A handy careers guide to

Degree Apprenticeships

Everything you need to know about degree apprenticeships

Featuring exclusive degree apprenticeship tips from

Some choices are tough to make – especially when they involve potentially life-changing ones such as deciding what to do after completing your A-levels (or equivalent). It’s normal and it’s something we all go through.

University tuition fees have been rising every year. Which means unless you get a scholarship or have someone to co-fund it, going to university is likely to leave you with student debt. Research has shown that on average, a UK university student accumulates about £45,000 in debt by the time they graduate. That’s quite a staggering figure if you ask us. 

So, is there another way to get the best of both worlds? Yes, there is. And it’s called Degree Apprenticeships. In this comprehensive guide, we cover pretty much everything you’ll need when it comes to the world of degree apprenticeships – including some tips from leading employers who offer them. 

So let’s dive in!

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Section 1

Degree Apprenticeships: The Basics

What is a degree apprenticeship?

A degree apprenticeship combines the best of both worlds – full-time, paid work with part-time university study.

Pretty much what it says on the tin. Degree apprenticeships are created through partnerships between universities and employers who want to offer students and school leavers the opportunity to gain a Bachelor or Masters degree while getting on the job training. They’re currently available in a few sectors, mainly those where the government has decided there is a demand for more skilled workers to meet industry needs. So degree apprenticeship candidates are highly sought after.

How does it differ from other apprenticeships?

Degree apprenticeships still sit within the broader apprenticeships family, but there are a few core differences that are worth knowing about. Below, we’ve broken down what each of these apprenticeships offers you. 

You might hear these referred to as ‘entry level’ or sometimes ‘level 2’ apprenticeships. These form the first rung on the apprenticeship ladder and are currently the most popular, with around 260,000 young people starting an intermediate apprenticeship in 2016/17. At this level, you’ll work full-time with an employer and learn on the job, with some time spent in the classroom.

At the end of an intermediate apprenticeship, you’ll secure a vocational qualification, usually a Level 2 NVQ, which is equivalent to five GCSEs grades A*-C, alongside Functional Skills (English and Maths). You might also work towards a BTEC, GCSE, or City & Guilds qualification.

Also referred to as a ‘level 3’ apprenticeship, advanced apprenticeships are the next step. As with all apprenticeships, your time will mainly be spent in the workplace, learning the practical skills to be a success in the industry, while studying part-time. 

You’ll work towards achieving a Level 3 NVQ qualification, or equivalent, and you’ll often also gain a knowledge-based certificate such as a BTEC and Functional Skills.

So what’s next once you’ve completed your advanced apprenticeship?

You guessed it! The next step up is a higher apprenticeship. It’s the same deal (you’ll be working full time while you complete your qualification), but there are some key things to remember. For starters, there are fewer higher apprenticeships out there, and you usually have to be 18 to get onto one, having completed an advanced apprenticeship or attained a minimum of two A-levels previously.

They also have higher entry requirements than intermediate and advanced because you’ll be studying at a higher level. Higher apprentices typically gain a Level 4 NVQ (or above) but can also work towards a foundation degree or higher national diploma.

Last but by no means least, we have degree apprenticeships. These are still relatively new, and currently only available in a few industries.

During a degree apprenticeship, you’ll work towards achieving a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree (Level 6 and 7 qualifications respectively). These pathways are a bit more varied than other apprenticeships, as you’ll be meeting employer requirements and achieving a higher level of study.

So you might either work day-to-day with your employer and have set days for study, or complete work and study in blocks through the week. Aside from the level of qualification, the biggest difference with these apprenticeships is the time commitment – typically it will take between 4 and 6 years to complete a degree apprenticeship.

Who are degree apprenticeship programmes for?

Degree Apprenticeships offer the perfect solution for everyone who wants to earn a full degree while learning and gaining experience in their chosen industry. But you will need to prove that you’re capable of studying at this level.

As you can imagine, due to the higher education qualification, the entry requirements for a degree apprenticeship are slightly more demanding, and the specifics will depend on the degree subject. It’s also worth noting that some employers may have certain prerequisites too.

For instance, let’s take a look at the Airbus Engineering Degree Apprenticeship.

Airbus Aerospace Engineering Degree Apprenticeship Requirements:

  • At least two A Levels (or equivalent) at grade B or above in Maths and grade C or above in Physics or Chemistry. 
  • Minimum of six GSCEs (or equivalent) at grade C or 4 which should include Maths, English Language and Science (core and additional)

Some degree apprenticeships are also directly linked to intermediate and higher apprenticeship programs, so if you’ve started off on the apprenticeship pathway, it’s likely you’ll be able to enter a degree apprenticeship by meeting the requirements that way too.

