A university education was once the only recognised way to pursue a career in banking, but today, non-academic routes into the industry are just as valid and can offer many advantages over studying for a degree.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best banking apprenticeships available.
We'll also explore the reasons why you might choose a banking apprenticeship, the qualifications you will need to apply and what you will do during your apprenticeship.
Like any other apprenticeship, a banking apprenticeship is a formal, paid training programme that combines learning on the job with studying towards a professional qualification.
In some cases, banking degree apprenticeships are available, offering the chance to gain a full Bachelor’s degree in banking or equivalent qualifications.
An apprenticeship may give you a head start over graduates; when they are leaving university and applying for jobs, you will have already chalked up a couple of years in the workplace, building your networks, experience and qualifications.
And there are strong prospects for career progression – around 90% of apprentices with top employers are invited to stay on when their apprenticeship ends.
There are compelling financial incentives to a banking apprenticeship, too – while graduates face leaving university heavily in debt thanks to high tuition fees, apprenticeships are funded by the government and the employer.
Therefore, you will have no fees to pay and will even earn a salary as you train – there is a national minimum wage for apprentices and employers may pay more. The banking sector is recognised as offering one of the highest salaries for apprenticeships, with an average of around £20,000 per year.
Aside from the salary, a career in banking offers the chance to work in an exciting, challenging and fast-paced environment, with plenty of opportunities to travel or work abroad, strong transferable skills and great long-term career prospects.
Our article on apprenticeships provides a more comprehensive overview of what an apprenticeship entails.
There are a range of apprenticeship levels aimed at applicants, with varying qualifications and experience.
Higher apprenticeships (levels 4 and 5) are most common in banking; these are designed for those who have completed their A-Levels. Employers may set their own criteria for entry to apprenticeships; below we set out the minimum requirements generally expected for each level.
More information on applying for an apprenticeship can be found on the government website.
A foundation-level course aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds with basic qualifications. Most employers will require applicants to have at least two GCSEs, including passes in English and maths.
Some may accept candidates who can demonstrate they have relevant work experience.
Applicants for this level of apprenticeship are generally required to have five GCSEs, including passes in maths and English, or to have completed an intermediate apprenticeship.
Candidates for a Higher apprenticeship must be 18 or over and will usually need two A-Levels in a relevant subject, or to have completed an advanced apprenticeship.
Candidates for a banking Degree apprenticeship must be 18 or over. They will usually be required to have a GCSE in maths and English along with at least two A-Levels in a relevant subject or the equivalent UCAS points, or to have completed an advanced apprenticeship.
The structure of each banking apprenticeship varies depending on the employer and the programme. That said, all banking apprentices spend the majority of their time at work.
You will likely be assigned to a team within one of the bank’s business functions, such as operations, risk or customer relations. You may be given your own portfolio of personal or corporate banking products, and your work might involve helping to deliver solutions to clients.
Whatever area of the business you work in, you will need to be highly flexible and willing to collaborate proactively with colleagues.
When you are not at work, you will study at a college or external training institution. Some of the larger banks have on-site training facilities. You will be supported by a structured programme of training as you work towards completing your formal qualifications.
The length of the programme can vary from 12 months to as long as six years, depending on the nature of the apprenticeship.
Many banks have information about the apprenticeship schemes they offer on their websites, so if you are interested in working for a particular company, you can start your research there.
In the section below we outline some of the best banking apprenticeships in the UK.
The gov.uk site also has a dedicated section for apprentices, where you can search and apply for opportunities and sign up for alerts. Or you can search for apprenticeships through websites such as:
Alternatively, you can speak to your school or college careers service, or even approach branches of banks local to you, to see if apprenticeships are available.
Barclays offers two levels of apprenticeship: Foundation and Higher.
This programme lasts up to two years. You could take on a role in areas such as back office support, technology or operations, with a permanent job guaranteed once you complete your apprenticeship.
During the programme, you will work towards professional qualifications equivalent to two A-Levels and will be supported by a talent coach along with one-to-one training and tuition.
Entry Requirements: For roles in operations and technology, five GCSEs at A* to C are required, including Maths and English. There are no minimum requirements for roles in other areas.
This programme lasts three to four years. You may work in areas such as risk or compliance, while studying towards a degree or equivalent professional qualification. You may move through different rotations and could have the opportunity to move on to the Barclays Graduate Programme.
Entry Requirements: Generally, you will be expected to have three A-Levels at BCC (or equivalent).
For more on the application process at Barclays, see our article: Barclays Application Process
UBS offers an apprenticeship scheme aimed at school leavers, with the opportunity to work in areas such as equities, wealth management and compliance, and operational risk control.
