Have you just finished university and are interested in doing an apprenticeship? The fine print surrounding apprenticeships can be slightly complicated, especially after completing a previous qualification. We want to break down the details and make your options as straightforward as possible.

An apprenticeship is an excellent way to study and earn at the same time while having no tuition fee costs. Apprenticeships range from level 2 to level 7, which is the equivalent educational level of GCSEs up to a Master’s Degree.

Because apprenticeships go to a Master’s level, it is possible to do a standard undergraduate degree and then go onto to do a level 7 degree apprenticeship in the same or a similar field. For example, if your undergraduate degree were in business studies, you would be able to progress from that into the Master of Business Administration Degree Apprenticeship at the University of Essex. Or if your undergraduate degree was geography, you could move into the MSc Spatial Planning Degree Apprenticeship at University College London.

While this is an excellent option for those who have an undergraduate degree relevant to a Master’s level apprenticeship, the selection of these apprenticeships is narrow due to their highly specialised nature so won’t work for everybody.

Things can start to feel complicated when looking at whether students with an undergraduate degree can start a lower level apprenticeship (e.g. one lower than the educational equivalent to an undergraduate degree). The guidelines for apprenticeships suggest that you can’t repeat any material you have already studied, meaning there can’t be significant overlap between your degree and the subject you now want to do an apprenticeship in.

There is no strict rule of the thumb, but it’s outlined that students must be learning significantly new knowledge and skills when doing an apprenticeship. So, you can start an apprenticeship in an entirely different field to your degree. For example, a degree in English Literature won’t impede you starting a level 3 apprenticeship in fashion design, given you meet the other relevant criteria. But after doing a biology degree, you can’t go on to do a biology apprenticeship at a lower level than your degree.

Of course, not all examples are as black and white as these, and it is not always clear what is classed as ‘significantly new’. For each candidate applying for an apprenticeship the training provider (the organisation or institution running the qualification element of the apprenticeship) will use their discretion to decide whether the content of an apprenticeship is teaching enough new skills and knowledge to each person applying.

This same discretion applies to those who have dropped out of university before formally obtaining their qualification. It is up to the training provider to decide whether the content you have already covered in the part of the degree you studied, overlaps too heavily with the content of the apprenticeship, or whether there is still significant scope for learning.

Graduates, or students who have dropped out of university, who are unsure of whether they can start a particular apprenticeship because of content they have already studied should get in touch with the training provider.