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What Is an Apprenticeship?

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An apprenticeship is an opportunity that can qualify you for a career in a profession or trade. If you are considering an apprenticeship, you should learn more about what happens during an apprenticeship so you can decide if this type of career opportunity is right for you. In this article, you can discover the apprenticeship process and review some tips you can use if you are ready to become an apprentice.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job designed as a program that combines classroom-based learning and hands-on training which leads to certification in a regulated trade or profession. It combines school and work. About 80% of training is typically done on the job, while 20% is completed as classroom-based technical training. Most apprenticeships last for about four years.

How do apprenticeships work?

Apprenticeship programs help people train for their careers while they make money. Program lengths vary between one year and six years, but most last for four years. Usually, credentials earned during apprenticeships provide nationally recognized certifications. Apprenticeships are viable college alternatives, which suit people who want to train for careers without taking on debt. 

A typical apprenticeship features registration via a state apprenticeship agency or the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeship registration methods vary based on which states they take place in. With registered apprenticeships, strict standards must be met, including providing apprentices with hourly wage increases as they gain skills.

Common features of an apprenticeship

Here are some of the most common features of an apprenticeship:

Direct business involvement

Employers design all apprenticeship programs. They actively build programs and then remain involved through all steps in the programs. Employers often work together via industry associations, apprenticeship councils and other types of partnerships to share administrative work related to keeping apprenticeship programs running.

On-the-job training

Apprenticeships always feature a component called on-the-job training. During this form of training, apprentices get hands-on experience from seasoned mentors at job sites. This hands-on training focuses on the development of knowledge and skills that apprentices will need in order to become completely proficient at their jobs. Apprenticeship training is in accordance with national standards for industries, with customized programs that fit the needs of specific employers.

Related instruction

One key aspect of an apprenticeship is the combination of classroom-based and hands-on training. To ensure that apprentices learn everything they need to know, educational partners join with businesses to create curriculums, which usually feature national-level standards. Related instruction can happen in technical schools, businesses, apprenticeship training schools or community colleges. Apprentices may learn online, in classrooms or on job sites.

Rewards for skill gains

Apprentices will start getting paid when they begin to work, and they’ll get raises when they develop new skills. These raises are motivational for apprentices. The pay increases inspire them to achieve during all phases of their training.

Completion resulting in a national occupation credential

All apprenticeship program graduates will receive nationally recognized credentials. A nationally recognized credential is transferable and lets an employer know that an apprentice has full qualifications for a job.

Are you paid when you do an apprenticeship?

Apprentices receive hourly wages, so you will earn money when you’re an apprentice. Since apprentices in recognized programs receive raises when they master new skills, it’s possible for them to earn up to $60,000 a year during their apprenticeships, but salaries do vary. Choosing an apprenticeship can be a fulfilling experience that includes pay. 

National Average Salary: $15.12 per hour

Are apprenticeships full-time?

An apprenticeship may be full-time or part-time, so this career pathway offers flexibility. An apprentice will be able to gain a credential through a full-time apprenticeship sooner than they will be able to through a part-time apprenticeship. However, learning part-time may be ideal for certain apprentices, as it leaves more time for other things, from hobbies to parenting and beyond. Aspiring apprentices should research all aspects of apprenticeship programs, including whether they are full-time or part-time programs, before deciding which opportunities to apply for. 

Best apprenticeship program examples

Here are some examples of apprenticeship programs: 


Most HVAC apprentice jobs involve installing, relocating, maintaining or building HVAC systems and equipment. HVAC apprentices learn how to help diagnose problems with HVAC systems, equipment and components, to decide what needs replacement or repair. This job may require the capacity to lift heavier weights, as some HVAC equipment may weigh 75 pounds or less. 


Companies who hire carpentry apprentices need motivated apprentices to help them take care of carpentry tasks. These tasks may be residential or commercial. Candidates who work hard and pay close attention to details will be able to excel in this position. The job may require working alone at times, in addition to creative thinking.

As various industries evolve, they look to hire labor forces with specialized skills. Apprenticeship programs teach these required skills. Successful apprentices can leverage their time as they master skills that they can use throughout their careers.