The first 18 months of the apprenticeship are spent working towards a level 3 apprenticeship, followed by the opportunity to move on to a range of higher-level apprenticeship schemes.
Entry Requirements: Applicants must have a B in Maths and English at GCSE (or equivalent) and BCC at A-Level.
JP Morgan offers apprentices the chance to join one of its teams in investment operations, technology, compliance or finance.
Apprentices work towards a level 4 qualification, initially, with the opportunity to progress to a level 6 apprenticeship. Those who complete this will gain a full honours degree from the University of Exeter.
The programme lasts around four years and successful candidates may be offered a full-time job at the end of their apprenticeship.
Entry Requirements: Applicants must have three C grades at A-Level or equivalent.
For more on the application process at JP Morgan, see our article: JPMorgan Application Process & Interview Questions
Apprentices can join Lloyds Banking Group at a range of levels, from Intermediate (level 2) to Higher (level 6).
You could join a team in areas such as financial services or digital and technology, and have a permanent job from the day you start – earning the full salary for the role you take on.
Programmes last from 12 months to three years.
Entry Requirements vary depending on the level:
Level 2 and 3 – No GCSE requirements but applicants must be proficient in English and maths.
Higher-level apprentices – Educated to A-Level standard and/or to have completed a level 3 apprenticeship.
HSBC offers Foundation and Degree apprenticeships.
Apprentices on this programme will work towards a level 3 qualification, while joining one of HSBC’s teams in retail banking, wealth management or commercial banking. Apprentices earn a competitive salary and the programme lasts 18 months.
Entry Requirements: Candidates must hold five GCSEs (or equivalent), including Maths and English at grade C or higher.
On this four-year programme, apprentices work across four different functions in HSBC’s commercial banking sector, while studying towards a professional qualification and a BSc from the London Institute of Banking and Finance.
Apprentices receive a competitive salary and in their final year of the programme, are supported to move into a permanent role with the company.
Entry Requirements: Applicants must have the equivalent of 112 UCAS points across three A-Levels (not including General Studies) along with a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent), including English at grade C and Maths at grade B.
For more on the application process at HSBC, see our article: HSBC Graduate Scheme Interview Questions
Apprentices can join Santander on a degree level programme in corporate and commercial banking.
The apprenticeship lasts three years and offers the chance to rotate through different areas of the company, moving offices around the UK.
Apprentices are allocated a mentor and receive regular one-to-ones and constructive feedback, alongside a programme of training both on and off the job.
Salaries start at £20,000 outside London and £23,000 in the capital.
Entry Requirements: Three GCSEs at grades A to C (these must include Maths and English) and a minimum of 104 UCAS points (excluding Extended Project and General Studies) or equivalent.
Level 3 apprenticeships are available at RBS across areas such as technology, business administration and customer service.
Apprentices start on a salary of around £18,000.
Entry Requirements: Ideally, applicants would hold a Maths and English GCSE at grade A to C, but this is not compulsory. Candidates will be considered without these qualifications and, if successful, will be given support to gain them during the programme.
The apprenticeship programme at M&G Investments lasts 13 to 18 months and offers the opportunity to work across areas such as digital, marketing and customer services.
Apprentices benefit from structured on-the-job training, along with personal and professional development support and access to a business mentor, while earning a competitive salary.
For more on the application process at M&G Investments, see our article: M&G Interview Questions and Application Process
Nomura advertises apprenticeships on an ad-hoc basis, offering opportunities to work in areas such as technology, multimedia and operations.
During their first year, apprentices work towards a relevant NVQ qualification. Successful candidates will then move on to a second year, studying for further qualifications while progressing their career with the company.
Apprentices receive a personal development plan along with support from their line manager, dedicated buddy and mentor.
Apprentices can join Citi in one of their technology support teams, where they work directly with traders using their technology and problem-solving skills to resolve issues.
Candidates on this apprenticeship follow the software development training track of an ICT apprenticeship.
Entry Requirements: Applicants are generally required to hold two A-Levels at grades A to C, including a STEM subject. However, candidates who show exceptional potential may be considered without these qualifications if they can demonstrate that they have the relevant skills and experience.
For more on the application process at Citi, see our article: Citigroup Application Process and Interview Questions
If you’re interested in working in banking but prefer hands-on, practical learning to academic study then a banking apprenticeship could be the perfect path for you.
With a wide range of programmes to choose from, you are certain to find one that fits your experience and qualifications.
For further information on apprentices in general, read our comprehensive article: What Is an Apprenticeship? which explores how they work and ways to apply in more depth.