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How do apprenticeship students perform in the labour market?

December 2023

The majority of graduates who took a degree apprenticeship found meaningful work 15 months after graduation

Apprenticeships are a great way to earn a qualification for several reasons. Not only do apprentices earn a wage while simultaneously gaining valuable work experience, but with apprenticeships being funded by the government and the employer, they are a wonderful way to earn a qualification without a student loan as there are no tuition fees.

Even so, many are reluctant to go down the apprenticeship route. For instance, Prospects' Early Careers Survey found that just 12% of school and college students surveyed would like to do an apprenticeship compared with 60% who are hoping to go to university. Half of respondents who said they are going to university said that they view apprenticeships as second-rate compared to university.1

This stigma surrounding apprenticeships means that they are frequently overlooked as a career option. However, recent research does suggest that, as young people's confidence in the graduate jobs market wanes, degree apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly attractive option.2

Labour-market outcomes

Using Graduate Outcomes data, this article will take a brief look at the labour market outcomes of UK-domiciled, first-degree graduates who took an apprenticeship.

A recent survey conducted by The Student Room found that a large percentage of school leavers were not confident about this pathway, with just 26% agreeing a degree apprenticeship would help them achieve their career goals, and 27% agreeing that it would lead to high-income employment. But the reality is that graduates who took this route reported exceptionally good outcomes 15 months after graduation.

Graduate activity
Employment and further study11%
Full-time employment85%
Part-time employment2%
Voluntary or unpaid work0.3%

85% of respondents who took an apprenticeship were in full-time, UK employment when surveyed with a further 11% saying they were combining work and further study. On the other hand, none of them reported that they were unemployed.

And although apprenticeships have been historically associated with trades and manual labour, respondents reported a range of occupations.

Five most commonly reported jobs
Information Technology Professionals14%
Engineering Professionals10%
Architects; Chartered Architectural Technologists; Planning Officers; Surveyors and Construction Professionals10%
Nursing Professionals10%
Health Associate Professionals5%

While the top five occupations reported by these graduates were within industries that have historically been associated with apprenticeships, others were working as finance professionals; business, research and administrative professionals; web and multimedia professionals; conservation and environment professionals etc.

Apprentice earnings

All apprentices over the age of 19 are entitled to the National Minimum Wage. However, research from The Sutton Trust looking into the earning potential of university graduates and apprentices found that, on average, those who study for a Level 5 apprenticeship can expect to earn around £1.5m during their career.3

Moreover, Institute of Student Employers research found that while graduate salaries are currently rising at the fastest rate in 20 years, apprentices salaries are rising even faster with some employers planning to increase salaries for apprenticeships by as much as 50%.4

Careers that provide meaning

As we can see from HESA's Graduate Outcomes data, most of these graduates were in full-time employment across a wide range of occupations when surveyed. In addition to this, nine in ten (91%) respondents who did an apprenticeship were working in professional-level employment when surveyed.

More importantly, 84% said that their current work fits with their future career plan when asked, while 85% affirmed that their current work is meaningful. These graduates are not only using the skills that they acquired during their studies, but are also working in meaningful roles that fit into their career plans 15 months after graduation.

Given the stigma surrounding apprenticeships, it is important that students are properly informed on how apprentices perform in the labour market. They must know that taking a degree apprenticeship can not only help them to achieve their career goals but can also lead to highly skilled, high-income employment.


  1. Stigma surrounding apprenticeships is impacting students' career choices, Luminate, 2022.
  2. How is the cost of living crisis affecting school leavers?, Luminate, 2022.
  3. LEVELS OF SUCCESS: The potential of UK apprenticeships, Sutton Trust, 2015.
  4. Stigma surrounding apprenticeships is impacting students' career choices, Luminate, 2022.

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