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If you are considering applying for an apprenticeship, it can be confusing trying to understand the different levels of training and what qualifications you will receive at the end of your programme. An apprenticeship is not a qualification in its own right: it’s a paid job with training. However, you will work towards one or more qualifications as part of your apprenticeship. These qualifications will relate to the level of apprenticeship you’re doing, which is based on how complex and advanced the job you're training for is. Some apprenticeship programmes will give you the chance to work towards more than one qualification. Apprenticeships generally fall into one of four categories:

  • Intermediate level apprenticeship — generally considered to be the same as five GCSE passes.

  • Advanced level apprenticeship — generally considered to be the same as two A level passes.

  • Higher apprenticeship — can lead to NVQ Level 4 and above, or a foundation degree.

  • Degree apprenticeships are offered by some universities – students can achieve a full bachelor's or master's degree as part of their apprenticeship.

There are slightly different rules for:

  • Apprenticeships in Scotland — there are three types of apprenticeship — entry depends on your skills and qualifications.

  • Apprenticeships in Wales – there are four levels of apprenticeship available across a wide range of sectors and job roles.

Let’s take a look at the types of qualifications you might receive for each level of apprenticeship. Intermediate apprenticeship (Level 2)

Equivalent to: GCSE passes at grades A*–C (4–9 on the new system) Many employers include Functional Skills qualifications for apprentices who don’t have C+/4+ GCSEs in maths and English. Functional skills gives you the basic numeracy and literacy you need for the workplace. You will gain Level 2 qualifications in your intermediate apprenticeships. These could be:

  • Awards, certificates or diplomas: These are all equally difficult, but are different lengths of course, with awards being the shortest and diplomas the longest. This means the amount of content you will cover will be different

  • NVQ: These are directly related to the job you are training for, and provide the skills and knowledge you need to perform the role.

Advanced apprenticeships (Level 3)

Equivalent to: A-level passes E+ You will generally need grade C+/4+ GCSEs in maths and English to do an advanced apprenticeship. Some employers may offer functional skills as part of the course (see above). Your advanced apprenticeships will give you level 3 qualifications, including:

  • Awards, certificates or diplomas

  • National certificate (NC) / National diploma (ND): Practical qualifications which teach you the skills needed to carry out a particular role as you do the job

  • NVQ: This will provide knowledge and skills to do your job well.

Higher apprenticeship (Levels 4-7)

Equivalent to: Ranges from a level 4 qualification, which is equivalent to the first year of university study, all the way up to a Level 7 which is equivalent to a master’s degree. At level 4, you will gain specialist knowledge and analytic ability in your level. At level 7, you will develop the ability to come up with your own solutions to complicated problems, and be well-prepared for an advanced technical job, or even a senior management role. Higher apprenticeship qualifications include:

  • Higher national certificate (HNC): A level 4, equivalent to first year of university, which takes a year to complete

  • Higher national diploma (HND): A level 5 qualification, equivalent to second year of university, which takes two years to complete. These are practical qualifications which teach you the skills you need to do a particular job. You will learn by doing the job.

  • Certificate of higher education (CertHE) / Diploma of higher education (DipHE): Like the HNC and HND, these are level 4 and 5 qualifications equivalent to university years one and two. They are academic rather than practical qualifications.

  • Foundation degree: Foundation degrees are vocational alternatives to traditional bachelor's degrees, combining work-based learning with academic study.

Degree apprenticeship (Levels 6-7)

Equivalent to: Bachelor’s or master’s degree With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll complete your qualification with the skills, knowledge and understanding to carry out a knowledge-based job. With a master’s degree, you’ll be qualified to carry out an advanced technical role, and may even be ready to take on a management job. Each level of apprenticeship is designed to lead into the next, meaning there are always several options available to help you get to your dream career. Many employers will allow you to upgrade your qualifications by continuing with a further apprenticeship or studying for specific qualifications separately – some will even encourage it. Make sure you ask about the possibility for progression with your employer once your apprenticeships is complete. Click here to browse our apprenticeship courses or get in touch with our apprenticeship team for more information.

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