Apprenticeships are often incorrectly used interchangeably with internships. There are a few similarities between the two, as both involve working for an employer with the hope of later gaining employment. The main difference is apprenticeships last much longer than internships and also allow you to earn wages.
The exact period of an apprenticeship varies depending on your profession, typically lasting between one and five years. In comparison, internships are significantly shorter, lasting on average for a few months.
There are also many professions where you must work as an apprentice as part of the certification process. This gives you the chance to develop all the practical skills to complete the job, which you cannot learn from studying in a classroom. Each state uses a different apprenticeship system for these careers.
As an apprentice, you must be paid at least minimum wage, but many apprenticeships offer greater wages the longer you work, resulting in a significant pay increase when your apprenticeship ends.
Different Types of Apprenticeships
There are three different types of apprenticeships. Which apprenticeships you enroll in changes based on the job as well as state requirements. The first type of apprenticeship is time-based. These apprenticeships are the most straightforward, requiring you to complete a set number of hours before you become fully certified in your trade. Time based apprenticeships include both professional hours on the job, as well as hours spent in the classroom.
The second type is competency based. With these apprenticeships, you are considered an apprentice until you develop all the skills necessary for your job. This is often marked by completing a test, demonstrating you completed the necessary on the job training.
The final type of apprenticeship is a hybrid program. With a hybrid apprenticeship, you must complete a number of hours either on the job or in a classroom, but you are also required to demonstrate certain skills before your apprenticeship ends.
Hosting an Apprenticeship
The host of an apprenticeship refers to the individual or group providing the apprenticeship. There are many possible hosts, with the two most common being trade associations or labor organizations. Many states have specific departments or other resources dedicated to apprenticeship programs as well. Certain businesses also host apprenticeships.
Typically, apprentices are expected to get a job with the company once the apprenticeship ends, but this is not always a requirement. It is often beneficial for apprentices to take these programs, as it offers a guaranteed job, plus the apprentice is already familiar with company policy and all their coworkers.
Another possible advantage with getting your apprenticeship from a business is your employer may cover a portion of your educational costs. This is not a guaranteed part of an apprenticeship, and almost always requires you to work with the company for a set amount of time after you complete your apprenticeship. Essentially, the business is investing in you as a future employee.
Differences Between Other Training Programs
The biggest difference between being an apprentice and others on the job training programs is an apprentice is considered fully employed. Apprentices are often considered an entry level position in the chosen field. As a result, apprentices have much more responsibilities. Apprentices are also expected to work longer hours than traditional on the job programs, which often last a few hours and end after a few weeks.
Apprentices also have a deeper connection with their workplace mentors. With many others on the job training programs, you work with a small group of students or interns. While there is a supervisor, they do not provide as much personal training as a workplace mentor. Additionally, mentors rarely have more than a single apprentice at a time.
Pros and Cons of Being an Apprentice
For most workers, the biggest advantage of being an apprentice is earning a salary. This allows you to develop the skills for your dream career, without falling deep into student debt. You are also getting direct, practical training, something you cannot traditionally get from a classroom. Apprenticeships also offer a direct path towards a career.
The biggest downside of an apprenticeship is how competitive it is. Because mentors work one on one with apprentices, it limits the number of available slots each year. Additionally, many apprenticeships last for several years, further limiting the number of mentors available. This is especially difficult because the only way to advance in your chosen career is by completing your apprenticeship, so if no apprenticeships are available, you may be unemployed for a long period.
Apprenticeships are also a much bigger investment. If you decide you do not like your chosen profession, you cannot transfer your apprentice hours to a different career.
Finding an Apprenticeship
There are many resources available to help apprentices find potential sponsors. The majority of vocational and technical colleges often partner with businesses or organizations searching for apprentices. Trade and labor unions are also a good source of apprenticeships. Depending on your state, there may also be nonprofit groups that sponsor apprentices.
The U.S. Department of Labor also has a variety of resources for apprentices. You can search directly for sponsors using the online Apprenticeship Finder. Finally, you can contact businesses directly to find a sponsorship.
Common Careers for Apprentices
There are many professions that require you to first complete an apprenticeship. The majority of construction jobs require you to complete an apprenticeship. These apprenticeships often last for longer periods, typically four or five years. Some examples include working as an ironworker, carpenter or electrician.
The automotive industry is also popular among apprentices. These apprentices are not as long, typically lasting for two to three years. This is a popular choice for apprentices because it is usually an easier career to find a sponsor for, due to the number of garages in the United States.
One of the newest industries for apprentices is energy. These apprenticeships normally last for three to four years. Some of the skills you learn include electrical work, fiber optics, how to install solar panels and performing general maintenance for wind turbines and power plants.
The healthcare industry also has select apprenticeship programs. Certain nursing, technician and paramedic jobs all require you to complete an apprenticeship before getting certified. These apprenticeships typically focus on a specific part of healthcare, like working on an ambulance or in a pharmacy.