Not going to uni? Maybe an apprenticeship is for you

Got questions on apprenticeships? You've come to the right place. Money for Life UK have got answers to all your frequently asked apprenticeship questions.

What is an apprenticeship?

Maybe because of Lord Sugar’s fame-hungry wannabes, apprentices get a bad rep – but learning on the job can lead to real success. Here’s your beginner’s guide…

Apprentices are basically cheap labour, right?

Wrong. Apprenticeships allow people to gain practical skills as well as the stuff you’d learn in college or university. Apprentices work alongside experienced staff gaining job-specific knowledge while earning a salary – an average of £19,147 a year according to job site Reed – while also getting time off to study areas related to their role, usually one day a week.

Ah, but no benefits, I know how these things work.

Wrong again my sceptical friend. Apprentices earn benefits such as holiday and sick pay.

But do I have to become a hairdresser or a plumber?

You can become a hairdresser or plumber, if that’s what you want, but there thousands of other opportunities – from dental nurses to digital marketers, from chefs to sports coaches, all can be accessed with an apprenticeship. Click here for more details.

How long will I have to sign up for?

Apprenticeships take one to five years to complete depending on their level.

Are all apprenticeships created equal?

No. Apprenticeships range from level 2 to 7, each with an equivalent educational level.

Name Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A level
Higher 4,5,6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree


Some apprenticeships may also give you an additional qualification, such as a diploma.

Will I earn less than if I go to university?

This is harder to answer. A lot depends on the university you go to and the field you work in. In 2015 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills reported that working-age graduates earn an average of £32,500 a year compared with £22,000 for non-graduates, but non-graduates account for a huge percentage of the population. It’s also worth remembering that the average debt for university leavers is now £44,000.

Do I have to choose between university and an apprenticeship?

No – this is not a fork in the road. if you go to university, you can still complete an apprenticeship afterwards, and vice versa. Some higher apprenticeships offer the full have-cake-and-eat-it scenario, combining work with studying at university a day a week or for blocks of several weeks.

What if I’ve not got enough qualifications or experience for an apprenticeship?

A traineeship – programmes that last up to six months and are designed to prepare people for apprenticeships – may be for you. They’re unpaid – although you may get expenses for things like travel and meals – but can be the first step onto the apprenticeship ladder.

Thinking about life as an apprentice? Money for Life Champion and apprentice Ray shares all.