Apprenticeship entry requirements

Young woman walking through door - apprenticeship entry requirements
What qualifications do you need to get onto an apprenticeship in the UK, and do they have to be in a particular subject?

Employers can set their own entry requirements for apprenticeships. The qualifications they ask for vary from none at all through to A levels or equivalent, depending on the career and the level of apprenticeship.

Qualifications in the UK are organised into different levels – the higher the level, the more challenging the qualfication. Very often employers accept different types of qualification, as long as they are at the same level and therefore considered equivalent to each other – for example, accepting either A levels or level 3 BTECs. You can find full details of the different levels of qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and which ones are equivalent to each other on the UK Government website; details for Scotland can be found on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework website. We’ve summarised some of the key details for you here.

Levels of qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Qualification levels range from ‘entry level’ to level 8. Those most relevant to apprenticeships and their entry requirements are:

  • Level 1 qualifications, including GCSEs at grades 1–3 (G–D) and level 1 NVQs and BTECs
  • Level 2 qualifications, including GCSEs at grades 4–9 (C–A*), level 2 NVQs and BTECs, and intermediate apprenticeships
  • Level 3 qualifications, including A levels, the International Baccalaureate, advanced apprenticeships, and level 3 NVQs and BTECs
  • Level 4 qualifications, including HNCs, some higher apprenticeships, and level 4 BTECs and NVQs
  • Level 5 qualifications, including foundation degrees, HNDs, some higher apprenticeships, and level 5 NVQs and BTECs
  • Level 6 qualifications, including bachelors degrees, degree apprenticeships and level 6 NVQs and BTECs
  • Level 7 qualifications, including masters degrees.

Levels of qualification in Scotland

Qualification levels in Scotland range from 1–12. Those most relevant to apprenticeships and their entry requirements are:

  • Level 5 qualifications, including National 5s
  • Level 6 qualifications, including Highers
  • Level 7 qualifications, including Advanced Highers and HNCs
  • Level 8 qualifications, including HNDs
  • Level 10 qualifications, including honours degrees.

Entry requirements for degree apprenticeships/level 6 apprenticeships (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and graduate apprenticeships (Scotland)

If you want to take a degree apprenticeship (known as a graduate apprenticeship in Scotland), this will involve studying for a university degree while you work and as such entry requirements are similar to if you apply to university through UCAS.

  • In England, Scotland and Wales you’ll typically need qualifications that are at level 3 (eg A levels, the International Baccalaureate, level 3 BTECs and NVQs, and advanced apprenticeships).
  • In Scotland you’ll typically need qualifications that are at level 6 or 7 on the
    Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (eg Highers, Advanced Highers, HNCs and level 3 SVQs).

Degree apprenticeships usually lead to a bachelors degree (level 6), though occasionally they can lead to a masters degree (level 7).

Entry requirements for higher apprenticeships (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Higher apprenticeships also involve studying at university level, although they don’t always lead to a full (bachelors) degree – for example, you might work towards an HNC, HND or a foundation degree. (Technically, a higher apprenticeship can be at any level from 4–7, though in practice anything at level 6 or above will usually be labelled as a degree apprenticeship.) They’re available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Entry requirements for higher apprenticeships often include level 3 qualifications (such as A levels or level 3 BTECs).
  • However, for some higher apprenticeships you only need level 2 qualifications (such as GCSEs at grades 9–4 or A*–C.)

Entry requirements for advanced apprenticeships/level 3 apprenticeships (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Advanced apprenticeships (known as just as level 3 apprenticeships in Northern Ireland and simply as apprenticeships or standard apprenticeships in Wales) are equivalent to A levels. They’re available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • You’ll typically only need level 2 qualifications – GCSEs at grades 9–4 or A*–C are commonly requested, often including English and maths.
  • Occasionally an employer will ask for level 3 qualifications such as A levels.

Entry requirements for modern apprenticeships (Scotland)

Modern apprenticeships are only available in Scotland, and range from levels 5 to 7 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

  • There’s a lot of variety in the entry requirements for modern apprenticeships. Some don’t require any qualifications; others expect you to have both National 5s and Highers.

Entry requirements for intermediate apprenticeships/level 2 apprenticeships (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

Level 2 apprenticeships are available in England (where they’re known as intermediate apprenticeships), Wales (where they’re known as foundation apprenticeships) and Northern Ireland (where they’re just known as level 2 apprenticeships).

  • Employers often ask for GCSEs – requiring at least grade 4/C in maths and English is quite common.
  • However, some will accept you without any qualifications.

Entry requirements for foundation apprenticeships (Scotland)

Foundation apprenticeships are available in Scotland (and are different from the apprenticeships of the same name in Wales!). Unlike other apprenticeships, you take them while you’re still at school, usually in S5 and S6. You’ll have time out from school to spend with the employer, but this will be fitted into your timetable as just one of your options – you’ll continue to study other subjects too.

  • You typically need three or four National 5s to get onto a foundation apprenticeship. Some employers ask for specific subjects.

What subjects do I need to get onto an apprenticeship?

Many apprenticeships require English and maths at GCSE or equivalent. Some have additional subject requirements, for example:

Employers in other areas sometimes have specific requirements too, so if you already have an idea what type of apprenticeship would interest you, take a look at what employers are asking for.

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