of a Higher Apprenticeship.

The best way to decide between degrees and Higher Apprenticeships to figure out your own personal long-term priorities, and go with the option that best serves them.

Like what you're reading?

We hate spam, so we'll only ever send stuff relevant to you.