Studying Data Science via an apprenticeship

So, you want to upskill in Data Science. Great! The question is, what’s the best way to go about doing that? 

Whether you’re completely new to the field, looking to advance and deepen your knowledge or you’re ready to make a career pivot into data science - there are so many options it can be difficult to determine which is the best route for you. In this article, we’ll break down the specifics of pursuing the study of data analytics and data science via government-funded apprenticeships.   

First things first...

What exactly is an apprenticeship?

In simple terms, an apprenticeship is a paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experience. Alongside regular job duties, an apprentice will spend at least 6 hours of their working week completing classroom-based learning with a college, university or training provider (such as ourselves here at Cambridge Spark), leading to a nationally recognised qualification.

There’s an outdated perception that apprenticeships are exclusively for school-leavers and are focused in trades-based industries. Happily, this is not the case. Apprenticeships have moved on from what they used to be and are now open to current as well as new employees of any age, and even those with previous qualifications.

They can be for people early in their careers as well as experienced talent looking to advance their skill set or change careers, which is increasingly necessary as the world of work changes.

What’s more, the costs associated with apprenticeships in England are funded by the government’s Apprenticeship Levy scheme.

What is the Apprenticeship Levy?

The UK government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 as a way to drive investment in strengthening the country’s skills base. All organisations with staff costs over £3 million must pay 0.5% of their salary bill into a ring-fenced Apprenticeship Levy pot. The money is collected monthly by PAYE, but can be clawed back within 24 months and used for training on approved apprenticeship schemes.

The great news? This means there is no cost for levy-paying employers to train apprentices. For companies who don’t pay the levy, there is an alternative way of accessing apprenticeships, called co-investment. These companies are liable for just 5% of the cost of an apprenticeship, which is paid directly to the training provider. The UK government then pays the remaining 95% bulk of the cost.

80% of companies who invest in apprenticeships for their existing talent report a significant increase in employee retention.”

Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)

Why choose a data apprenticeship over more traditional educational routes?

Considering three different types of learners seeking to upskill in data science, the benefits of apprenticeships over traditional educational routes are numerous:

For school leavers wanting to pursue a career in Data Analytics or Data Science (in either analytics or business intelligence), apprenticeships offer a valuable and cost-friendly alternative to traditional university education. Apprentices get practical experience from day one.

Apprenticeships offer graduates an opportunity to apply and deepen their existing knowledge and skills whilst in full-time employment and to work in specialist teams within organisations.

Apprenticeships offer experienced professionals an opportunity to advance their skill set or retrain as a technical specialist working and leading on big data business solutions whilst in full-time employment.

Apprenticeships have moved on from what they used to be and are an exciting option for both apprentice and employer. You can now employ apprentices at all different levels, from school leavers to people that want to further their careers or change career direction completely. An apprentice can be aged 16 or 100 plus!”

Data apprenticeships also offer a lot of benefits to the organisations that invest in them: 

Benefits of apprenticeships for organisations:

  • Upskill new and existing employees into emerging data science roles
  • Improve employee retention by investing in their development
  • Increase diversity of thinking within the organisation
  • Emphasis on practical experience and real-world projects to ensure skills and knowledge are embedded in your organisation right away

What data apprenticeships are there?

At Cambridge Spark, we offer a range of apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships providing new and exciting opportunities for employees to upskill into new technical roles, including Data Analyst, Data Scientist and more.

An overview of our apprenticeship programmes

Data Citizen Apprenticeship (Level 3)

  • Apprentices learn the foundational concepts, skills and tools all professionals need to be data-driven and independent in their work.
  • Entry level and Suitable for teams working with spreadsheets who want to create more value from data and improve productivity

Data Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4)

  • Fast-track programme to equip apprentices with practical data analysis skills, including Python
  • Suitable for people in roles where they are required to carry out data analysis, or for upskilling people into Data Analyst roles in HR, Finance, Marketing, Operations, Consumer Insights etc.
  • Entry-level course for beginner programmers and those with no previous programming experience

Digital Business Analyst Apprenticeship (Level 4)

  • Fast-track programme that equips apprentices with the skills needed to successfully drive digital solutions in their organisations, focusing not only on analysis and visualisation, but on digital leadership, change management and more.
  • Best suited to individuals looking to introduce digital tools, systems and approaches in their team and play a key role in achieving their organisation’s digital transformation roadmap

Digital Product Manager Apprenticeship (Level 4)

  • Fast-track programme that develops product managers who are driven by data, can communicate effectively with stakeholders and have a customer centric approach to product development
  • Suitable for junior members of a Product team looking to progress and for employees looking to be reskilled into Product roles. 

AI and Data Science Apprenticeship (Level 7)

  • Fast-track programme for upskilling people into Data Scientist roles
  • Apprentices must have intermediate Python programming skills
  • Includes elective tailored pathways to specialise in MLOps, DataOps or Advanced Data Science 

Apprenticeships vs Degree apprenticeships - what’s the difference?


  • Accelerated development programmes (14-15 months)
  • Learn technical skills fast and make an impact in the workplace straight away
  • Delivered on a flexible, self-paced learning basis to ensure maximum flexibility
  • Apprentices undertake a final project and endpoint assessment which includes an exam and interview
  • Apprentices gain an apprenticeship certificate upon completion

Degree apprenticeships

  • Extended, in-depth development programmes (2-4 years)
  • Provides foundational knowledge and skills leading to more in-depth content than an apprenticeship
  • Learners undertake a research dissertation project for their organisation
  • Apprentices gain a degree qualification upon completion


Government-funded data apprenticeships offer a fast-track option for employees looking to upskill in data science without having to commit to full time study at high cost. Equally, apprenticeships provide employers with an exciting opportunity to build their internal data science and AI capabilities at scale.

If you would like to find out more about our apprenticeship programmes and learning pathways designed to tackle the nationwide shortage of Data Analysts, Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers, please get in touch below:


Enquire now

Fill out the following form and we’ll contact you within one business day to discuss and answer any questions you have about the programme. We look forward to speaking with you.


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