Are there apprenticeships in physics?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Jul 13 2023

One of the best things about a career in physics is that there are so many ways to enter the field, many of which don’t involve university. Completing an apprenticeship is a great way to get started in a physics career, as you’ll receive hands-on work experience and a fully funded education.


What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are programmes that combine work experience and education. Apprentices are employed by a company that provides them with training and work experience. However, they also spend some of their time (at least 20% of their apprenticeship, as mandated by the government) working towards a qualification. 

Do I need any qualifications to do an apprenticeship?

It depends on which apprenticeship you want to do. There are four different types:

  • Intermediate - Level 2: equivalent to GCSEs or National 5s
  • Advanced - Level 3: equivalent to A-levels, Scottish Highers or Leaving Cert
  • Higher - Levels 4 and 5: equivalent to a foundation degree
  • Degree - Levels 6 and 7: equivalent to a bachelor’s (Level 6) or master’s (Level 7) degree

Most employers will ask that you have the preceding qualification(s) to the apprenticeship level you’ve applied for. For example, you’ll need an intermediate apprenticeship, GCSEs or National 5s to complete an advanced apprenticeship. However, if you don’t have a specific qualification (typically English or Maths related), the company includes it as part of your apprenticeship. There’s also the option to complete a traineeship, which provides students with unpaid work experience, help with English and maths skills, and advice on finding a job.

Aside from this, all apprentices must be over the age of 16, no longer be in full-time education and live in the UK.

What physics apprenticeships are there?

There are so many different career opportunities in physics, so there is a wide range of physics apprenticeships too!

Which physics apprenticeship you choose to do depends on your interests, skillset, and companies you’d like to work for. Here are just a few examples:

Level 3 (advanced) engineering technician apprenticeships last 42 months. During this time, apprentices design, develop and maintain a range of products used in the engineering process. You can choose to specialise in aerospace or maritime engineering, or gain more general skills. 

A nuclear scientist and nuclear engineer (Level 6 degree) apprenticeship lasts 36 months, and involves critically applying scientific principles to nuclear technologies, working in nuclear environments and reporting on nuclear projects. This is all to ensure

 that nuclear systems operate safely and effectively.

The research scientist master’s apprenticeship (Level 7) allows you to specialise in a research area of physics that interests you, be it renewable energy, aerospace or nuclear. During this 30 month course, you’ll design, carry out and report on your own scientific experiments, taking into account ethical considerations and implications for the future of physics.

Looking for more? Click here for a full list of physics apprenticeships in the UK

What are the benefits of apprenticeships?

One of the biggest advantages of apprenticeships is the money you’ll save. No matter which type of apprenticeship you do, the cost of your qualification will be covered. This means you won’t have a student loan to pay off. You’ll even be paid while you’re at training or preparing for exams. Apprentices also receive a salary. As a starter, the National Minimum Wage for apprentices is £4.81 hourly, but you’ll earn more once you’re over 18 or after the first year of your apprenticeship. Many high profile companies pay their apprentices an even higher wage than this.

Apprentices also have a large body of work experience. Not only does this make you attractive to employers, but you’ll also gain valuable insights into what the world of work is like, and be able to network with employers in the field. 

How can I find apprenticeship opportunities?

Depending on where you’re based, you can check the UK government’s apprenticeship websites. These sites advertise vacancies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Other useful resources include AllAboutSchoolLeavers, the Planet Possibility job board and checking relevant companies’ websites directly.