What Is an Apprenticeship?

Get Classroom Instruction + On-the-Job Training

An apprentice carpenter with his teacher
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An apprenticeship is a type of vocational preparation that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction. People can work as an apprentice in high-skilled jobs, found in a variety of fields including construction, manufacturing, health care, and technology.

Why Do Companies Offer Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are a win-win partnership because they help businesses build a highly-skilled and productive workforce while providing job seekers with access to interesting, stable careers that pay good wages.

The length of these programs varies by occupation, ranging from one to six years, with the average being about four years. Apprenticeships typically include about 144 hours per year of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours annually of on-the-job training.

Apprentices receive salaries, industry-recognized credentials, and a certificate of completion. Apprenticeships are sponsored by labor unions, employers, and business-union partnerships who pay participants' wages and provide their training.

Reasons to Do an Apprenticeship

There are other ways to fulfill the educational requirements of some of the occupations for which apprenticeships are also available. However, their benefits usually don't compare. Those other options for preparation, which include earning a vocational degree or a postsecondary certificate, come with a high tuition bill.

Apprentices, on the other hand, get their instruction for free. Not only don't they have to shell out money for their training, but they also get a paycheck that increases along with their skills.

Classroom Training Could Earn College Credits

If the classroom training for your apprenticeship takes place at a community college, you may receive college credits for it.

Is an Apprenticeship an Actual Job?

Yes—if you take on an apprenticeship, you will start working immediately for pay, and the average starting wage is $15 per hour, with pay increases as your skills improve. Apprenticeships often lead to permanent employment once the training period is completed.

Even if they don't, a former apprentice has a better chance of getting hired due to the highly specialized hands-on training and technical classroom instruction they received. They also leave the programs with industry-recognized credentials. Apprentices are very marketable job candidates.

A worker who has completed an apprenticeship has higher earnings than one who has not. The average annual earnings of a former apprentice are $50,000. That will translate into about $300,000 more during their career than non-apprenticeship workers, according to the Department of Labor (U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship Toolkit).

Qualifications for Internships

Apprenticeship sponsors determine the minimum entrance requirements for their programs. Most have a minimum age of 18, but for others, it is 16. Participants also need a high school or equivalency diploma and the physical ability to do the work.

What Occupations Have Apprenticeships?

The Department of Labor estimates that there are apprenticeships in more than 1000 occupations. A mode of job training 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 apprenticeships for that reason.

These are just a few of the occupations for which one can train by becoming an apprentice:

  • Plumber
  • Electrician
  • Glazier
  • HVAC Technician
  • Carpenter
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Nurse's Aide
  • Pharmacist Assistant
  • Computer Programmer
  • Information Manager
  • Wireless Technician
  • Fiber Optic Technician
  • Tool and Die Maker
  • Precision Machinist

How to Find an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeship sponsors can register their programs with the 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. 

If you would like to learn more about doing an internship, start by finding out if one can prepare you for the occupation you have chosen. Use the Apprenticeship Finder on Apprenticeship.gov from the U.S. Department of Labor. Search by career path and location and then click on any entry in your results to get more information, including qualifications. Select "apply" to go to the actual job listing and application.

Job search sites like Indeed.com also list apprenticeships. Enter the word "apprenticeship" along with a job title or other keywords and location into the search box.

Since labor unions often sponsor apprenticeships, check with local unions 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, a Department of Labor-sponsored website.

Key Takeaways

  • Apprenticeships can provide job training for over 1000 occupations in a variety of industries.
  • Apprentices get a paycheck and receive free on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
  • One may earn college credits and industry-recognized credentials.
  • To locate apprenticeships, use Apprenticeship.gov's Apprenticeship Finder and job search sites like Indeed.com. Also, contact local unions and your state's job service center.


Source: U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship.gov.