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Apprenticeships are a great opportunity to gain practical skills in the workplace whilst studying at the same time. Most of your time is spent doing on-the-job training, and the rest is spent working towards a qualification. You’ll get paid a salary and be part of a team, just like a standard employee, but you’ll also get dedicated study time throughout the week. Some people choose to undertake an apprenticeship instead of going to university.
Apprenticeships work differently across the UK, between England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The information here answers key questions you may have about apprenticeships and applies to apprenticeships in England. Find out more about apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There are four broad levels of apprenticeships:
Intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2)
Advanced apprenticeships (Level 3)
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4 and above)
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5-7)
Each level has different entry requirements, and each apprenticeship vacancy will specify what these are, along with the qualities the employer is looking for.
If you are considering an apprenticeship after studying A Level geography, you would likely be looking at ‘Higher’ and ‘Degree’ apprenticeships, for ‘Higher Technical Occupations’ and ‘Professional Occupations’.
The lower level apprenticeships are a good way to get a foothold into a sector of occupation if you don’t meet the entry requirements for higher apprenticeships. There is often the possibility of further study or higher apprenticeships later in your career.
The time it takes for an apprentice to complete training and receive their certification varies. Apprenticeships can last between one and six years. Factors like industry, the specific role and the level of apprenticeship will all play a key part in how long the actual apprenticeship is.
You can apply for an apprenticeship while you’re still at school. To start one in England, you’ll need to be:
16 or over by the end of the summer holidays
living in England
not in full-time education
Whilst some people choose to start apprenticeships from the age of 16, some also choose to undertake this later on in life through an adult apprenticeship.
One good way to start your search is to look for apprenticeships by your preferred location – as this is likely to be a significant factor in making a choice. The UK Government's Apprenticeship Finder is a great tool for this.
It also helps to have an occupation or sector in mind when you're looking for an apprenticeship. The occupations are structured by broad sector groups, which might help you to think about the type of company you might want to work for. Occupation Maps from the Institute for Apprenticeships describe all of the available apprenticeships. Other sources such as the Complete Guide to Higher and Degree Apprenticeships and Not Going To Uni (NGTU) may be useful in your search for an apprenticeship. NTGU also has blogs and case studies from those doing apprenticeships, materials for parents and more.
Each apprenticeship will have its own application process and timescale. For most apprenticeships you can apply directly to the employer through their website. You can also use the find an apprenticeship service to apply for some apprenticeships. If you are looking to undertake an apprenticeship after you leave school, it is a good idea to start looking at what is on offer in Year 12.
For many apprenticeships, you will need a CV and a cover letter to apply. When preparing these, it is a good idea to think about how you can demonstrating how you are qualified, what qualities you would bring, and why you think you would make a good apprentice for that organisation. More information and tips on applying for apprenticeships can be found on websites such as UCAS and Apprenticeships. You can also read our guidance on making a successful application.
Apprenticeships focus on delivering the necessary training for a specific occupation, so there is no single geography apprenticeship. There are, however, a range of apprenticeships that require the use of geographical skills and will work with issues within geography. You may, for example, wish to undertake a geospatial apprenticeship. Below are some examples or apprenticeship roles you could undertake which related to geography and the types of organisations which may offer these.
If you are interested in working with the natural environment, you may wish to consider undertaking an environmental management apprenticeship which could involve working for the Environment Agency. Other areas of interest may also include conservation and forestry. Take a look at UCAS for more examples of roles working in this area.
If you are passionate about the development of cities and urban society, you may consider an apprenticeship in construction, architecture, and the built environment. Examples of roles in this area include working as a town planner or surveyor. You may be interested in completing an apprenticeship with an infrastructure consultancy company. You may also be interested in working in transport and logistics or completing an apprenticeship with the Department for Transport.
Working for an insurance or finance company in risk management is an interesting way to explore human and physical geography themes. Apprenticeships in this area may involve working as an insurance risk surveyor or a data analyst.
As geography provides you with a broad skill set, it lends itself well to a range of occupations. Other related industries include working in travel and tourism, working with natural resources which may involve working for an energy or water company or working in waste management. Geographical skills are also valued by corporations looking to become more responsible and sustainable in their activities.
Choosing a non-geography occupation or an occupation in a non-geography organisation doesn't mean you're leaving your geographical knowledge and skills behind. Many people who have studied geography at A Level take that mindset with them into their future career. Keeping in touch with geography through professional development, by being a member of the Society, or by joining in other local geography interest groups, can help to foster interests and skills as your career develops.
It is important to carefully consider the pros and cons of pursuing an apprenticeship and going to university. Apprenticeships can provide a great opportunity to learn practical skills in the workplace, and to earn while you study. However, there are many excellent geography degrees available and their graduates go on to a very wide range of careers and other opportunities. Prospects have provided a great guide to help you think about which option is right for you.
Read more about a student’s decision to pursue an apprenticeship on Not Going to Uni and hear about the stories of others who have completing apprenticeships.