What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a real job where you learn, gain experience and get paid. You’re an employee with a contract of employment and holiday leave. By the end of an apprenticeship, you'll have the right skills and knowledge needed for your chosen career along with a nationally recognised qualification.

It can take between one and six years to complete an apprenticeship depending on which one you choose, what level it is and your previous experience. It is funded from contributions made by the Government and your employer. ​​​​


To become an apprentice, you must:

  • Be 16 or over
  • Not already be in full-time education
  • Live in England.

You can start an apprenticeship whether you’re starting your career, want a change or you're upskilling in your current job. You can have a previous qualification like a degree and still start an apprenticeship.

If you don’t live in England, check out apprenticeship options in ScotlandWales, or Northern Ireland.


As an apprentice you’ll:

  • Learn and train for a specific job
  • Get paid and receive holiday leave
  • Get hands-on experience in a real job
  • Study for at least 20% of your working hours - usually at a college, university or with a training provider 
  • Complete assessments during and at the end of your apprenticeship
  • Be on a career path with lots of future potential

As an apprentice, you’ll get:


Apprentice pay and the National Minimum Wage

There are different rates of pay for apprentices depending on your age and what year of your apprenticeship you’re in.

Your employment contract should confirm your rate of pay.

Aged 16 to 18

Aged 19 or over and in your first year

Aged 19 or over and have completed your first year

Minimum and Living Wage Calculator can be found here:

Time apprentices are paid for

You must be paid for:

  • Your normal working hours
  • Training that’s part of your apprenticeship (at least 20% of your normal working hours)
  • Study towards English and maths qualifications, if they’re part of your apprenticeship.



Levels of an apprenticeship

Each apprenticeship has a level and an equivalent education level. You can start an apprenticeship at any level. 

Depending on the level, some apprenticeships may:

  • Require previous qualifications such as an English or maths GCSE
  • Give extra training in the English or maths skills needed so you’re at the right level

At the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the equivalent education level. For example, if you complete a level 3 apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the equivalent of an A level.



Equivalent education level






A level


4,5,6 and 7

Foundation degree and above


6 and 7

Bachelor’s or master’s degree


Types of apprenticeships

With more than 350 different NHS careers, there are hundreds of different jobs which can be done through an apprenticeship. Here are just a few:

  • Allied Health Profession Support (Advanced Level)
  • Apprentice ambulance practitioner (level 4)
  • Care, Leadership and Management (level 5 Higher Apprenticeship)
  • Dental Nursing (Advanced Level)
  • Informatics (Intermediate and Advanced Level)
  • Health and Social Care (Intermediate and Advanced Level)
  • Healthcare science assistant (Intermediate - level 2)
  • Maternity and Paediatric Support (Advanced Level)
  • Nursing degree apprenticeships
  • Operating department practice degree apprenticeship
  • Pharmacy services assistant (level 2)
  • Podiatry degree apprenticeship


Applying for an NHS apprenticeship

There has never been a better time to start an NHS apprenticeship but often there's a lot of competition for a place. This means your application and interview are crucial. Some things to think about:

  • Show that you are committed
  • Make sure you are aware of your responsibilities
  • Demonstrate that you are able to cope with work and study
  • Take a look at the range of healthcare apprenticeship career routes on the Skills for Health website

You can find NHS apprenticeship vacancies on the NHS Jobs website. A taste of some of the current vacancies below.

So, what happens after finishing an apprenticeship?
  • You may be offered a permanent job. Most successful apprentices stay in employment, often with the same employer. It's always a good idea to check whether you'll be offered a job at the end of your programme
  • You could continue your studies through an apprenticeship at higher level or you may have the qualifications you need to go to university.


You’re hired! Joined Up Careers' ground-breaking apprenticeship scheme

Partner organisations from across the NHS and local government are running a ground-breaking apprenticeship scheme, giving people an exciting insight into the world of health and social care.

The first 15-month apprenticeship scheme was launched in 2018 with apprentices concluding their involvement in early 2020. The positions were hosted by Derbyshire County Council and University Hospitals of Derby and Burton. It is one of the first times in the country that an apprenticeship scheme has been run linking together health and social care, offering such a wide variety of workplace experiences and care opportunities.

YouTube has a video of two of the first successful apprentices talking about their experiences.

The second apprenticeship scheme launched in September 2020. The successful candidates are working in a variety of different placements from care homes to community health facilities and hospitals, as well as benefitting from regular support and training.

“The integrated health and social care apprenticeship is an innovative programme that enables apprentices to develop a wide range of skills that can be utilised across the sector, whilst also giving them the opportunity to experience a wide range of  services. The apprenticeship has also been a fantastic opportunity for providers across Derbyshire and Derby City to work collaboratively, to share best practice and to increase the quality and efficiency of the system as a whole.”

Lauren Adkin, Wider Workforce Co-ordinator, Derbyshire Community Health Services and Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Reporting on the success of our first apprentices

Joined Up Careers Derbyshire commissioned an external company to evaluate the first cohort of our integrated health and social care apprentices.

The report commented: "The scheme aims to raise the profile of careers within the sector and to secure a workforce of an adequate size and with the required skills needed to meet current and future health and social care needs, particularly in social care... Many of the intended outcomes and impacts of the scheme were ambitious, large-scale and longer-term... 

"The scheme made a number of key achievements over the pilot period, providing evidence of the commitment of local health and social care organisations to work together to develop and implement the scheme. For example, delivery partners were engaged to recruit and employ apprentices, deliver training and host placements and they signed up to joint working protocols."

The full report, produced by Cordis Bright, is available here.

View our apprentice case studies