Discover recent developments of the NHS Doctor Apprenticeship, welcoming its first students in September 2024, what the benefits and drawbacks to the apprenticeship are, and career prospects following its completion.

Introduction to NHS Doctor Apprenticeship

The NHS doctor apprenticeship scheme was approved for pilot funding in January 2023 with the aim of welcoming its first apprentices in September 2024.

It represents a new approach to training future medical professionals within the UK healthcare system, offering an alternative route to the traditional medical university degrees.

Under this apprenticeship scheme, apprentices will combine practical work with academic study to develop crucial skills and medical knowledge, all while receiving a wage and without the burden of tuition fees. 

The aims of the NHS doctor apprenticeship are built around making careers in medicine more accessible to people of different backgrounds, ensuring that the NHS workforce remains representative of the local communities whilst bolstering the number of doctors within the UK healthcare system. Read here what aspiring medics think of the scheme!

NHS Doctor Apprenticeship: Recent Developments

The past year has seen numerous developments in the NHS doctor apprenticeship scheme, with the most notable milestone confirming funding for the initial cohort of 200 medical doctor degree apprentices to begin training in September 2024. 

This number is expected to grow, with a goal of 2,000 apprentices training by 2031/32 under the newly published NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. 

Recent developments also indicate the scope of people set to be able to apply to the apprenticeship scheme, including graduates with non-medical degrees and individuals employed within other areas of healthcare. 

This broadened eligibility pool for applicants underscores the program’s commitment to enhancing accessibility, making the healthcare professional both more diverse and better representative of local communities. 

Benefits of NHS Doctor Apprenticeships

There are numerous benefits to the NHS doctor apprenticeships scheme. These include, but are not limited to: 

  • Improved accessibility to careers within the medical field 
    • The apprenticeship scheme opens doors for individuals who may have decided not to pursue a traditional medical education due to financial, academic, or other constraints
  • Greater practical experience for apprentices
    • Compared to traditional medical education, apprentices are likely to gain a lot of valuable hands-on experience in clinical environments, allowing them to better develop practical skills and learn directly from experienced healthcare professionals
  • High standards of education
    • Through the NHS apprenticeship scheme, trainees will meet the same high standards as students who have gone through traditional medical education, obtaining equal academic qualifications following completion of the apprenticeship 
  • Equal employment opportunities
    • Upon completion of the apprenticeship, apprentices are eligible to work within the NHS workforce, initially working under supervision before being able to progress within their chosen field
  • Financial incentives
    • Apprentices will earn a wage while training and will be exempt from paying any tuition fees

Drawbacks of NHS Doctor Apprenticeship

While the NHS doctor apprenticeship scheme offers numerous advantages, it is essential to acknowledge that there are certain drawbacks associated with opting for this path over a traditional medical degree. These include: 

  • An approved university medical degree must also be undertaken 
    • A common misconception is that a medical degree is not needed under the apprenticeship scheme. Apprentices will still need to carry out an approved university medical degree programme as a part of their apprenticeship, working as an apprentice whilst undertaking the medical degree. 
  • Apprentices will not be treated as qualified doctors from the beginning
    • Initially, apprentices will work under supervision at a level that is suitable to their stage of training, before progressing to unsupervised work.

Entry Requirements and The Application Process

Start dates are yet to be confirmed for the apprenticeship pilot scheme. It is expected that candidates will be able to apply for the scheme from spring 2024 for the cycle beginning in September 2024. 

To stay up to date with the opening of applications it is recommended to periodically check both the NHS jobs website as well as the government’s website for available UK-based apprenticeships

Entry requirements for the apprenticeship scheme will be comparable to traditional medical degree requirements.  Entry requirements will be set out by medical schools and employers. They are likely to include: GCSEs in maths, science and English; A-level (or equivalent) in Chemistry, Biology and possibly Physics or Maths, although these requirements may vary across different medical schools. 

Career Prospects and Salaries

Upon completing their training, apprentices will attain the same level of qualification as those who undertook the traditional undergraduate medical degree.

As such, career prospects and salaries will be similar to those expected for students following the traditional undergraduate medical course, where apprentices will be able to follow postgraduate pathways available, including foundation and subsequently specialty training. 

Importantly, unlike traditional medical students, apprentices will earn a wage and will be exempt from paying any tuition fees. 

There are no details on the exact wage for apprentices during the programme, however, government outlines are set at £4.15 per hour for apprentices in their first year of employment which will then increase to a minimum wage between £6.45 and £8.72 following successful completion of their first year of employment depending on their age.


Will doctors who study an apprenticeship receive the same academic qualifications?

Yes. Doctors who complete the Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeship will obtain the same academic qualifications as students who undertake a traditional undergraduate medical degree. Apprentices will be required to complete all aspects of medical training, including both a medical degree and the Medical Licensing Assessment, as well as meeting all requirements set out by the General Medical Council for entry onto the Medical Register. 

Will school leavers be able to bypass traditional undergraduate degrees as a result?

No. School leavers will not be able to bypass traditional undergraduate degrees as a result of the NHS doctor apprenticeships. Apprentices will still be required to undertake an approved medical degree programme as part of their apprenticeship, however, apprentices will not be treated as qualified doctors from the offset, initially working under supervision at a level that is appropriate to their current stage of training. 

How will apprenticeships benefit the NHS?

In recent years the NHS has faced huge staffing shortages resulting in an increasing burden on existing healthcare professionals as well as increasing waiting lists for patients hoping for various procedures. As such, the rigorous NHS doctor apprenticeships will help to strengthen the NHS workforce, allowing it to meet the growing demands for highly trained professionals.


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