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What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is an industry-driven career pathway to help you prepare and develop the skills necessary for your future workplace.

One woman sitting look at a desktop with another woman standing over her looking at the desktop

Once you finish high school, you may be thinking, what's next? What if college isn't the right choice for me? Well, there is another route you can take. An apprenticeship program could be the right choice for you.

How Does an Apprenticeship Work?

An apprenticeship is an industry-driven career pathway to help you prepare and develop the skills necessary for your future workplace. An apprenticeship's primary goal is to ensure that you are qualified and employable for your chosen industry, providing you with the appropriate knowledge and skillsets.

DeAnn Wandler-Vukovich with the text DeAnn Wandler-Vukovich

"Apprenticeships offer a combination of classroom (related) training with daily on-the-job instruction and provide a no-cost pathway to in-demand careers," said DeAnn Wandler-Vukovich, head of HCL Apprenticeship Program. "The design of the training offers learning in all required practical and theoretical skills, as well as experience for the chosen profession."

While every program is different based upon your desired field, a typical apprenticeship program is about four years. However, depending upon the occupation can take anywhere between 12 months to 6 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

An apprenticeship program, through HCL, is there to create a pathway for aspiring tech professionals by providing them with the on-hands training and mentorship to expand their knowledge and prepare them for full-time employment in their field.

"For an employer apprenticeship, such as HCL's, candidates spend 12-months learning pertinent, in-demand tech skills while working full-time," said Wandler-Vukovich. "The value rests in the technical mentoring and practical application, focusing on real-world experience, coupled with social learning and performance feedback."

An apprenticeship is for anyone ready to start their career or ready for a career change by learning from industry professionals through hands-on training and experiences.

Do You Get Paid at an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a great way to build a career while learning, working and getting paid. An apprenticeship has a model of "learn and earn," and according to, the average starting salary for an apprentice in the United States is $16.31 an hour.

An apprenticeship is only the beginning of your career in the trades. As apprenticeship programs are rapidly growing in the U.S., opportunities for growth and boost earnings are also rising. According to Forbes, the number of apprenticeships in 2020, surpassing 636,000, is at a 64% increase from 2010.

"Apprenticeships have been widely accepted in trade careers such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical and others, but it is quickly becoming an attainable route into industries such as healthcare, finance and information technology," said Wandler-Vukovich.

In the 2018 fiscal year, BLS reports that the U.S. Department of Labor counted roughly 585,000 active apprenticeships in more than 23,000 registered apprenticeship programs around the country.

"Most apprenticeships are available in the trades; however, there are now several 'new collar' apprenticeship options in technology, healthcare, financial services, insurance, and even law," said Wandler-Vukovich.

Some examples of occupations an apprenticeship are beneficial are:

  • Carpenter: While working as a carpenter, you repair and install building structures made from wood and other materials. Carpenters typically enter the field through an apprenticeship that begins with learning a simple task like cutting wood and then moves to reading blueprints and building structures. The median pay for carpenters is $49,520, with a projected 2% job growth through 2030.
  • Computer Support Specialist: A computer support specialist works with organizations and computer users to provide help and advice. There are a few ways to get into this field, and while a bachelor's degree is one path, an apprenticeship has become a more normalized path into this tech field. The median pay for a computer support specialist is $55,510, with a 9% job growth through 2030.
  • Dental Assistant: A dental assistant works in a dental office to provide patient care, keep records and schedule appointments. To become a dental assistant, some states require you to pass an exam, while others enter the field through apprenticeship and on-the-job learning. The median pay for dental assistants is $41,180, with an 11% job growth through 2030.
  • Electrician: An electrician's job is to install, maintain and repair electrical power and control systems. Most electricians enter the field during their apprenticeship, where they learn about the ins and outs of their field. The median pay for an electrician is $56,900, with a 9% job growth through 2030.
  • Plumber: A plumber works in factories, homes and businesses to install and repair piping fixtures and systems. Plumbers learn through on-the-job training during an apprenticeship, and most states require a license. The median pay for a plumber is $56,330, with a 5% job growth through 2030.

What Qualifications Do I Need for an Apprenticeship?

While an apprenticeship is generally open to all, there are a few qualifications you'll need to start in an apprenticeship program.

"Requirements differ depending upon the apprenticeable trade or craft. Some necessitate very explicit educational requirements; however, most require a high school diploma or its equivalent," said Wandler-Vukovich

For instance, some of the qualifications you'll need to enroll in an apprenticeship through HCL include:

  • You must have a high school diploma or GED.
  • You must have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency status.
  • You must be able to perform the required tasks physically.

Each apprenticeship program is different and will have additional requirements, so it is essential to do your research on your desired program before registering.

Are Apprenticeships Worth It?

The short answer is yes. An apprenticeship is a great path to learn from industry experts and secure a stable career once you finish your program.

"There are several noteworthy apprenticeship benefits for job seekers," said Wandler-Vukovich. "First and foremost, it's a highly desirable form of training for workers because it is learning job skills while earning an income with wage progression."

Denise Meadows with the text Denise MeadowsWhile learning and working alongside industry professionals in your desired field is a great way to prepare you for your future career, an apprenticeship program can also offer you several other opportunities.

"As part of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Career Services, we are continually thinking of innovative approaches to opening up new career pathways for our learners and in coordinating with University Partnerships to offer apprenticeships with HCL," said Denise Meadows, employer relations team lead at SNHU.

Going to college right after school isn't always the path for everyone, and the increasing cost of tuition can hold people back as well; choosing to go down the apprenticeship path doesn't mean college can't be in your future. Many registered apprenticeship programs, much like HCL, allow for college to still be an opportunity for their apprentices.

"Specific to HCL's apprenticeship program, we're committed to nurturing our next generation of technology leadership. Thus, we've created opportunities for our apprentices to grow their knowledge through our partnership with SNHU," said Wandler-Vukovich. "Once they have completed their 12-month program and have on-boarded as full-time employees, participants have the ability to enroll in their choice of an associate or bachelor's degree program in STEM – to be fully funded by HCL."

An apprenticeship program like this is an opportunity for you not to decide between college or your career. Instead, you can have both when you are ready.

"It is a career-focused program that helps those students who do their best learning while doing the job while reaffirming their interest in a high-demand STEM field, said Meadows. "This learner can then bring that knowledge they have acquired on-the-job to pursue their academic studies in a STEM discipline here at SNHU."

There is no end to the potential an apprenticeship can offer you. It is a great way to get straight into the career you wish to be in through real-life, hand-on experience while keeping the door open for more education and continuing to excel in your chosen career.

Alexa Gustavsen '21 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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