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Alternative to Universities – Degree Apprenticeships

by Charles Nwabueze
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Let us assume that there are two fictitious candidates: James and John. What James and John want so much is to be able to legally make a good amount of money as soon as possible so they can take care of their lovely parents who have been so wonderful to them. James decides to embark on a three-year university degree in law which he completes successfully. In the process, he racks up a debt of £50,000 as a result of tuition and living expenses. Before he is done at uni he discovers that he’ll need to do the LPC, so he does it. He racks another debt of about £18,000. He finally finishes and enters the training contract market where he hustles for a training contract with thousands of other applicants. If he is lucky he might get a training contract that pays around £23,000 – £30,000. If he is extremely fortunate this might be around £35,000 to £60,000. If he is unlucky it might take years before he gets a contract that will help settle his debts and allow him to treat his parents to what they deserve. 

Meanwhile, John decides to embark on a degree apprenticeship. No student debts were incurred. With a degree apprenticeship, John embarks on an alternative to university. Not only these, but with a degree apprenticeship, John gets all the benefits of a degree education, plus the perks of receiving a salary and walking straight into a career.

You probably don’t believe us but it’s true. Let’s look at what degree apprenticeships entail for people like John.

By the way, the figures used are the real figures obtainable or very close to what is obtainable.

What is a Degree Apprenticeship

A degree apprenticeship is an apprenticeship or opportunity that enables you to gain a full bachelor’s or master’s degree while you work. Essentially degree apprenticeship is a program which combines work with study – giving you the best of both worlds. Degree apprenticeships will usually take somewhere between three to six years to complete, depending on the course level, and are aimed at 18-19-year-old school leavers.

You’ll spend most of your time working while studying part-time at university. This is made possible through partnerships struck between employers and various universities. 

Here is the best part. It is free for the apprentices as the tuition fees are covered by the government and the employer. No scratch that, actually the best part is you get a salary while on the apprenticeship, this is non-negotiable. 

What can I study in Degree apprenticeships?

The temptation is to think that since it’s an apprenticeship it might offer fewer subjects but you wouldn’t be farther from the truth if you thought this. Degree apprenticeships are available in lots of industries across the country. All the industries and some of the schemes that have been approved are listed below. Some employers or universities offering the schemes are also included in our list. 

Wherever you see Level 6 it means its equivalent to a bachelor’s, a level 7 is equivalent to a master’s 

  • Business and Administration: Career Development Professional (Level 6), Chartered Manager (Level 6), Improvement Leader (Level 6), Project Manager (Level 6), Senior Leader (Level 7). 
  • Employers/Universities: Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Balfour Beatty, Co-op, HMRC, Santander.
  • Childcare and Education: Academic Professional (Level 7), Teacher (Level 7), Employers/Universities: Teach First, University of Nottingham, Aston University, BPP, The University of Exeter.
  • Construction: Architectural Assistant (Level 6), Building Control Surveyor (Level 6), Chartered Surveyor (Level 6), Civil Engineer (Level 6), Civil Engineering Site Management (Level 6), Architect (Level 7) and Chartered Town Planner (Level 7) Employers/Universities: BAM Nuttall, Institution of Civil Engineers, Mace, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Skanska Construction.
  • Creative and Design: Broadcast and Media Systems Engineer (Level 6), Cultural Heritage Conservator (Level 7), and Outside broadcasting engineer (Level 7). Employers/Universities: BBC, Sky, Arena TV, ITV.
  • Digital: Cyber Security Technical Professional (Level 6), Data Scientist (Level 6) and Digital and Technology Solutions Professional (Level 6) Employers/Universities: Accenture, BT, Ford, GSK, IBM.
  • Engineering and Manufacturing: Aerospace Engineer (Level 6), Aerospace Software Development Engineer (Level 6), Airworthiness Maintenance Engineer (Level 6) Manufacturing Engineer (Level 6) and Marine Surveyor (Level 6)
  • Employers/Universities: BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover, Kraft Heinz, Rolls Royce plc, Siemens.
  • Health and Science: Dietitian (Level 6), Laboratory Scientist (Level 6), Midwife (Level 6), Occupational Therapist (Level 6), Paramedic (Level 6), Physiotherapist (Level 6), Nursing (Level 6), District Nurse (Level 7), Pharmacist (Level 7) and Physician Associate (Level 7)
  • Employers/Universities: Astra Zeneca, Nestle UK Ltd, NHS Foundation Trust, Pfizer, 3M.
  • Legal, Finance, and Accounting: Banking Relationship Manager (Level 6) Chartered Legal Executive (Level 6), Financial Services Professional (Level 6), Licensed Conveyancer (Level 6), Professional Economist(Level 6), Senior Compliance/Risk Specialist (Level 6), Accountancy/Taxation Professional (Level 7), Actuary (Level 7), Senior Investment/Commercial Banking Professional (Level 7) and Solicitor (Level 7)
  • Employers/Universities: BDO, Deloitte, EY, PwC, City Law School.
  • Public Sector: Police Constable (Level 6) and Probation Officer (Level 6)

What are the eligibility requirements?

Degree apprenticeships will require different eligibility requirements depending on the specific apprenticeship and industry you’re interested in. However, you’ll usually need specific grades at GCSE or A levels. Some employers however do not require A Levels to apply. 

Employers will also look to see if you have a passion for the industry, a willingness to learn, and other qualities like communication, resilience and curiosity to stay the course.

How does it work?

The funding for degree apprenticeships is divided between the government and your employer. The government pays two-thirds of your costs and fees, capped at £18,000, while the employer pays the rest. 

Apprentices will work for a minimum of 30 hours a week for 30 weeks a year. 

A typical degree apprenticeship will see the apprentice going to university for one or two days per week, or in short blocks, such as a week at a time, and spending the rest of the time at work. 

It works like a full-time job, but you get the academic benefits of getting a degree-level qualification as well as the on-the-job experience of working in a professional environment.

What are the benefits?


With degree apprentices, you achieve a full Bachelors’s or Master’s degree but the debts that university students face can reach £50,000

Guaranteed Salary 

While on your degree apprenticeship you’ll be employed throughout the programme, and get paid from day one. What’s not to like about that?

There are some degree apprenticeships where the starting pay is £18,500 per year, increasing by 10% every six months. On completion of those apprenticeships, apprentices may have earned over £35k per year.


Although you’re not guaranteed a permanent job at the end of the programme, you’ll be an employable graduate. You’ll have benefited from studying a course that’s been designed to meet industry needs, plus you’ll also have amassed several years of highly relevant work experience. There is a stat which says 90% of apprentices go straight into work or further training after they had completed their scheme. This is more than the stat for people who go to uni – 86.7%

Relevant Training & Skills

Employers and professional bodies design the overall programme, so apprentices obtain the specific practical skills which are necessary for a job. 

Work-Life Balance

Degree apprenticeships provide an ideal balance between work and study. Most programmes also allow you to study and learn at your own pace.

How to get One? 

While the application process for degree apprenticeships will vary per the scheme you’re applying for, the process of getting one is the same as if you’re applying for a job.

In most cases – if not all – you’ll need to submit an application, which usually includes a CV and cover letter to the employer. If you’re also applying for university, you could use your personal statement as a starting point for your application.

Where are They Advertised? 

Employers advertise degree apprenticeships throughout the year and there is no application cycle like there is with the university. The vacancy will state when the application deadline is, and when the apprenticeship is due to start. Apart from visiting employers’ websites, degree apprenticeships can be found at

Back to our fictitious characters, you could take the path John took while enjoying the best of the worlds of work and academics or you could go the pathway James took.

Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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