Higher Level Apprenticeships


What are they?

Higher level apprenticeships is a term that often pops up when looking at future career options, but what does a higher level apprenticeship actually consist of?

Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years – the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Henry Ford and Stella Macartney all undertook an apprenticeship in their relevant fields. An apprenticeship involves working and learning at the same time, using both classroom teaching and on-the-job experience to master a trade or skill.

It’s the ‘Higher level’ part of this qualification that can sometimes be confusing. This just means that these apprenticeships are at a level of learning that is higher than advanced, or intermediate apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships: Equivalent education level



Equivalent education level

Intermediate Apprenticeship



Advanced Apprenticeship


A Levels

Higher Level Apprenticeship


Foundation Degree and above

Degree Apprenticeship


Bachelor or Masters Degree

(source: https://www.gov.uk/apprenticeships-guide)

Higher level apprenticeships refer to courses that are at levels 4 to 7 learning. Although ‘Higher apprenticeships’ and ‘Degree apprenticeships’ are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, a Degree apprenticeship is only when you get a full Bachelor’s degree (level 6) or Master’s degree (level 7) through your apprenticeship.

As with other apprenticeships, the employer will pay the cost of the qualification you undertake. This is especially attractive as qualifications at levels 4 and up are often quite costly, so you will gain these advanced skills without the debt at the end!

Who offers Higher Level apprenticeships?

Employers that offer higher level apprenticeships will generally be for roles that require a degree or equivalent level of knowledge to do the job- think sectors such as IT, Engineering, Finance, Management and Healthcare. However there are a range of other sectors that offer specialised higher apprenticeships as well. .

In 2016 the Government announced an Apprenticeship Levy incurred on organisations with a payroll of £3 million or more. For these organisations, 0.5% of their payroll cost would be taxed and ring-fenced by the government, and the company can only access the money to fund apprenticeships.

Although not all of these organisations have used their levy to hire new apprentices (with many choosing to upskill their existing employees) the roll-out of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 has meant that larger organisations have developed a number of new apprenticeship schemes available to younger people.

Because the organisations who pay the levy are quite large – think the NHS, the local police, Aldi and much more – they often have a diverse range of roles available within their organisation. This means that the apprenticeships available might not just be in the organisations’ main sector. For example, the NHS offers apprenticeships for roles in IT services, Human Resources and Finance, not just in clinical roles such as Nursing.

How can I see what opportunities are available? 

The UK Government’s Find an apprenticeship website has a comprehensive list of the apprenticeships available. You can use the filters to narrow down opportunities by location, level and sector.

UCAS also has information on Degree apprenticeships – both current offerings and ones that are still in development.

If you have a particular sector or organisation you’d like to work for, it is also worth seeing if they have a ‘Careers’ or ‘Work with us’ section of their website, so you can look at the opportunities they might have available.

Each apprenticeship will have slightly different entry requirements, but as they are at a university-level of education, generally higher level apprenticeships will require A-Levels or equivalent qualifications. Some organisations may accept relevant working experience in lieu of a formal qualification.

Is a higher level apprenticeship right for me?

With their blend of hands on, on-the job learning accompanied by academic study, higher apprenticeships are perfect for those who enjoy applying their learning straight into a practical situation.

If you’re torn between further study and getting straight into the workforce, this could also be a good compromise, as you will continue learning, but earn a wage at the same time.

Or even if you are simply interested in looking at the different options available after school, it is worth seeing what is on offer!