What is a physics apprenticeship?

  • Thomas Cserep
  • Jun 17 2022

Working towards a degree is not the only way to start your career in physics. We have put together everything you need to know about apprenticeships and elaborate on the kind of physics apprenticeships out there.


What are apprenticeships?

An apprenticeship is an educational programme that combines teaching and on-the-job training. It allows you to gain work experience and earn a salary, while receiving an education. 

Unlike university graduates, you will already have accumulated work experience as part of your programme once you have completed it.

Apprenticeship levels range from ‘Intermediate’ to ‘Degree’, and the type you can apply to depends on your qualifications. 

For instance, while you may not need a long list of qualifications to enrol on an Intermediate Apprenticeship, Degree Apprenticeships often require you to have completed A-levels or equivalent, some of which may need to be in specific subjects. 

Types of apprenticeship

Apprenticeships been assigned a level ranging from Level 1 to Level 7 based on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF):

Intermediate (Level 2) equates to five GCSE/National 5 passes.

Advanced (Level 3) equates to two A-level/Scottish Highers passes.

Higher (Level 4 and 5) equates to a foundation degree or the first year of a university degree.

Degree (Level 6 and 7) equates to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. 

If you are weighing up the option of going to university or doing an apprenticeship, it is recommended to check out what is the RQF level of the programme you are interested in.

During your apprenticeship, your employer will teach you all the skills that you need to find opportunities in your chosen sector. 

The programme allows you to become a specialist in a particular trade or area, making you an attractive candidate to firms and organisations looking to hire individuals for a specific role.

Throughout your apprenticeship you need to be able to find a balance between working and studying. At the end of your apprenticeship there will be assessments, and you’ll need to pass these to receive the qualification

As an apprentice, you attend classes at a college or university as well, where you learn the important background theories related to the apprenticeship you are doing. 

If your employer believes that you are ready to qualify, they will admit you to take the End-Point Assessment (EPA), which evaluates whether you have grasped the theoretical and practical aspects of your apprenticeship. Passing this would allow you to complete your qualification. 

Physics apprenticeship options

You do not need a degree in physics in order to find opportunities linked to the discipline. 

There are a range of paid physics apprenticeships from Intermediate to Degree level that open the door to a career in physics and encourage you to specialise in a particular area of the subject.

From being an aerospace apprentice to becoming a technician specialising in monitoring exposure to radioactive materials, the career options available in physics are endless. 

As someone who is interested in physics, you may want to consider engineering apprenticeships. These allow you to learn the practical skills that are linked to a specific branch of physics and see how physical processes unfold in everyday life. 

You may choose to do an apprenticeship linked to physics, even if you have completed an undergraduate course previously.

A Level 7 Degree Apprenticeship is the equivalent of a Master’s degree. Many physics graduates choose to do a Degree Apprenticeship instead of a postgraduate course so that they learn the technical skills of the role they want to pursue. 

Your qualification could be in a field of engineering linked to physics, or you may end up working as a research scientist in a lab.  

As you can see, physics apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes. The type of apprenticeship you will end up doing will depend on your career goals and on what stage you are at in your educational journey.

Where can I learn more about apprenticeships?

There are a number of sites which provide advice for those interested in completing an apprenticeship. These include:

Apprenticeships: HM Government

All About School Leavers

Amazing Apprenticeships

Talking Futures