IT sponsored degrees and higher apprenticeships – your options at 18

Starting work in IT after sixth form – the options
A number of IT employers offer you the chance to earn while you learn. Sponsored degrees and higher apprenticeships are the main options if you plan to finish full-time education at 18 after sitting your A levels or Highers.

Sponsored degrees and higher apprenticeships are programmes run by employers that allow you to earn and learn at the same time. To be eligible to apply you’ll typically need A levels or equivalent (eg Highers or the International Baccalaureate).

  • See our advice on how to get into a career in IT for details of the subjects and grades you’ll need to get onto an IT higher apprenticeship or sponsored degree.

Your employer will decide what and where you study and will pay your tuition fees. Typically your office and your college/university will be in a similar geographical area and you might attend lectures one day a week, though this isn’t always the arrangement. For example, if you join National Grid’s cyber security or critical national infrastructure higher apprenticeships you’ll have four weeks of residential training to start with (full board accommodation paid for) followed by further blocks of training each lasting one week.

What is a sponsored degree?

A sponsored degree programme involves studying part time for a degree while working for an employer. Examples in the IT industry include CGI’s sponsored degree programme, on which you study for either a BSc in information systems management or a BA in business management for IT, and Capgemini’s sponsored degree programme, on which you study for a BSc in computing and IT practice.

What is a higher apprenticeship?

Higher apprenticeships also involve studying part time while you work. Some programmes that are billed as higher apprenticeships even involve studying for a degree. The qualifications that you gain vary from employer to employer. In IT these can include:

  • An HNC (equivalent to the first year of a degree)
  • A foundation degree (equivalent to two-thirds of a degree)
  • A bachelors degree
  • An NVQ level 4
  • A City & Guilds level 4
  • A relevant professional qualification, such as the Association of Project Management (APM) level 4 or Cisco accreditation.

What types of job could I do on an IT sponsored degree programme or higher apprenticeship?

Unsurprisingly, opportunities to train for very technical jobs such as software engineering feature heavily. However, there are also options to go down more business-focused routes such as project management.

If you’re looking for something a bit different, you could take an aerospace software developer higher apprenticeship with BAE Systems and learn to develop software used to communicate, test equipment, run simulators, monitor health and oversee logistics. Or you could take a cyber security higher apprenticeship with National Grid and learn about issues such as digital forensics and insider threat management.

Where in the country are IT sponsored degree programmes and higher apprenticeships based?

IT higher apprenticeships and sponsored degree programmes can be found all over the country. For example, if you want to work in Scotland you could work for Atos in Moray or Livingstone (just two of its UK bases); if you’d like to be based in Wales, Capgemini has vacancies in Swansea (among other locations). Or you could work in Durham, Port Sunlight, Yeovil, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Crewe, Runcorn, Basingstoke, Birmingham, Blackpool...

Keep in mind though that you may need to leave home to take up a place on the right programme. Unlike going to university, you’re likely to have to arrange your own accommodation from the start. However, the advantage over university is that you will be earning a salary to help you pay your rent. Starting on around £14,000 to £17,000 is typical, which should allow you to rent a room in a shared house.

Some employers provide extra help with accommodation. For example, CGI has a scheme that can help you line up somewhere to live (eg providing advice on where to look or a buddy to go on viewings with) while National Grid offers a relocation allowance.

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