A higher apprenticeship is equivalent to a foundation degree.

Like any apprenticeship, it’s a full-time job with a study element – typically a 30-hour working week, plus a day of study. This might be at college, uni, at work via distance learning, or online.

You get paid, your tuition fees are covered by your employer (and the Government), and you get a little slice of student life to boot.

You can use a higher apprenticeship to springboard onto a degree route and enhance your skills in the workplace.

Just remember, it’s a commitment to a career path. So be 100% sure about the sector you’re entering before you apply.  

Will I get an actual foundation degree?

Not always, but you will receive an equivalent qualification like an NVQ Level 4 or a Higher National Diploma (HND). Check the vacancy for more details, or contact the named person on the vacancy to confirm before you apply.

How is it different to a degree apprenticeship?

Degree apprenticeships are equivalent to a bachelor’s or even master’s degree qualification (Levels 6 and 7).

In terms of jobs and wages, there isn’t much of a difference. Many employers who offer higher apprenticeships offer a degree equivalent too. And you’ll have the same access to the provider's learning or training facilities and student support.

Here’s everything you need to know about degree apprenticeships

How long do higher apprenticeships last?

It depends on the field you’re in, and the pace at which you learn, but they can last anything from one to five years. Or longer if you go part-time.

Apprenticeships are much more flexible timewise than traditional educational routes. It's down to you and how quickly you pick it all up.

Joe, apprentice at Caterpillar

The best thing about the apprenticeship route for me is being able to study at your own pace – and earn a wage while you do it.

Is there a higher apprenticeship in my chosen field?

You’d be unlucky if there isn’t. Over forty major sectors are represented, each with their own apprenticeship standard, and that number is growing all the time.

So, unless you’re looking to get into something particularly unique, you should be fine. Ghost-hunting anyone?   

Take a look at the full list of sectors offering apprenticeships.

Sign up to Career Finder

If you think an apprenticeship could be the right option for you, just head over to Career Finder and create an account. 

You'll be able to : 

  • search for all apprenticeship roles
  • filter by subject area, role type, location, and level of apprenticeship
  • shortlist jobs
  • sign up for alerts
  • keep tabs on applications you've made 

How do I apply for a higher apprenticeship?

The same way as you do for all apprenticeships. You can search for vacancies on Career Finder or on the National Apprenticeship Service website. Or, just contact employers directly.

Entry requirements will vary from one vacancy to the next, but expect to need A levels or equivalent, and five GCSEs including English and Maths.

Don’t worry if it takes time. Competition is tough, and often you’ll be up against existing employees who've decided to shoot for a higher qualification. So, make sure your application is a thing of beauty. (We can help with that.

Here are our key steps to joining an apprenticeship programme.

'I’ve had an amazing time so far, and I do not regret my choice.'

Apprenticeships are a way to gain the skills, knowledge and experience you need to get into many careers. They combine work, training, and study, letting you 'earn while you learn'. Scott joined PwC as a higher apprentice – he shares his story. 

Find out more

Would a higher apprenticeship be right for me?

First of all, make sure you understand how apprenticeships work in general.

Apprenticeships suit people who learn best by doing, value practical experience over theory, and are disciplined enough to manage their own time and money.

They’re hard work. But the reward for those who stick it out is applied learning from day one and a debt-free qualification. 90% of higher apprentices are offered continued employment after qualifying.

Jill, employer at Nestle

For me, it’s all about your life skills – calling them soft skills doesn’t do them justice. So show us your passion, your curiosity, your ability to communicate and connect – those attributes are the essence of every great employee.

One thing to consider is how you’re going to fund it.

How do I fund a higher apprenticeship?

The good news is, your tuition’s covered. Which just leaves you to fund the cost of living. You’ll receive a wage from your employer, but some are more competitive than others. So, depending on your salary, your first year could be a bit of a squeeze.

Unless you’re living at home, you’ll have to budget for rent, bills, and food. (And that’s before you even start expanding your stamp collection.) It can be a delicate balancing act, so take a look at our advice on funding an apprenticeship.

Torn between university and an apprenticeship? Here’s something to help you choose.