What Is an Apprenticeship?

Get Classroom Instruction + On-the-Job Training

An apprentice carpenter with his teacher
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To prepare for an occupation you could attend school—either college or a vocational school—and then once you completed your education, go to work. In some cases you can bypass the classroom altogether and get all your training on the job. A third option is an apprenticeship, which combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

Apprenticeships train people for high-skilled occupations in a variety of fields including construction, manufacturing, healthcare and technology. Apprentices, as those who receive this specialized training are called, are usually paid while they receive their training. As they become more proficient, their salaries even increase. Most apprenticeships are four years long with 144 hours per year spent in the classroom and 2000 hours annually receiving on-the-job training.

What is a US Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship?

Labor unions, employers and other entities that sponsor apprenticeships can register them with the United States Department of Labor (DOL) or with a federally-recognized state apprenticeship agency. According to the Department of Labor, there are 400,000 registered apprentices nationwide in 1000 occupations (Apprenticeship: Quick Facts). 

Why Should I Do an Apprenticeship?

There are many good reasons to do an apprenticeship. You will get highly specialized training which will make you very marketable when you are finished. Upon completion of a registered apprenticeship you will earn a nationally recognized credential. You will also get paid while you learn. Apprentices employed by registered programs earn an average starting wage of $15 per hour and by the time they complete the program their average annual salary is approximately $50,000. The Department of Labor estimates that "workers who complete apprenticeship programs earn $300,000 more over a lifetime than their peers who don't" (Apprenticeship: Quick Facts).

 Those whose classroom instruction takes place at a community college may also receive college credits.

Can I Do One?

If you are at least 18 years old, you are probably qualified to do an apprenticeship. In some cases you need to be only 16 years old. Individual sponsors determine the minimum qualifications which, in addition to age, often include the physical ability to do the work and a high school or equivalency diploma. 

What Occupations Hire Apprentices?

Apprenticeships have existed for many years. Their goal has traditionally been to provide a skilled workforce to the construction and manufacturing industries. Emerging industries like healthcare, energy and technology, as well as other industries, also utilize this type of training in order to build a skilled workforce. See Jobs You Can Learn By Being an Apprentice for a list of some apprenticeable occupations.

How to Find an Apprenticeship?

If you find the idea of an apprenticeship appealing, you should start by finding out if you can do one to train for the occupation you have chosen. Start by looking for US Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeships on MyNextMove.org. Click on the job title for information about that occupation and on the "registered apprenticeship" link to search for programs by state. Keep in mind that there aren't necessarily opportunities in every state and, for many occupations, apprenticeships are available in only one or two states.

The Department of Labor also has a searchable apprenticeship database that is powered by Glassdoor.com. It is important to note that both DOL registered and non-registered internships can be found here and the site does not distinguish between them.

In addition, you can use job search sites like Indeed.com. Since unions often sponsor apprenticeships, check with union locals as well especially if you want to work in a construction trade. State job service centers are another source. You can find your state's centers by searching the database on CareerOneStop.