Join Springpod to find degree apprenticeships with top employers

Section 2

Degree Apprenticeships Must-Knows

One of the criticisms that new graduates often encounter is that they lack the work based skills needed to be successful because they’re spent their entire degree focusing only on their studies.

What’s the way around it? Well, we can’t think of a better solution that a programme like degree apprenticeships that offer students the chance to gain important insights into the workplace, while studying, earning a decent wage and developing all the core skills they’ll need to be successful later on in life. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Keep reading, and we’re sure you’ll find why degree apprenticeships are fantastic alternatives to going to university.

What are the benefits of a degree apprenticeship?

How about a few quick stats to get the ball rolling? According to our friends at Gov.uk, after completing their apprenticeship:

  • 77% of apprentices end up being recruited for full-time positions by their employer.
  • A further 46% reported that they also received a pay rise.
  • An additional 36% got a promotion once they finished their studies.

Earn while you learn

A degree apprenticeship is the ultimate opportunity to gain a degree while also earning a decent wage in a role that aligns with your studies. This is guaranteed for the duration of your apprenticeship (anywhere between 3 and 6 years). Let’s be honest - not many young people can claim that kind of security.

Apply your knowledge to real-world problems

It’s one thing to sit in a classroom learning theory, and another entirely to take that theory and see how it can be used to solve actual problems in your industry. A degree apprenticeship offers you that and more.

Say goodbye to Student Loan debt

Imagine getting a fully-funded degree! That’s exactly what degree apprenticeships offer you, since the tuition fee and training costs are often covered by the government and your new employer. It’s a huge investment in you as a budding professional, and a benefit not to be taken for granted. Just ask anyone who’s still paying off their student loan ten years down the track

Clear progression pathways

For many people completing a degree, what happens next can be a huge mystery. This is not the case for those on degree apprenticeships, as many employers will see supporting you at this stage as an investment in having you on board as a permanent employee once you’ve finished your studies and completed the apprenticeship programme.

Access to the best mentoring

You’ll get the best of both worlds, with mentors in place from your industry to support you on the job, alongside mentors at your university to support you with your studies. These people can be your Gurus for networking, advice and guidance, which professional memberships to join, career pitfalls to avoid, and next steps if you want to continue studying.

Challenge the status quo

As we mentioned, many employers don’t feel that graduates are able to meet the demands of the modern workforce. But not you, because equipped with a degree apprenticeship, you’ll have the skills, experience, knowledge, and confidence to prove them wrong.

A tip from Atkins

Through degree apprenticeships, candidates can gain full accredited degrees without the debt. The development opportunities are great and as an organisation we are generally seeing that the degree apprenticeship routes are the most popular. 

Are there any downsides to doing degree apprenticeships?

All sounding a bit too good to be true? We get that. And while we wouldn’t call them cons exactly,  there are a few other things that you’ll need to think about before committing to this pathway.

  • You won’t be able to study just anything: The government decides what areas of the industry are able to support degree apprenticeships. So it does mean that not everything is up for grabs. 
  • You may not get ‘the full university’ experience: This is kind of true. It can seem like you’re missing out, especially when your classmates are going to the latest all-night party. But on the plus side, you are earning too.
  • Responsibility (and a lot of it): A degree apprenticeship is serious business. You’ll still be studying a high-level qualification, as well as working full time, managing deadlines, assessments, maybe exams, delivering at work, and probably trying to have something of a social life. It’s a big commitment  – but one we think is well worth it.
  • Competition is quite intense: Degree apprenticeships are still very new, and they are growing, but that does mean that there is limited availability for placements. It also means that competition for those placements is pretty high. 

What subjects could you study as part of a degree apprenticeship?

When they were launched in 2015, the government worked with a board of leading business and education providers to decide what subjects and industries should be a focus. They announced degree apprenticeships in nine core areas:

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Aerospace Software Development
  • Defence Systems Engineering
  • Electronic Systems Engineering
  • Nuclear Systems Development
  • Laboratory Technician/Science
  • Power Systems Development
  • Chartered Surveying
  • Public Relations

Are degree apprenticeships only available in STEM subjects?

Well, yes, and no. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers are a massive priority for the government. As a nation, we need more technically skilled young people to keep up with the technological demands of the new world – and that’s why degree apprenticeships were launched. 

However these apprenticeships have also widened out a bit since 2015. Today degree apprenticeships include opportunities across more industry sectors including Business and administration, Education, Digital, Creative and Design, Health and science, Finance, Accounting and Legal, Law Enforcement – and the list continues to grow!

