Apprenticeships are a great way to learn practical skills in the workplace and can be an alternative to studying at university.
Apprenticeships focus on delivering the necessary training for a specific occupation, so there is no single 'geography' apprenticeship. With this in mind, it 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.
Types of apprenticeship
There are four broad levels of apprenticeships:
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.
This UCAS Guide to Apprenticeships explains more (PDF)
Apprenticeships that use geographical skills
If you are most interested in something that directly uses geographical knowledge and skills, there are great options in surveying, planning, conservation, heritage management, landscape management, data analysis, travel, corporate responsibility and sustainability, and environmental or waste management. Examples of apprenticeships using geographical skills are listed here. It is always worth keeping an eye out for new apprenticeships too – they are being added all the time.
The Geospatial Commission's blog, What is a geospatial apprenticeship?, introduces types of geospatial apprenticeships and speaks to employees and former apprentices about their experiences.
Some sectors and occupations have their own advice and guidance, for example surveying apprenticeships.
Other apprenticeships in organisations with a geographical or environmental focus
Geography's skill-set is broad and lends itself well to occupations in business, marketing, transport and logistics, environmental management and other sectors. You could pursue an apprenticeship in communications, marketing, business, policy-making or data analysis. Some examples include:
Infrastructure and environmental consultancy companies (such as Jacobs, Arcadis, Arup, ERM, WSP and others) may take on apprentices across a range of areas.
General business and management skills in an organisation that works towards specific environmental goals or thinking spatially in different ways, for example around environment, infrastructure, planning and cities.
Public sector departments including MHCLG, Defra, Transport, Defence, Ordnance Survey have 'Geo teams' and value both human and physical geography. The apprenticeships here might be broader, e.g. data analyst, or policy analyst, but some organisations have an inherently geographical focus.
Working for an insurance or finance company in the area of risk management is an interesting way to explore human and physical geography themes - many now have big teams using geography for disaster risk management, for example.
Taking geography with you
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 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), or by joining in other local geography interest groups, can help to foster interests and skills as a career develops.
One good way to start is to search for apprenticeships by your preferred location - this is likely to be a significant factor in making a choice. The UK Government's Apprenticeship Finder is a great tool for this.
The best time to look for apprenticeships that start annually in September is between March and June in the same year.
Applying for an apprenticeship is applying for a job. You will need to demonstrate how you are qualified, what qualities you would bring, and why you think you would make a good apprentice for that organisation. Take the time to research the type of organisation and type of apprenticeship you want to prepare a strong application.
See our hints and tips for preparing job applications
Apprenticeship or university?
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.