Unlike a university degree, you won’t need to pay any tuition fees for an apprenticeship, and in fact you’ll earn a wage. This guide aims to help you figure out how much you could earn, and whether an apprenticeship is the right financial choice for you.
Your minimum hourly wage
You’re entitled to an apprenticeship rate, if you’re either:
- aged under 19, OR
- aged 19 or over and in the first year of your apprenticeship
The apprenticeship rate is currently £4.15 per hour.
Example: An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £4.15.
You’re entitled to the national minimum wage if you are:
- aged 19 or over, AND
- have completed the first year of your apprenticeship
From April 2020, the national minimum wages are:
- The National Living Wage for ages 25 and above - up 6.2% to £8.72
- The National Minimum Wage for 21 to 24-year-olds - up 6.5% to £8.20
- For 18 to 20-year-olds - up 4.9% to £6.45
- For under-18s - up 4.6% to £4.55
Example: An apprentice aged 22 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £8.20.
For more information on the national minimum wage, take a look at the Useful resources at the end of this guide.
Your minimum weekly wage
As an apprentice, you should be working a minimum of 30 hours each week. By exception, if your individual circumstances or the nature of employment make this impossible, then an absolute minimum of 16 hours must be met.
As a full-time apprentice working 30 hours per week, then, you’ll earn a minimum of £124.50 per week if you’re on the current apprenticeship rate.
If you’re over 19 years old, and more than a year into your apprenticeship, you would earn a minimum of £246 per 30-hour week.
Can I earn more?
Yes. Although 30 working hours is the weekly minimum to complete an apprenticeship, if you’re under 18, you can legally work up to 40 hours each week. If you’re over 18 this limit increases to 48 hours. The salaries above are therefore a weekly minimum: your wages could be higher if your working hours are longer.
In addition, employers often pay more than the minimum rates, particularly for higher level apprenticeships. According to Total Jobs, the average annual salary for an apprenticeship is £23,000, which works out at around £12 per hour (although this includes all levels of apprenticeship).
At the time of writing, an Intermediate Apprenticeship in Finance is listed on Unifrog’s Apprenticeships tool that pays £285 per week (roughly £7.60 per hour) and an Advanced Apprenticeship in Platform Engineering that pays £481 per week (roughly £12 per hour).
Worth knowing: If pay is an important factor in your decision, you can use the Unifrog Apprenticeships tool to rank your shortlist in terms of weekly wage.
As an apprentice, you’ll pay income tax if you earn over a certain amount.
You’ll be allowed a ‘tax free allowance’ - this is the amount you can earn over a year without having to pay tax. Currently, this amount is £12,500. You would have to be earning roughly £240 or more each week to go over this allowance.
If you do earn more than £12,500 over the year, you’ll have to pay income tax - 20% of any earnings above £12,500.
An apprentice earns £14,000 each year
£14,000 - £12,500 = £1,500 over the tax fee allowance
20% of £1,500 = £300
They will need to pay a total of £300 income tax each year, or £5.77 each week.
If you earn more than £166 per week, you’ll also have to pay National Insurance Contributions (NIC).
Your NIC contributions will entitle you to certain benefits, such as maternity allowance, jobseeker’s allowance, state pension and bereavement benefits.
You will pay Class 1 NICs, which are charged at 12% of your weekly income over £166.
An apprentice earns £14,000 each year, or £269.23 each week
£269.23 - £166 = £103.23 over the £166 threshold
12% of £103.23 = £12.39
They will need to pay a total of £12.39 NIC each week, or £644.16 each year
Therefore, their ‘take home’ pay after paying income tax and NIC will be £13,055.84 each year, or £251.07 each week.
If you struggle with the calculations, take a look at the Useful resources at the end of this guide which will help you work out your take-home pay.
As you can see from the examples above, the difference between your ‘income’ and the amount you will actually receive can be very different, and this could have a large impact on the way you budget your spending.
If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll be able to get by on the apprenticeship rate or national minimum wage, take a look at our Financial support for apprentices guide - you may be entitled to financial aid.
- This page on the gov.uk website explains the national minimum wage.
- The Salary Calculator is a useful website for calculating your take-home pay.