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, higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships are the main options if you plan to finish full-time education at 18 after sitting your A levels or Highers.

Sponsored degrees, higher apprenticeships and degree 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, you might spend a week-long block at university every couple of months, or some of your learning might be done online.

What is a sponsored degree?

A sponsored degree programme involves studying part time for a degree while working for an employer. Please note that several employers who used to offer a sponsored degree now offer a ‘degree apprenticeship’ instead. More on this below.

What are higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships?

Higher and degree apprenticeships also involve studying part time while you work. The programmes meet official apprenticeship standards, set by the government, to do with the training you receive and the qualifications you gain, which will be level 4 or above. Programmes that are billed as degree apprenticeships even involve studying for a bachelors or masters 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
  • A masters 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, higher apprenticeship or degree 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 degree 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 higher or degree apprenticeship with CGI in cyber security.

Where in the country are IT sponsored degrees, higher apprenticeships and degree 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 Livingston (just two of its UK bases); if you’d like to be based in Wales, Capgemini has vacancies in Treforest, near Cardiff (among other locations). Or you could work in Aston, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leatherhead, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Reading...

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 house – although bear in mind that some parts of the country are more affordable to live in than others.

Some employers provide extra help with accommodation. For example, CGI has previously had 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 a few employers may offer a relocation allowance.

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