Can you choose which University to go to as part of a degree apprenticeship?

Unfortunately, at this stage, you can’t really choose which university you study at. It’s more a case of seeing what opportunities are available and being open to where this might take you. 

More universities are quickly seeing the benefits of offering degree apprenticeships and signing up to offer them. There are some top players already on board including:

How much does a degree apprenticeship cost?

Good question – and the answer’s even better. It costs you nothing. If this is your first degree, your course fees are covered by your employer and the university under an agreement with the government to provide these opportunities. 

You’re also paid a competitive salary during your apprenticeship. If you’re curious about the range, here’s a quick snapshot at the range you could be earning:

  • A Finance and Accountancy Degree Apprenticeship with Jaguar Land Rover has an advertised starting salary of £20,000.
  • A Digital and Technology Degree Apprenticeship with Capgemini has an advertised starting salary of £17, 500.
Jaguar-Land-Rover-Work-Experience

A tip from Jaguar Land Rover

All of the education is paid for and you’ll receive a salary even when studying. You’ll get a recognised degree from a top ranking university  like The University of Warwick.

Join Springpod to find degree apprenticeships with top employers

Section 3

Finding and Applying for Degree Apprenticeships

How can you find degree apprenticeships?

The great news is that you have multiple options available to help you discover the right degree apprenticeship opportunities. They include:

Springpod: Our network is designed to bring you the best and best that’s out there to help you discover your future- and that includes a range of degree apprenticeships. So if you haven’t joined Springpod yet, now is a good time to do so.

Direct Employers or University: If you’ve got a few companies in mind that you’d love to work for, or know which universities you’re interested in, then checking out their websites will tell you everything you need to know. If you don’t know where to start, Springpod has once again got you covered – we’ve partnered with some awesome companies that offer these apprenticeships including Jaguar Land RoverKier, and Google(#SorryNotSorry for the shameless plug).

National Apprenticeship Service: It’s a great resource for all things apprenticeships, with anywhere between 12, 000 and 20, 000 apprenticeship vacancies advertised on the site at any one time.

Your School Careers Department: Your friendly careers leader can be a great resource to help you when researching, planning and applying for any degree apprenticeship opportunities. 

What’s the typical structure of a degree apprenticeship like?

The structure of a degree apprenticeship can vary. It will definitely be a mix of work and study but how that’s achieved will depend on:

  • Your employer and your role/the projects you work on
  • The demands of your study (so whether you’re doing a Bachelor’s or a Masters will impact your study requirements)
  • The individual agreement between the university and the employer for how they want the program structured

A tip from Google

Degree Apprenticeships offer a sustained opportunity to work & study because they don’t only include short term learning, condensed in a few modules, but rather a full degree that is spread out over a significant period. This takes away some of the concern that apprenticeships are not as meaningful as the university option because you don’t earn externally-recognised certifications. 

How to apply for a degree apprenticeship?

Applying for a degree apprenticeship is no different to how you might apply for any other apprenticeship, internship, work placement or job. It’s about highlighting your passions, skills, experience, and qualifications that would make you the best candidate for the opportunity. A typical application will ask you to submit:

  • An up-to-date professional CV
  • A one-page cover letter outlining why you’re the ideal candidate
  • Additional 1-2 pages addressing any relevant selection criteria
  • Relevant academic transcripts or qualification certificates
  • At least two references


Most employers that we partner with at Springpod such Kier GroupAtkins and Capgemini, offer early careers sections that give you additional details about the application. Or you could login to your Springpod account, search for the employer and find out from their profile.

A tip from Atkins

Show passion and enthusiasm for Atkins and the role in your application. Quality check it, i.e. no spellings or grammar errors, and make sure your answers are well thought through.

What happens after you apply?

While the steps may vary slightly from employer to employer, if your application is successful, the next steps might be:

  • A formal interview with the relevant management personnel from your department
  • A group assessment day with other potential candidates
  • A one-day work trial to see how you fit with the team
  • Online Assessments – such as Psychometric assessments to see how you respond to different scenarios and challenges

This might not be the case for all degree apprenticeships, but it’s worth being prepared for what each of these scenarios might involve. When you’re invited for an interview or assessment, you’ll usually receive full instructions on what you need to do and bring. Make sure you read these instructions carefully and reach out to the Recruitment Team if you have any questions at all.

When is the best time to apply for a degree apprenticeship?

Once you’ve decided that this is right for you, the next step is to check when applications open. Typically employers will only have one intake a year for these roles, so if there’s someone you really want to work for, check their deadlines and set a reminder.

