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 £4.30 per hour.
Example: An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £4.30.
If you’re an apprentice, 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 2021, those aged 23-24 have been entitled to the National Living Wage; previously this was only available to those aged 25 and over. The national minimum wages are:
- The National Living Wage for ages 23 and above - up 2.2% to £8.91 (in comparison to previous entitlements for 25+ year olds)
- The National Minimum Wage for ages 21 to 22 - up 2% to £8.36 (in comparison to previous entitlements for 21 to 24 year olds)
- The National Minimum Wage for ages 18 to 20 - up 1.7% to £6.56
- For under 18s - up 1.5% to £4.62
Example: An apprentice aged 22 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £8.36.
For more information on the national minimum wage, take a look at the links 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, you’ll earn a minimum of £129 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 £196.80 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).
You can use Unifrog’s Apprenticeship shortlisting tool to find apprenticeships in your area, and you can rank them by weekly wage if pay is an important factor in your decision. For example, at the time of writing, there is an Intermediate Apprenticeship in accountancy in Worcestershire that pays £288 per 37 hour week (roughly £7.78 per hour) and an Advanced Apprenticeship in civil engineering in London that pays £378 per 37 week (roughly £10.21 per hour).
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. For the 2021/2020 financial year this amount is £12,570. You would have to be earning roughly £241.70 or more each week to go over this allowance.
If you do earn more than £12,507 over the year, you’ll have to pay income tax which means you pay 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.
For the 2021/2022 financial year, if you earn more than £184 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 £184.
An apprentice earns £14,000 each year, or £269.23 each week
£269.23 - £184 = £85.23 over the £184 threshold
12% of £85.23 = £10.22
They will need to pay a total of £10.22 NIC each week, or £531.83 each year
Therefore, their ‘take home’ pay after paying income tax and NIC will be £13,168.17 each year, or £253.24 each week.
If you struggle with the calculations, take a look at the links 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 seriously impact 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.
Good stuff from elsewhere
UK National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates
The government webpage on wage rates for different age groups.
The Salary Calculator
A way to help you calculate your take-home pay.