Five ‘graduate’ careers you can get into via an apprenticeship

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Don’t say yes to that uni offer until you’ve read this! TARGETcareers rounds up five prestigious careers you might assume you couldn’t get via an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships can offer a route into all sorts of jobs, including some that you’d typically associate with graduates. In some cases your apprenticeship will include studying for a university degree, and all apprenticeships combine working in a paid job with having time off for study (at least 20% of your working week). Your employer will pay your tuition fees for you.

1. Solicitor

Solicitors give legal advice to their clients, write legal documents on clients’ behalf and sometimes represent clients by speaking in court. They are one of the two main branches of the legal profession, the other being barristers, who specialise in representing clients in court and in providing very specialist legal advice. Currently you can become a solicitor via an apprenticeship but you need to go to university in the traditional way to become a barrister.

Solicitor apprenticeships last around six years and include getting both a law degree and the postgraduate legal qualification you need to work as a solicitor (currently the LPC, though this is due to change). You’ll be employed by and work for a solicitors’ firm while you train. To get onto a solicitor apprenticeship you’ll need A levels or equivalent – employers don’t tend to specify particular subjects, though academic ones would be a good choice to show that you are suited to this intellectually rigorous career.

Don’t confuse solicitor apprenticeships with paralegal apprenticeships or legal services apprenticeships – these are lower-level apprenticeships that don’t qualify you as a solicitor (though you could always apply for a solicitor apprenticeship after completing one).

2. Accountant

Accountants ensure that an organisation’s finances are in good order. This can be by working permanently for just one organisation, or by working for an accountancy firm and being hired in by different organisations to give advice or to audit (check) their financial records.

A number of accountancy firms offer apprenticeships designed to qualify you as a chartered accountant – this is the same level of qualification that you’d work towards if you went to university and then joined an accountancy firm as a graduate. You’ll typically need A levels or equivalent to get a place (UCAS points tariffs in the region of 112 are common) – again, you don’t usually need specific subjects.

3. Actuary

Actuaries calculate the probability of an event happening (for example, a property being flooded), typically on behalf on insurance companies. It’s quite a maths-heavy role.

You can take your first steps towards a career as an actuary via an actuarial apprenticeship. For example, the level 4 actuarial apprenticeship involves taking the first stages of the CAA (certified actuarial analyst) qualification, and you can then carry on sitting further exams to gain your qualifications while you work. You’ll need A levels or equivalent to get onto the level 4 actuarial apprenticeship, including maths as one of your subjects; to join Aon’s actuarial apprenticeship, for example, your maths A level needs to be at grade A or above.

4. Journalist

Journalists uncover and report on news stories for newspapers, websites, magazines, TV or radio. To be good at this job you need curiosity, a love of asking questions and the confidence to approach people and situations where you might not be welcome.

In the UK, journalism training is accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Most journalist jobs require you to have an NCTJ-accredited qualification in journalism. There are a number of journalism apprenticeships that include working towards this while getting paid experience. Employers that have offered journalism apprenticeships recently include The Sun, The Sunday Times, The London Evening Standard and the Independent (joint scheme), Sky, ITV, the BBC and regional newspapers. Alternatively you could take an NCTJ-accredited qualification and pay for it yourself before looking for work. Accredited courses do include university degrees and postgraduate qualifications, which are both popular options; however, there’s no need to do one of these unless you particularly want to go to university.

5. Software developer

Software developers use their coding skills to create or improve software.

There isn’t a specific qualification you need to work as a software developer. Some employers like their developers to have a relevant degree (eg computer science) but many others don’t mind. The most important thing is that you have experience using the coding languages and project management methods that they need. There are plenty of software development apprenticeships available – some ask for A levels or equivalent (and may require one or more to be in a subject such as IT, maths, or science, or for you to have an engineering BTEC), while for others you only need good GCSEs or equivalent. Some software development apprenticeships include studying for a university degree.

Other careers to consider

Nothing here that appeals to you? You could also take a look at business careers (such as marketing and HR), engineering careers, banking careers, property and insurance, which attract many graduates but also have opportunities for school leavers.

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