You won’t be able to actually start your apprenticeship until you have all your academic results in, but you can still get an application in with your predicted grades so you don’t miss out.

If you’re just not sure and want to wait and see how your results turn out, then it’s totally fine to take a break or gap year and focus on some other things. These breaks can often help you when you need to make a big decision, as it gives you some life experience and perspective. Or you could even look into doing a gap year internship.

What's the competition like for degree apprenticeship opportunities?

As it’s still a new area, and opportunities are still being developed, the competition for a degree apprenticeship can be tough. If you know this is a path you want to pursue, give yourself the best foundation to start from by

  • Locking in some relevant work experience
  • Finding an industry mentor to learn from 
  • Focus on your studies and get the grades you need
  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of extracurricular hobbies for important skills building
  • Attend university and employer open days to find out more and ask your burning questions

A tip from Google

We look for passion in the area they are applying for as well as some practical experience in the area. We also look for a true understanding of the opportunity as doing an apprenticeship is not the easiest option and the person has to do their research and make sure it’s what suits their learning style best.

Can you reapply if you're not successful the first time?

Absolutely!  Don’t let not making it through the first time set you back. Ask for any feedback on your application or interview and learn from it. Get support on brushing up your CV if needed and ask a friend or trusted adult to help you with some mock interviews. 

Join Springpod to find degree apprenticeships with top employers

SECTION 4

Life as a Degree Apprentice

Are you considered as student or an employee during a degree apprenticeship?

In a sense, you’ll be considered as both. As your time will be split between working and studying you’ll get to experience what it’s like on both sides of that coin. As an enrolled student, you’ll still be eligible for student discounts, including the NUS Apprenticeship card which entitles you to discounts at over 150 high street and online partners. Better yet you might even get some extra benefits through your company.

One of the biggest perks we get is half price cinema tickets, which is just too much for me! I really love it!

Greg - Degree Apprentice
Accenture

Tips to help prepare for a degree apprenticeship

Preparing for your degree apprenticeship might seem daunting, but don’t panic! You’ll be given plenty of support, plus mentors in both your workplace and at your university.

Be confident, be yourself and grab hold of all the opportunities you can because you get to work on some really exciting things.”

Shannon - Degree Apprentice
Jaguar Land Rover

Some extra pointers to help you get ready:

  • Know who your key contacts are and who can best support you if you have any questions or problems.
  • Have a chat with one of the existing apprentices and ask them how they prepared – what do they wish they’d known when they started that they know now? You can even use the Springpod app to interact with employer ambassadors like Shannon.
  • Meet with your university tutors to see what you can do to get started on the right foot – any recommended reading or resources you can start tapping into?
  • Take a deep breath! It really will be okay, and you’ll find you get stuck in quicker than you expect!

It was a large leap into the unknown and there were a lot of things I was uncertain about - the people I’d be interacting with and what I’d be working on. But it’s just something you pick up really quickly and it all falls into place.

Sam - Degree Apprentice
Jaguar Land Rover

What to expect during a Degree Apprenticeship?

One thing we’ve learned from chatting with apprentices at some of our employer partners is that there is definitely no such thing as a ‘typical’ day! From what they tell us, each day is an opportunity to get stuck into something new with their programs offering them structured access to try out being a part of the different teams across the business. One thing is for sure, they definitely aren’t being left to make cups of tea.

Don’t ever think if you join an apprenticeship you’ll only be given the rubbish jobs because that’s definitely not the case. They’ll expect you to work hard and you’ll be expected to deliver.

Sam - Degree Apprentice
Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar-Land-Rover-Work-Experience

A tip from Jaguar Land Rover

A degree apprenticeship is an excellent grounding to your career with a recognised employer. You’ll gain a wide range of experiences, and will be given the chance to learn and grow through a range of projects, with increasing levels of responsibility over the course of the apprenticeship.

What are the work-study blocks like?

Different degree apprenticeships will split the work-study blocks differently, with a focus on having you in the workplace to put what you learn in the classroom into practice. This will also change throughout your apprenticeship, for example:

  • Jaguar Land Rover apprentices told us they spent their first year studying full time, before moving onsite to full- time work in their second year, with day release and occasional week block study times. As they progressed through their degree apprenticeship, they spend more time on site.
  • Airbus apprentices spend more time studying in their first year, completing week-long blocks in college and fewer days working, but in their second year this flips so they spend more time on-site with day release to attend classes.

