What is a Degree Apprenticeship? How You Could Get a Degree for Free

what is a degree apprenticeship
what is a degree apprenticeship

In recent years, the cost of higher education has been a topic of concern for many individuals seeking to pursue a degree. Skyrocketing tuition fees and mounting student loan debt have made the dream of attaining a degree seem financially daunting.

However, there is a game-changing option that’s gaining popularity; degree apprenticeships. But, what is a degree apprenticeship? This innovative approach allows you to earn a degree while gaining valuable work experience, all without accumulating crippling student loan debt.

In this article, we’ll explore more about what degree apprenticeships are and how you might get a degree for free.

What is a Degree Apprenticeship?

A degree apprenticeship is a unique blend of academic learning and practical work experience. It is a vocational training program that allows individuals to work full-time or part-time while studying for a degree in a related field.

Unlike traditional university programs, employers typically fund degree apprenticeships, which means you can avoid the hefty tuition fees associated with traditional higher education.


  • Work-Based Learning: Degree apprenticeships prioritize real-world experience. You’ll spend a significant portion of your time on the job, applying what you learn in a practical setting.
  • Employer Sponsorship: Employers partner with educational institutions to provide apprenticeships. They cover your tuition costs and, many times, pay you a salary or wage while you work.
  • Academic Study: Besides on-the-job training, you’ll attend classes, lectures, or workshops at a university or college. These academic components are integrated into the apprenticeship.
  • Level of Study: They are available at different levels, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees. You can choose a program that aligns with your career goals and qualifications.
  • Duration: The length of a degree apprenticeship varies depending on the program and level of study. It typically takes longer than a standard degree because of the work-based aspect.

Who is a Degree Apprenticeship For?

Degree apprenticeships are designed to cater to a diverse range of individuals who want to earn a degree while gaining practical work experience. These programs are suitable for the following groups:

Recent High School Graduates

Young individuals who have just completed their high school education and are looking for a viable alternative to traditional university education. Degree apprenticeships offer them a way to learn and earn simultaneously, without incurring student loan debt.

Career Changers

Individuals who have already entered the workforce but wish to change careers or upgrade their qualifications. Degree apprenticeships provide an opportunity to switch fields and acquire new skills while maintaining their employment.

Working Professionals

Employees who want to advance their careers or gain specialized knowledge in their current field. Degree apprenticeships enable them to continue working while pursuing a higher education degree, often without having to take a career break.

Non-Traditional Students

Those who may not have followed a traditional educational path, such as individuals who did not attend college immediately after high school or who have taken time off from education and want to re-enter the academic world.

Job Seekers

Job seekers looking to enter the job market with a competitive edge. It offers a practical route to gaining relevant skills and qualifications that employers value.

Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

Individuals who own or plan to start their businesses can benefit from degree apprenticeships by gaining relevant skills and knowledge to manage and grow their enterprises.

Related: Joint Honours vs Standard Degree: Is a Joint Honours Degree Better Than a Standard Degree?

What are the Benefits of a Degree Apprenticeship?

Degree apprenticeships offer a range of benefits to individuals who choose this educational and career path. These benefits make degree apprenticeships an attractive option for many people.

Here are some of the key advantages:

  • Earning While Learning
  • No Tuition Fees
  • Real-World Experience
  • Employability
  • Career Progression
  • Networking
  • Reduced Debt Burden
  • Industry Connections
  • Increased Confidence
  • High-Quality Education
  • Personal Growth

How is this Apprenticeship Funded?

Degree apprenticeships are funded differently from traditional full-time university courses. In this model, you, as the apprentice, do not bear the financial burden of paying for your education or taking out loans to cover the costs.

Instead, the funding for degree apprenticeships is shared between the government and employers. The government typically covers two-thirds of the total cost of the degree program, while the employer contributes the remaining one-third.

This unique funding structure ensures that apprentices graduate without any student debt, and, in addition, they earn an apprenticeship wage while pursuing their studies.

What is the Minimum Wage of a Degree Apprenticeship?

According to Indeed.com, the minimum wage for apprentices varies depending on age and the stage of their apprenticeship. As of April 2022, here are the minimum hourly wage rates set by the government for apprentices:

  • Apprentices aged 16-18 or aged 19 and in their first year of the apprenticeship are entitled to a minimum wage of at least £4.81 per hour.
  • Apprentices aged 19 and beyond, who have completed their first year of the apprenticeship, are entitled to at least the national minimum wage.

For individuals aged 23 and above, the national living wage applies, which was £9.50 per hour as of April 2022. It’s important to note that these figures represent the legal minimums for apprenticeship wages.

Some employers may choose to pay higher wages, especially for apprenticeships in high-demand fields or those that typically command higher salaries in the job market.

Read: When is the Student Finance Application Deadline in the UK?

Which Universities Offer Degree Apprenticeships?

