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Defence of the Realm. The armed forces take training seriously: you will find yourself taking courses with great regularity. A positive, enormously supportive environment which will push you as far as you can go, and build management skills into everything you learn. Start anywhere and end up with a degree. Forces life is a thing apart - quite strange if you have not encountered it among your relatives, but something that most of us can get used to (as our forebears did): instant obedience and initiative combined, and a very strong community.



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For those who want their apprenticeship to be about Queen and Country as well as Qualifications and Cash, there are also options within the armed forces, though we are not reviewing these as degree apprenticeships for the simple reason that, although they do exist in a manner of speaking, the emphasis on apprenticeships within the military is firmly on vocational qualifications.

This is especially true of the RAF, who offer an impressive range of lower-tier apprenticeships, covering 22 roles in the service from Chefs and HR specialists to Intelligence Analysts and Photographers, with a guaranteed minimum starting salary of lb14,700. NVQs abound in role-specific activities, and are to be found on their clear, easy to follow and informative website.

The Army, meanwhile, offers a similar variety of apprenticeships. These include a Level 2 Apprenticeship for those chomping at the bit to serve and learn but who are perhaps not bulging at the webbing with existing qualifications; or an advanced apprenticeship in a technical trade for those with a minimum of five GCSE A*-C grades.

However, a cluttered, bulky, over-complicated and surprisingly old-looking website for the Army, with each regiment vying for separate attention makes it an exercise in intelligence gathering just finding a list of the technical trades on offer, but many of the carpenter, bricklayer and construction engineer variety may be found in the Royal Engineers. Degree apprenticeships are not offered but degree sponsorship schemes are available, particularly for those who dream of being an officer and a gentleperson.

However, it is the Senior Service who score top marks. The Royal Navy (incorporating Marines) has an apprenticeships page on their website that is not only crystal clear and easy to navigate, but gives a pretty exhaustive list of both the subject areas available and the in-service roles that attract apprenticeships. On top of this, they meticulously list the level and type of qualifications offered, as well as salary prospects. They also stand head and shoulders above their younger cousins in the army and air force by being the only service to offer a proper degree apprenticeship, dangling a BEng in front of any likely candidates for their Undergraduate Apprenticeship Scheme.

You'll be signing up for several years on a nuclear submarine, taking care of everything from switch toggles to the reactor itself, but with a guaranteed Day One starting salary of lb31,100 and six weeks of paid annual leave, we think there will be many a nascent rating who will be running at this as fast as their sea-legs can carry them.

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