How do university apprenticeships work?

Most of us have heard of apprenticeships, but your first thought is probably the industry-based apprenticeships that we can take in college, such as beauty, construction or childcare. These apprenticeships usually involve local businesses training school-leavers to join their team, who can gain themselves a qualification while also earning money. Well, higher or degree apprenticeships work in the same way.

Organisations such as the NHS and local authorities can offer apprenticeships to either new talent looking for a way into the industry, or current employees looking to fill in any skills gaps and gain more qualifications.

Just like a college apprenticeship, students who enrol on a higher or degree apprenticeship will spend part of their time studying at university, and the rest working for their employer, earning a full-time wage and gaining invaluable experience of the workplace. As an apprentice, you’ll be able to make connections with people in the industry and at the end of your course, you’ll have gained up to six years’ worth of experience, as well as a degree.

Who is eligible?

Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible for a degree apprenticeship. If you’re already in full-time work, you must spend at least 50% of your working hours in England to apply. Unlike a traditional degree, you apply for a degree apprenticeship through the employer, rather than through UCAS.

Why an apprenticeship?

  • Unlike a degree, you will be earning a salary for the apprenticeship, so you can study completely debt free.
  • In addition, your tuition fees are covered by your employer or the government, so you will be saving a tidy sum on tuition!
  • A degree apprenticeship gives you real work experience, alongside the knowledge and theory you'll get from studying a degree. 
  • You’ll develop the skills and knowledge for specific jobs, so it will kick-start your career and give you a strong CV tailored to the field you want to work in. This isn’t always accessible just from doing a degree, so depending on your preferred industry, an apprenticeship could be seen as a head-start in the field.
  • You’ll have highly experienced tutors who are all professionally qualified to support you at university, as well as work based clinical educators to support you in practice.
  • As a member of the University, you will have access to the wide range of support services available our students.

Will I miss out on the university experience with an apprenticeship?

You’ll still be able to enjoy uni life, just in a different way to other undergraduates. You’ll be spending time with work colleagues, as well as other students, so you’ll definitely still have a social life. The main difference will be that unlike other students, you’ll be getting up and going to work most of the time, so your social life will be pushed towards the weekend, rather than mid-week.

You’ll still have access to the full university experience in terms of subject facilities and student support so you won’t be missing out.

Just be aware that some employers may be quite a distance from your place of study, so you might need to organise your lifestyle around commuting between the two.

How long is an apprenticeship?

Depending on the degree apprenticeship you choose, it’ll usually last between three and six years. They are full-time, so you should either be at either work or your place of study for five days a week.

Every degree apprenticeship is different, so you’ll have to check how yours divides your work and study time. Particularly look at whether you’ll be attending uni one day per week, in blocks of a week or more, or studying online. Some apprenticeships use a combination.

What apprenticeships does the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences offer?

Juggling a degree and a full-time job is challenging. So you’ll need a certain amount of self-discipline. But don’t underestimate yourself, an apprenticeship might be the perfect road to your dream career.

Meet NHS and BCU staff at our Open Days

If you'd like more information about apprenticeships in health, come to our open days and speak to BCU academics and NHS Trust staff to see what is on offer.

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