You’ll have dedicated time set aside for when you need to be in the classroom or tutorials to commit to your studies, but it’s up to you to make sure you know what assignments you have due and when. Make sure you utilise all the amazing support available to you so you don’t fall short when it comes to your studies. Everyone is there to see you succeed so be afraid to speak up if you feel like you’re struggling.

I do four days at work, where I get to learn skills to boost my CV and focus on my career. And then the 5th day, I get a study day. So I can purely focus on my University studies - like assignments, revise for a test and others. It's a nice combination of being academic and developing skills.

Tom - Degree Apprentice
BT

What happens if you change your mind during a Degree Apprenticeship?

Changing your mind is totally fine – it happens! And your employer and university will want to work this out with you. The great thing about the degree apprenticeship is that you’ll get a chance to experience a variety of different departments and roles before you settle into one that you feel works best for you.

Changing your degree program might not be so easy, as we mentioned, only specific subjects are eligible under the degree apprenticeship framework. If you’re struggling or unsure, make sure you speak to a course advisor and get the right advice and support you need to make a decision that’s best for you.

What about social life during the degree apprenticeship?

There’s a bit of a misconception that by becoming a degree apprentice, you’ll miss out on the full social life experience that studying at university might offer you – but it’s not the case!

One thing you’ll get as a degree apprentice in the workplace is the connection with a variety of new people and some great culture and events that you wouldn’t get to experience otherwise. More than just socialising, a lot of workplaces put a focus on giving back to their local communities, and provide you with the opportunity to get involved in some really feel-good events.

Still not convinced? Take a look at what these apprentices have to say.

It’s obviously different as it’s a full-time job, which you won’t have if you’re at university. But in my first year, I was studying at college full time where I got to meet other apprentices and make some great friends. I now live with a couple of my friends that I met at college in my first year, and because I’m earning I can afford to rent a house with them.

Sharon - Degree Apprentice
Jaguar Land Rover

The family aspect of the team is the most exciting thing for me. There are various socials we go out on and we build strong team relationships.

Greg - Degree Apprentice
Accenture

BT offers apprenticeship networks for different groups. They organise different social events - like skiing trips and others; so it helps build a really good community feel.

Megan - Degree Apprentice
BT

What other support will you get during a Degree Apprenticeship?

Depending on where you study, who you do your apprenticeship with, and your personal circumstances, you might be entitled to other support, including financial support, towards your apprenticeship. This support can help you with things like relocation, accommodation and travel costs. 

Most employers also offer support networks and mentors to help you make the most of your degree apprenticeship experience. Take a look at what some of our employer parters have to say:

Jaguar-Land-Rover-Work-Experience

A tip from Jaguar Land Rover

All apprentices get a thorough induction into both Jaguar Land Rover as well as the education / college provider. We also provide apprentices with location guides, information about the local areas, department descriptions thereby giving them an overview of the area which they are going into as well as pre-starter packs to give an overview of the support available
over the apprenticeship.

A tip from Atkins

Apprentices are assigned a line manager and a buddy when they join. A full two day training event takes place within their first month with Atkins. This is set up via the learning and development team and helps them to understand more about who we are, what the apprenticeship with involve as well as networking and listening to senior members of the organisation.

A tip from Google

Apprentices get connected before they start onsite so that they get to know each other. We understand that they will form the first support network so we plan informal, out-of-the-office events to help them bond. Throughout the year, they join informal events with their team and the rest of the apprentices, including access to any company-wide event so they feel part of the company.

Life after the Degree Apprenticeship

While there can never be a 110% guarantee of securing a job with your employer at the end of your apprenticeship, it certainly makes sense for them to want you to stay on. After putting so much effort into supporting you, mentoring you, and coaching you to be a strong part of the team – why would they let you go at the end of it?

I’ve been with Accenture for about 5 years now. During my time on the apprenticeship program, I got to try various roles - project management, development operations engineer, a tester, coder - and now as a Software Engineer, I specialise in a specific area, automating tasks for clients.

Shajida - Software Engineer
Accenture

Jaguar-Land-Rover-Work-Experience

A tip from Jaguar Land Rover

Apprentices gain a wide range of experiences throughout their apprenticeship so they can use this experience to grow in many different areas of the company. Providing that apprentices pass their End Point Assessment, they will be offered a full time position at Jaguar Land Rover.

If you’ve worked hard and proven that this is the right path for you there’s a good chance there’s a job waiting for you at the end of your apprenticeship.

And while a job at the end of it is of course a great achievement, there is so much more a degree apprenticeship will offer you in terms of experience, upskilling yourself, making new friends and not to forget, the fully funded degree at the end of it too.