Find out why degree apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular choice for young people, with soundbite advice from a range of apprentices and employment experts.
The government describes them as ‘bringing together the best of higher and vocational education’. They're an exciting new way for students to earn an academic degree, while gaining hands-on experience in their chosen field.
A degree qualification
Degree Apprenticeships are different from most apprenticeships in that students have the opportunity to gain a full bachelor's (Level 6) or master’s (Level 7) degree.
On top of their work with an employer, apprentices study part-time at a university or college. They work at least 30 hours a week, studying around these times using whichever method suits the employer’s needs.
The teaching for Exeter University’s Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship takes place through residential sessions, online learning and virtual workshops, to complement apprentices’ work with their employers.
Degree apprentices receive a salary while they study, earning at least an apprentice’s minimum wage for the whole 3-5 years of their employment.
The minimum wage is £3.90 per hour, but earnings are usually much higher. Apprentices working in Team Leadership and Management enjoy the highest rates of pay, earning an average of £9.11 per hour.
Degree Apprenticeships are also completely free, so apprentices will avoid the usual tuition fee debt!
Degree apprentices gain valuable real-world experience as they learn to operate in a working environment. They will be delegated responsibilities and tasks as an employee within the company.
Apprentices benefit from being in a professional environment, training alongside qualified employees and learning from experience.They can also network and make contacts in their industry that will benefit them in the future.
“A graduate doesn’t always have the employability skills. They might come out with the technical knowledge but they might not have the work skills because they might not have had any work experience… by the time they finish their apprenticeship they are so much more valuable than a graduate coming through the door.”
(Emma Choat, Emerging Talent Development Manager at Arcadis)
“Many employers are finding that recent university leavers lack work experience, and the soft skill this brings… it is perhaps unsurprising that companies are therefore looking to take on apprentices to shape them for the roles required.”
(Mike Fetters, Graduate Director at totaljobs.com)
Degree apprentices tend to be highly employable, as they come away having having benefited from both the academic rigour of a degree and the practical experience of an apprenticeship. These apprenticeships are designed by the employers themselves, meaning apprentices leave their training with the exact skills necessary to start their career. A poll by Positive Outcomes found that 93% of employers would take on an apprentice over a graduate.
Many apprentices find employment straight away, staying on at the companies who provided their course. According to a survey by GovUK, 77% of apprentices stayed with the same employer whilst 46% received a pay rise and 36% reported getting a promotion.
“The beauty of Degree Apprenticeships is that you’re gaining hands on experience that is of direct value to an employer. An apprentice is contributing to a business while also developing their own personal skills and abilities.”
(Kelly Ball, Managing Director of Positive Outcomes)
There are a huge number of Degree Apprenticeships to choose from, with over 100 companies (such as HSBC, Siemens, Nestlé) currently working with over 20 universities (including UCL, Manchester and Exeter) across England.
There are Degree Apprenticeships available in areas ranging from Aerospace Development to Public Relations. Unifrog collects all available courses on the Apprenticeships tool, where you can filter and search for a Degree Apprenticeship that suits you.
Apprentice case studies
We caught up with some students working towards their Degree Apprenticeships. Here’s what they had to say:
Ashok Hemmings went straight into a Degree Apprenticeship in Engineering after Sixth Form, working for Rolls-Royce and studying at Sheffield Hallam University.
“I chose a Degree Apprenticeship rather than going to university as the whole package seemed a lot better. It gives me real world experience and the same level of education while avoiding fees and being paid a salary. Being an apprentice lets me work with actual engine hardware which is always fascinating, plus I have a huge variety of tasks or roles to do so no day is ever the same!”
Jenny McHale is doing her Degree Apprenticeship in Business Management. She studies at Pearson College London, and works at the BBC.
“I have always wanted to work in a creative industry and I wanted to further my management and leadership skills. I didn’t go to Uni but have always wanted to do a degree. The combination of working in an exciting industry whilst completing a BA (Hons) in Business Management really appealed to me. My favourite project at the BBC so far has been to take the lead in producing some diversity and inclusion videos.”
Lukas Hughes is doing a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship at Manchester Metropolitan University and Stateside Foods.
“I became a degree apprentice because I wanted to get work experience while continuing onto higher education. After some research, I found something that I was interested in - a management apprenticeship with a sponsored degree in Business Management. I would have chosen to study this at university, so deciding to go down this route was a no brainer! I would be gaining four whole years of work experience in a growing business whilst studying for a degree without the tuition fees. As well as that, I’d be working towards additional qualifications.”