Seven things you didn’t know about higher and degree apprenticeships, but should...

Nearly two-thirds of the 16-24 year olds we spoke with felt they didn't know enough about apprenticeships. Do you fit into this category?
1. It's not university OR apprenticeships.

Three-quarters of those we surveyed said that attending university was their first choice after sixth form or college but it's worth knowing that gaining a degree qualification is possible through an apprenticeship route, too.

Graduate level apprenticeships

Higher and degree apprenticeships involve your employer partnering with a university to provide training and learning, right up to master's level. Apprenticeship schemes are approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships to ensure good quality training and assessment. 

Have a look at how apprenticeships stack up against other qualifications:

2. In fact, you can apply for both at the same time.

If you're undecided between going to university or applying for an apprenticeship, it's worth knowing that you don't have to decide right away. There's nothing stopping you from applying to university through Ucas while keeping your eye out for interesting apprenticeship vacancies.

Apprenticeship schemes don't follow the same application and deadline patterns as applying to uni – the deadline for your apprenticeship application will be down to individual employers, and you'll apply for them direct. You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application either, if you've seen more than one you're interested in.

Decision time will arrive eventually though be clear on your next step before committing to firmly accepting a university place.

3. A degree apprenticeship = a fee-free degree.

Yes, you heard that right.

On a degree apprenticeship programme, you'll be paid by your employer to work while studying towards a degree meaning you could graduate without paying tuition fees or taking out student loans. Little wonder that 84% of those surveyed felt that apprenticeships were a good way to learn skills and get work experience without taking on debt. 24 year old James Gee recently completed a higher and then degree apprenticeship with Capgemini, joining in 2011 as a junior software engineer after being disappointed with his A level results. He recently graduated with first class honours in a BSc in Digital and Technical Solutions at Aston University:

'University had always been the expected route for me and something which my school had pushed. When I just missed my university offers with AABB grades I was devastated and considered entirely rethinking pursuing the technology route. Since joining Capgemini as an apprentice, I’ve gained so much.

I’ve achieved a university degree but also worked on my professional skills, been able to travel, and really developed in confidence.

I’ve also been able to buy a car and move to London, whilst many of my friends who went to university are just starting on the career ladder.'

James Gee – Apprentice, Capgemini

4. Digital, banking, health, law, fashion... The number of industries is growing.

Nearly half of those we surveyed felt that apprenticeships weren't available in the industry they wanted to get into. But there might be more opportunities than you realise.

Big companies offering higher and degree apprenticeships include ASOS, the BBC, British Airways, Google and TFL, while plans are underway to roll out nursing and teaching apprenticeships. Don't ignore smaller company opportunities either, where there could be even more chance to be exposed to completely new skills and experiences.

Top resources for those who did look for information on apprenticeships included Google, the website and individual company websites. Teachers, careers advisers, friends and family were also sources of advice. 

5. As an apprentice, you've got employee rights.

A fifth of those we surveyed thought apprentices aren't eligible to receive the same benefits as other employees, and a further 35% weren't sure. Right? Wrong. As well as gaining hands-on training and learning as an apprentice, you are also, essentially, a company employee. This means you have the same rights as the rest of the workforce, including pay (of at least the apprenticeship minimum wage), holiday entitlements and other benefits.

6. You're hired!

The prospects generally look pretty rosy for those completing apprenticeships.

According to, 77% of apprentices stay with the same employer, 46% received a pay rise and 36% reported getting a promotion.

7. You're in good company.

If you decide to take an apprenticeship, you won't be alone. The government aims to recruit three million apprentices by 2020. Famous former apprentices include David Beckham, Jamie Oliver, and actor Sir Michael Caine.

The recent apprentice we spoke to is positive, but realistic, about his choice.

'Doing an apprenticeship wasn't something I expected to be undertaking a few years ago. I would recommend anyone getting their exam results next summer to figure out what interests them and then consider an apprenticeship as a route to working in that industry.'

James Gee, Apprentice, Capgemini

Feeling clued up? Learn more now...

Download our covering everything from employers and universities that offer them to stories from apprentices and how to apply.

Also, you can browse our full apprenticeships advice including apprentice stories and subject-specific guidance.

Our research: YouthSight, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 1,003 UK adults aged between 16 and 24, online between 8-11 May 2017. Data were weighted to be representative of the youth sample by age, gender and whether in education or not.