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What is the Difference Between Higher and Degree Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are an excellent way to gain practical skills and knowledge while earning a wage. However, you may wonder, “What is the difference between higher and degree apprenticeships?

Two prominent options are higher and degree apprenticeships, each with unique features. Let’s delve into the details and uncover the differences between these two pathways.

What is the Difference Between Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

Understanding Apprenticeships

Before diving into the differences, it’s important to grasp the essence of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are work-based training programs that blend practical on-the-job learning with theoretical knowledge. They are designed to equip individuals with the skills and qualifications necessary for a specific job role while allowing them to earn a wage simultaneously.

Higher Apprenticeships

Higher apprenticeships are intermediate between the more basic intermediate apprenticeships and advanced and degree-level apprenticeships. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Qualifications: In a higher apprenticeship, you work towards a Level 4 or Level 5 qualification, equivalent to a foundation degree or Higher National Diploma (HND).
  • Job Roles: Higher apprenticeships cover various job roles across various industries. They are suitable for individuals who want to build practical skills in a specific field while gaining a recognised qualification.
  • Learning Structure: The training usually takes 1 to 4 years, during which you spend a significant portion of your time working on the job and attending college or a training centre part-time to complete the program’s academic portion.
  • Entry Requirements: Entry requirements may vary depending on the employer and the industry, but generally, you need a Level 3 qualification (A-levels, advanced apprenticeship) or equivalent experience.

Degree Apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships, on the other hand, integrate a full bachelor’s or master’s degree into the apprenticeship experience:

  • Qualifications: In a degree apprenticeship, you work towards a full bachelor’s or master’s degree alongside your job training. This means you’ll be earning a degree while gaining practical work experience.
  • Job Roles: Degree apprenticeships are often associated with professions that require higher levels of technical expertise, such as engineering, technology, healthcare, and business management.
  • Learning Structure: The duration of a degree apprenticeship is typically longer, often spanning 3 to 6 years, due to the inclusion of a full degree program. You’ll alternate between work and university to develop theoretical and practical skills.
  • Entry Requirements: The entry requirements for degree apprenticeships can be more competitive, usually requiring Level 3 qualifications (A-levels or equivalent) and sometimes additional assessments or interviews.

Key Differences Summarised

  • Qualification Level: Higher apprenticeships offer Level 4-5 qualifications (foundation degree or HND), while degree apprenticeships provide full bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
  • Duration: Higher apprenticeships usually last 1 to 4 years, whereas degree apprenticeships span 3 to 6 years.
  • Industry Focus: Higher apprenticeships cover many industries, while degree apprenticeships are more common in technical and professional fields.
  • Entry Requirements: Degree apprenticeships often have stricter entry requirements due to the inclusion of a degree program.

Choosing the Right Path

The choice between higher and degree apprenticeships depends on your career aspirations, educational background, and the field you wish to enter. A higher apprenticeship might be the right fit if you’re eager to dive into a specific profession and gain hands-on experience. On the other hand, if you aspire to combine advanced education with practical skills, a degree apprenticeship could be the way to go.


Higher and degree apprenticeships offer fantastic opportunities to kick-start a successful career while learning and earning. Understanding the differences between these pathways is crucial for making an informed decision that aligns with your goals and aspirations. So, whether you’re drawn to a specialised technical role or a broader industry, there’s an apprenticeship journey waiting for you to embark upon.

Updated on August 30, 2023

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