Different types of apprenticeships and their meanings

Published on: 18 May 2020

There are four levels of apprenticeship available, each offering different levels of qualification: intermediate, advanced, higher, and degree. Let’s take a look at what each one means.

  • Intermediate level apprenticeships (Level 2)
  • Advanced level  apprenticeships  (Level 3)
  • Higher level  apprenticeships  (Level 4+)
  • Degree level  apprenticeships  (Levels 5 – 7)

Great  option for

  • 16 year olds who  don’t want to study A levels.
  • Practical learner  looking to get an early foothold in  the job market.
  • Has a career in mind.
  • People who already  have Level 3  qualifications such as A levels or BTECs, and are highly competitive.
  • May also have to compete with  existing employees who want to gain a  qualification.
  • Knows what job they want or career sector.
  • School or college leavers looking to enter into a work  environment and gain a higher  qualification, but not necessarily a full degree.
  • However, expect to compete with  employed adults and,  maybe, existing  employees. 
  • School or college leavers looking to gain a degree  qualification  without the  university fees,  while also gaining  valuable work experience.
  • However, expect to compete with  employed adults and, maybe, existing  employees.
  • Mature students with work experience.

  UCAS apprenticeship imageIntermediate level apprenticeships (Level 2)

  • Equivalent to five GCSE passes grades 9 – 4 or A* - C (i.e. NVQ Level 2).
  • Will receive a competency-based and a knowledge-based qualification. 
  • Great option for 16 year olds who don't want to study A levels.
  • May need two+ GCSEs including English and maths, but it’s possible to study these while doing your apprenticeship.
  • Can progress to advanced/higher apprenticeships.

Ideal for practical learners looking to get an early foothold in the job market.

UCAS top tip

Search the national apprenticeship standards to see what’s available and which apprenticeships are being developed.

Advanced level apprenticeships (Level 3)

  • Equivalent to two A level passes.
  • Typically need five+ GCSEs at grades 9 – 4 (A* – C), including English and maths.
  • Attract people who already have Level 3 qualifications, such as A levels or BTECs, and are highly competitive. May also have to compete with existing employees who want to gain a qualification to reflect the work experience they have.

Higher level apprenticeships (Level 4 and above)

  • Equivalent to foundation degree, Higher National Diploma, NVQ Level 4.
  • Typically need Level 3 qualifications like A levels, NVQs or a BTEC, ideally relevant to apprenticeship standard.
  • Could take up to five years to complete, depending on pace of study.
  • Expect to compete with employed adults and, maybe, existing staff.

Degree level apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)

  • Equivalent to a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • Typically need A levels, or significant work experience in a similar sector.
  • Could take up to six years to complete.
  • Split time between job and university, usually 80% at work and 20% study.
  • Will be up against employed adults and, maybe, existing staff.