HR apprenticeships - what are they and what type is best?

Written by
Changeboard Team

03 Jan 2020

03 Jan 2020 • by Changeboard Team

What is an HR apprenticeship?

HR apprenticeships are paid jobs in human resources and L&D where you earn a salary, get practical hands-on training and work towards an HR-based qualification through a structured learning programme. You’ll be awarded a nationally recognised industry qualification on completion of your apprenticeship.

How do HR apprenticeships work?

Employers partner with training providers to offer candidates apprenticeships that give real on-the-job paid work experience, but also offer learning and training that is in line with apprenticeship standards. The result? You’re paid to amass valuable work experience with an employer for your CV and gain a qualification that opens doors into the people profession.

A registered apprenticeship assessment organisation (like the Chartered Institute for Personnel or Development, also known as the CIPD) will carry out assessments at the end of your apprenticeship. This is to ensure the apprenticeship training providers and employer have given you sufficient levels of training, mentoring, and work experience.

As a candidate, all you have to do is find an HR or L&D apprenticeship you like the sound of and apply for it. The rest is taken care of. The employer, training provider and assessment organisation will ensure the apprenticeship you’ve been offered meets high standards.

HR apprenticeship levels 3 and 5

Apprenticeships generally come in levels 2-7. They offer training, employment and a qualification that matches your level of education and work experience.

HR apprenticeships come in two levels – 3 and 5.

Level 3 HR apprenticeship

Types of Level 3 HR apprenticeship courses:

  • HR support apprenticeship
  • L&D practitioner apprenticeship


Similar to an A-level or the equivalent.

Course duration:

Typically 18 to 24 months

Example job description:

  • Using HR systems to maintain records
  • Helping to provide the business with relevant HR information and advice
  • Helping the employer to make HR changes in the business
  • General administration and handling of queries
  • Supporting the management team as required
  • L&D only: Helping the L&D function to spot learning needs and develop training/learning resources

Typical qualifications on completion:

  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in Human Resource
  • CIPD Level 3 Foundation Certificate in Human Resource
  • Opportunity to apply for Associate Membership of the CIPD within two weeks of passing your final assessment

Who is the Level 3 HR apprenticeship for?

This Level 3 apprenticeship is a good fit if you’re just beginning a career in HR (perhaps you’re a school leaver who has just completed GCSEs). It's also a good match if you’re already in HR and aiming to boost your knowledge and qualifications.

Level 5 HR apprenticeship

Types of Level 5 HR apprenticeship courses:

  • HR management apprenticeship
  • HR partner apprenticeship
  • HR consultant apprenticeship


Similar to a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), HND, foundation degree or the equivalent.

Course duration:

Typically 2 to 3 years (or around 18 months if you’ve previously completed a Level 3 apprenticeship)

Example job description:

  • Option to focus on HR specialisms and people management
  • Increasing technical HR knowhow across all disciplines including policy and legislation
  • Developing and delivering  HR services including policies, initiatives and procedures
  • Providing advice using critical thinking to support the smooth running of HR processes and policies
  • Giving advice to managers on how to apply best practice with regards to people issues
  • Working to help the business resolve workforce issues
  • Taking an HR leadership role on business projects and change programmes

Typical qualifications on completion:

  • CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Certificate in Human Resource Management
  • CIPD Level 5 Intermediate Diploma in Human Resource Management
  • Opportunity to apply for Associate Membership of the CIPD

Who is the Level 5 HR apprenticeship for?

This Level 5 apprenticeship is set at undergraduate level. It’s a good fit if you’re working in human resources and already playing a key part in the business, perhaps as a middle manager. You should be aged 18 or over to apply.

CIPD apprenticeships – what are they?

CIPD apprenticeships are ones which are recognised by the CIPD for its membership requirements, because they are the professional body which has assessed the apprenticeship.

Completing a CIPD apprenticeship means you can apply for Associate Membership with the CIPD, which can be a real career-booster.

Not every HR apprenticeship is automatically a CIPD apprenticeship. Some apprenticeships are assessed by other professional bodies.

HR degree apprenticeships

Various sectors offer degree apprenticeships at Levels 5 to 7. A degree apprenticeship is one where you can earn a salary, gain work experience and training with an employer, and study for a cost-free degree at the same time. Degree apprenticeship learners don't have to pay student fees.

The qualification you get on completing a Level 5 HR apprenticeship is the same as a foundation degree.

HR apprenticeship salary information

HR apprenticeships are paid jobs for which you will earn a salary. The amount will vary depending on your employer, location and the level of apprenticeship you undertake. states that the current minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £3.90 an hour. This applies to any apprentice who is under 19, or is aged 19+ and in the first year of their apprenticeship.

If you’re applying for an apprenticeship, use this national minimum wage calculator to check the role you’re applying for will pay you at least the minimum wage.

You will be paid for both your standard working hours and the training that comes with your apprenticeship (usually one day a week). You will also get at least 20 days of paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays.

And what about the future? It turns out that apprenticeships can boost your increased earning power over a lifetime. Government stats say that, on average, Level 3 apprenticeships boost earnings by 16%. PLUS: If you complete a higher apprenticeship, your lifetime earnings could go up by around £150,000.

That starting-point HR apprenticeship salary could lead to some high-impact earning power.

Alternative routes into an HR career – apprenticeships vs university

Both the apprenticeship route and the university route have their advantages when it comes to building a career in HR.

The benefits of an HR degree

If you opt to study for an HR degree, you’ll spend three years getting to grips the basics of working in human resources.

You may be able to extend your degree to four years by doing a placement year with an employer. This will give you a chance to earn a salary and build work experience as part of your degree.

If your degree course is accredited by the CIPD, you’ll get professional membership (if you decide to join and pay membership fees) once you graduate.

You can also go on to do a Masters in HR. This could be either a classroom-based learning or distance learning course.

The benefits of an HR apprenticeship

If you take the apprenticeship route, you’ll build practical work experience with an employer as soon as you get your foot in the door. This puts you in good stead for early career progression and promotion. You have no university fees to pay, and will be earning a salary from day one. You’ll be awarded a relevant and valuable qualification on completion of the apprenticeship.

Employers don't have to give you a full-time role on completion of your apprenticeship, but the odds are in your favour. You’ve proved you’re quick to learn, you've shown your skills and motivation, and the business has already invested in your training.

If a role is available, it makes more sense for an employer to hire the trained apprentice than to go through further recruitment procedures to hire an as-yet unproven candidate.

Statistics from National Apprenticeship Week 2018 say that more than 85% of apprentices stay in employment once their course ends.

How to find HR apprenticeships near you

  • Search online for “HR apprenticeships near me”
  • Search on job boards for opportunities
  • Still in education? Ask a career advisor for help
  • Search for HR training providers as well as employers

Jobs boards (like the Changeboard HR jobs board) usually offer opportunities for Level 3 or Level 5 HR apprenticeships.

You are no doubt already well-versed in the Art of Google when it comes to finding opportunities that are right for you.

Never forget that, if you are still in education, career advisors can help you find out more about your options.

HR apprenticeship training providers

If you’re struggling to find employers offering HR apprenticeships in your area, flip things around and get in touch with the relevant training providers instead.

To do this, find your local HR apprenticeship training providers using’s handy tool.

  1. First, type in your postcode.
  2. Next, when offered an option to select yes or no, select no.

You’ll end up with a list of local colleges and organisations who handle the learning side of an HR apprenticeship.

You’ll get useful stats telling you how many learners completed their apprenticeship with them. You'll also be able to compare learner satisfaction rates. They could inform you of some great opportunities.