What Is an Apprenticeship?

Definition & Examples of Apprenticeships

An apprentice carpenter with his teacher
Marc Romanelli / Blend Images / Getty Images

An apprenticeship is a type of vocational preparation that combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

Learn more about apprenticeships and how they work.

What Is an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships give people paid work experience and training, as well as a clear career pathway, in the industry of their choosing. A mode of job training for many years, their goal has traditionally been to provide a skilled workforce to the construction and manufacturing industries. However, that goal has expanded, and people can work as an apprentice in high-skilled jobs found in a variety of fields, including health care and technology.

How Apprenticeships Work

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.

Apprenticeships are sponsored by labor unions, employers, and business-union partnerships who pay participants' wages and provide their training. The sponsors determine the minimum entrance requirements for their programs. Participants usually need a high school or equivalency diploma and the physical ability to do the work.

The length of these programs varies by occupation, ranging from one to six years, with the average being about four years.

Apprentices receive salaries, industry-recognized credentials, and a certificate of completion.

How to Get an Apprenticeship

To find an apprenticeship, you can 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.

In 2019, there were nearly 25,000 registered apprenticeship programs in the U.S.

Benefits of Apprenticeships

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.

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

If you take on an apprenticeship, you will start working immediately for pay, with pay increases as your skills improve. Apprenticeships often lead to permanent employment once the training period is completed, with an average salary of $70,000 per year.

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.

Types of Apprenticeships

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

Key Takeaways

  • Apprentices get paid for their work while receiving free on-the-job training.
  • Apprenticeships are available in a large variety of industries.
  • Apprenticeships can reward you with college credits and industry-recognized credentials.
  • You can find one using Apprenticeship.gov's Apprenticeship Finder or contacting local unions or your state's job service center.