Becoming an apprentice

Get paid to train for a qualification with our apprenticeship programmes. Whether you’re embarking on a new career or want to progress in your existing role, you’ll divide your time between on-the-job training and academic study.

What are apprenticeships?

What is a higher or degree apprenticeship? 

An apprenticeship is a work-based training and education programme that allows employees to earn as they learn. Apprentices are given on-the-job training delivered alongside degree-level academic learning while they work towards a nationally recognised qualification. This can be: 

A higher apprenticeship 

This type of apprenticeship allows apprentices to study towards a Level 4 and 5 qualification. A Level 5 qualification is the equivalent of a foundation degree and above. 

A degree apprenticeship 

This type of apprenticeship allows apprentices to study towards Levels 6 and 7 qualifications and is the equivalent to a bachelor's and master’s degree.

What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?

There are plenty of reasons to study an apprenticeship. Watch the video below to find out more from key organisations, including JCB, Bombardier and Rolls-Royce.

A blonde lady, speaking in a navy blue Bombardier jumper.

View Why you should consider studying an Apprenticeship! video transcript

How to apply

As degree apprenticeships are paid for by the employer, you will initially have to find employment with an organisation who are offering an apprenticeship. You will then be able to apply for the apprenticeship through your employer. 

Looking for an apprenticeship 

If you are interested in starting an apprenticeship, you can find apprenticeship vacancies on the government's website. 

Already employed

If you are already employed, you will need the support of your employer to pursue an apprenticeship. Your employer can then contact the Apprenticeships Hub ( for further information. 

Buxton and Leek College offer intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2) and advanced apprenticeships (Level 3). These are equivalent to five GCSEs and two A-levels respectively.

Levels 4 and above

Rolls-Royce Nuclear Skills Academy outside view

Nuclear Skills Academy

The Nuclear Skills Academy has the funding to provide 200 apprentices each year with nuclear education across a number of courses for at least the next 10 years.

Find out more about the Nuclear Skills AcademyFind out more about the Nuclear Skills Academy


A higher or degree apprenticeship focuses on combining academic study with work-based learning, allowing apprentices to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours set out by the apprenticeship framework in a real-life setting. Academic study is required and is comparable to a Level 4 HNC equivalent or a bachelor's degree. In contrast, a HNC equivalent or bachelor's degree focuses on full-time or part-time academic learning.

  • You must currently be in paid employment for at least 30 hours per week
  • You must have 5 GCSE’s grade C or above equivalent in maths and english
  • You must have 120 points from A-Levels/BTEC or other qualifications or experience
  • Your employer must pay for the training
  • You must have the right to live and work in the UK
  • At least 50% of your work must take place in England (There are different rules for apprentices who work in Scotland and Wales).

'Off-the-job' training is defined as the time spent by the apprentice away from the employment setting (or within the employment setting but outside of their usual duties) that directly relates to the apprenticeship framework or standard. Each apprenticeship programme requires a minimum time spent undertaking this type of training, and it can be spread over the duration of the programme.

What counts as 'off-the-job' training?

  • Theory teaching, including lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning and manufacturer training
  • Practical training, including shadowing, mentoring and industry visits
  • Learning support (including using online material) and time spent working on assignments.

It does not include:

  • Training undertaken in English or maths
  • Progress reviews
  • Apprenticeship framework or standard assessments
  • Any training which takes place outside of the apprentice’s paid working hours
  • Time spent in 'off-the-job' training must be recorded by the apprentice.

The time it takes for an apprentice to complete a higher or degree apprenticeship at the University of Derby varies, and can be affected by a number of factors. Our courses are offered over a minimum number of years, and vary by apprenticeship standard, the type of programme, employer requirements/expectations and the development of the apprentice. Each apprenticeship is tailor-made to employer experience and to meet your entry criteria.

Our apprenticeships require a combination of on-the-job learning as well as on-campus study at the University of Derby.

Apprentices are required to attend on-day or block release from their employment. Patterns of attendance will vary depending on the course. There is a 20% mandatory ‘off-the-job’ learning requirement for apprenticeships.

Our programmes are specially-designed to help apprentices link academic theory to their employment setting, enabling them to apply their developing skills and knowledge within their job role. Apprentices are encouraged to use real work problems and issues to inform and enhance their knowledge, and provide evidence of this learning for assessment purposes.

The University of Derby supports its apprentices with online resources, including readings, podcasts and recordings of lectures and tutorials. Apprentices will also have a personal tutor to review progress and identify further learning opportunities – pushing those who are doing well, and helping those who require additional support.

Apprentices will be given work-related activities to undertake, which can be designed in consultation with employers to ensure your organisation receives a real benefit. This type of activity can be scheduled to suit the apprentice, enabling them to learn to manage their time and workload effectively.