Physics apprenticeships: a practical path to a career in science

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Sep 19 2023

If you’re interested in pursuing physics beyond secondary school, you’re probably thinking about where to study physics at university and what type of physics course to do. While university is a great option, it’s not for everyone, and it’s certainly not the only option for your education. The practical skills and financial support physics apprenticeships provide make them a great way to kickstart your career in science.


What is an apprenticeship?

Firstly, what is an apprenticeship? An apprenticeship is a programme that combines practical work experience with a fully funded qualification. During your apprenticeship, you’ll spend at least 20% of your time in education, and the rest of your time completing paid work experience. At the end of your apprenticeship (they take between one and five years) you’ll receive the equivalent qualification. 

Apprenticeships are divided into four types: 

  • Intermediate - Level 2: equivalent to GCSE’s or National 5’s
  • Advanced - Level 3: equivalent to A-levels or Scottish Highers
  • 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

Practical skills

The work experience an apprenticeship includes provides you with valuable practical skills. Many students struggle to apply theoretical knowledge to real-life scenarios, and struggle to concentrate reading wordy textbooks. This is especially true for neurodivergent students. However, during your apprenticeship, you’ll be able to put the theory you’ve learnt into practice, and learn from senior colleagues. This will make it easier to understand different concepts. Research even shows that hands-on learning improves your brain’s ability to memorise information. 

Finally, the practical skills you’ll gain will make your CV stand out to employers, especially compared to university students who won’t have the same volume of experience. 

Reducing financial concerns

The cost of living crisis has impacted so many different aspects of our lives, education being no exception. Many people are struggling to afford university, and are working a number of jobs to make ends meet.

Completing an apprenticeship is a way to alleviate some of these financial concerns. Apprentices receive a fully-funded education, meaning you don’t have to worry about paying back student loans later. Furthermore, apprentices are paid for their work, meaning they don’t have to worry about juggling a part-time job with their studies. 

These factors make apprenticeships a more accessible option, especially for low-income individuals and for those who want to make a career change. 

Helping solve labour shortages 

Completing an apprenticeship doesn’t just benefit you, it benefits the labour market. STEM fields are currently dealing with labour shortages, with research showing 9,000 physics-related jobs were struggling to be filled. Thus, by employing physics apprentices, companies can gain new workers faster. They can provide apprentices with specialised training, creating a generation prepared for the future of physics.