What Is a Modern Apprenticeship? (Plus Benefits and Requirements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

Whether you're a young person looking to enter the workforce or a seasoned professional who wants to switch their career path, you might consider a modern apprenticeship. These programs allow you to earn wages while developing expertise in a trade like carpentry or computer programming. Completing a modern apprenticeship helps you learn specialized skills and advance your career without obtaining a college degree.

In this article, we explain what a modern apprenticeship is and discuss the benefits and requirements for these programs.

Related: What Are Film Apprenticeships and How Do You Find One?

What is a modern apprenticeship?

A modern apprenticeship is a program that prepares participants for future careers via classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Participants earn wages as they complete their assigned duties and learn from more experienced professionals. Programs are specialized for professions ranging from carpenters, electricians and roofers to computer programmers and dental assistants. Other specialized programs prepare participants to be:

  • Culinary arts professionals

  • Plumbers

  • Painters

  • Insurance claim adjusters

  • Pipefitters

Related: How To Find Paint Apprentice­ships

How does a modern apprenticeship work?

Employer associations, labor unions and independent organizations typically sponsor modern apprenticeships at companies. They're willing to invest in career development resources to maintain a talented labor pool in their respective industries. While modern apprenticeships can adhere to different standards, many reputable programs are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. This government organization ensures employees receive fair compensation for their work, which includes wages in addition to instruction from their employers.

When starting a modern apprenticeship, an employee usually signs an agreement with the sponsor. Their signature ensures that the employee completes their assigned duties. In return, the sponsor agrees to provide high-quality training and a certificate upon completion. After finishing their programs, former apprentices can use their experience and credentials as journeymen to apply for full-time jobs in their respective industries. They may obtain a job at the company where their apprenticeship was or use their licensure to work at other establishments.

Related: How Do Apprenticeships Work?

Modern apprenticeship benefits

Here are some significant benefits of modern apprenticeships:


One of the most significant benefits of modern apprenticeships is their flexibility. Many programs allow you to complete the instructional courses online, meaning you can balance your education with your personal and professional life. Even if courses are in person, programs usually offer them at various hours to accommodate busy schedules.

Additionally, you can complete the program as quickly or as slowly as you want. For instance, if you have a lot of free time after graduating high school, you might want to enroll in an accelerated program to finish within a year and enter the workforce faster. If you're caring for your family, a program that requires you to log fewer work hours and take fewer credits per year may be more suitable.

Increased job prospects

Many employers favor candidates who complete apprenticeships because of their on-the-job experience. The formal instruction also highlights skills relevant to your trade and can improve your chances of getting a job. Your certificate of completion may even help you qualify for management positions.

Increased earning potential

Yet another significant benefit of completing an apprenticeship is the increased earning potential. Employers are usually willing to pay more to qualified candidates, especially those who receive certification through apprenticeship programs. Your certificate may even help you obtain roles at bigger companies that pay higher salaries.

Less formal schooling

If you're unsure of what you want to do after graduating high school, completing a modern apprenticeship can be a smart move. These programs are much less of an investment than traditional post-secondary education, meaning you can start your career with less debt. Additionally, you may be able to bypass prerequisites and take courses that exclusively focus on your field of interest.

Related: 6 Apprenticeship Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

Modern apprenticeship requirements

Though requirements vary depending on the program, here are a few things modern apprenticeships usually expect from candidates:


One of the most basic requirements for modern apprenticeships is to be at least 18 years old. Many programs also require candidates to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. This basic education not only helps you qualify for more programs but also prepares you for classroom instruction pertaining to your chosen trade. Note that some programs allow high school students to participate. The work experience complements their traditional coursework and even allows them to earn college credits before graduating high school.

Work experience and education requirements

Programs registered with the U.S. Department of Labor typically require 2,000 hours of work experience and 144 hours of classroom instruction. The average completion time is about four years, but different course loads and work schedules can allow you to finish in anywhere from one to six years. As you attend classes and complete shifts, it's important to use the appropriate documentation materials to ensure you get the necessary credit for your certificate.

Application and interview

Consider researching different apprenticeship programs in your area and submitting applications to ones you think would be a good fit. If a program is currently hiring apprentices, being old enough and meeting the basic education requirements may be enough to earn an interview. Some work experience in your field might help, but it's not a priority for employers. During your interview, consider highlighting traits that would make you an ideal apprentice. For instance, you might note your commitment to developing your expertise and eagerness to learn from industry professionals.

How do modern apprenticeships differ from traditional apprenticeships?

Modern and traditional apprenticeships pay you to work while completing on-the-job training. Historically, apprenticeships were limited to skilled-trade professions like carpentry and plumbing. Programs like these still exist, but apprentices can develop their skills in industries ranging from programming and manufacturing to dentistry. Another significant difference is that modern apprenticeships more significantly emphasize higher education. Instead of only working and learning on the job, you complete formal instruction that helps you develop a comprehensive skill set.

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