Degree apprenticeships are offered by various universities across the UK, and the specific universities that offer these programs can vary depending on the sector and apprenticeship pathway. Unlike traditional full-time degree programs, apprentices often have the flexibility to study either online or at a campus near their workplace, making the choice of university less centralized.

Additionally, some degree apprenticeships may involve blended learning, with a combination of online and in-person modules. To find the most suitable degree apprenticeship for your career goals and location, you can use the ‘find an apprenticeship’ service provided by the government online.

This platform allows you to explore available apprenticeship opportunities, research different subjects or industries, and match your preferences with the degree apprenticeships currently available. It’s a valuable resource for individuals considering this educational and career path, helping them make informed decisions about their future.

What are the Entry Requirements of a Degree Apprenticeship?

Entry requirements for degree apprenticeships can vary depending on the specific program and employer. However, there are some general guidelines and expectations regarding the qualifications and criteria employers typically seek in applicants:

  • Formal Qualifications: Employers often expect candidates to have a strong set of formal qualifications. This typically includes a minimum of five GCSEs at grades A*-C (or 9-4) in subjects that are relevant to the apprenticeship field. These GCSEs demonstrate a solid educational foundation.
  • Level 3 Apprenticeship Qualifications: Many degree apprenticeships require applicants to have completed relevant Level 3 apprenticeship qualifications or their equivalent. This might include BTEC or other vocational qualifications that align with the chosen field of study.
  • Relevant Qualifications: Employers prefer candidates who already possess qualifications relevant to the apprenticeship they’re applying for. Having prior knowledge or experience in the field can make you a more attractive candidate.
  • Work Experience: While not always mandatory, some apprenticeships may require or prefer applicants to have prior work experience in a related area. This demonstrates your commitment to the field and can give you a competitive edge.
  • Job Offer: To enter a degree apprenticeship, you’ll typically need a job offer from an employer who is willing to sponsor your apprenticeship. The employer plays a crucial role in funding and facilitating the apprenticeship.
  • Minimum Age: Some degree apprenticeships may have minimum age requirements. Generally, apprenticeships are open to individuals of various age groups, but specific programs may have age restrictions.

Also, see this: How Much Does It Cost To Go To University In The UK | Expert Tips?

Tips on How to Get a Degree Apprenticeship for Free

Getting a degree apprenticeship for free involves careful planning and strategy. Here are some tips to help you achieve this goal.

  • Research Your Options: Start by researching degree apprenticeship programs in your desired field. Look for sectors and employers that offer apprenticeships.
  • Academic Preparation: Ensure you meet the entry requirements, including relevant qualifications. If necessary, take courses or gain certifications that enhance your eligibility.
  • Networking: Build a professional network in your chosen field. Attend career fairs, workshops, and industry events to connect with potential employers.
  • Tailor Your CV: Customize your resume to highlight relevant skills and experiences. Emphasize your commitment to the field and your desire to learn.
  • Job Search: Search for job openings that offer degree apprenticeships. Use government websites and job boards to find suitable opportunities.
  • Apply Early: Apply for apprenticeships as soon as they become available. Some programs have limited spots, so early applications increase your chances.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Be ready for interviews with both employers and educational institutions. Showcase your passion, work ethic, and willingness to learn.
  • Demonstrate Value: During the application and interview process, emphasize how you can add value to the employer and the apprenticeship program.
  • Financial Planning: Create a budget and financial plan to manage your living expenses while earning an apprenticeship wage.
  • Alternative Funding: Look for employers that offer additional financial incentives, such as covering travel costs or providing extra training opportunities.
  • Continuous Learning: Stay committed to your apprenticeship. Work hard, excel academically, and contribute to your employer’s success to secure continued funding.
  • Explore Scholarships and Grants: Some degree apprenticeships may have scholarships or grants available. Research these opportunities to reduce your financial burden.
  • Be Adaptable: Be open to opportunities in different locations or industries if your preferred apprenticeship is not immediately available.


Are degree apprenticeships available in all fields of study?

Degree apprenticeships are available in various fields, including IT, engineering, healthcare, business, and more. However, availability may vary by sector and region.

How long does a degree apprenticeship take to complete?

The duration of a degree apprenticeship varies depending on the program and level of study. It can range from three to six years, with some variations.

How do I apply for a degree apprenticeship?

To apply for a degree apprenticeship, research available programs, check eligibility, secure an employer sponsor, complete the application process, and fulfill the academic and work requirements of the apprenticeship.

How is a degree apprenticeship funded?

Degree apprenticeships are funded by a combination of government funding and contributions from employers. The government typically covers two-thirds of the cost, while the employer pays the remaining third.


Degree apprenticeships offer a unique pathway to higher education that combines practical experience with academic learning. With the right opportunity and determination, you could earn a degree for free while avoiding the burden of student loan debt.

If you’re willing to work hard, secure an employer sponsor, and commit to your studies, a degree apprenticeship could be the key to achieving your educational and career goals without the financial stress often associated with traditional university programs.



You May Also Like