Apprenticeship - The other four-year degree

By Matt Andrews


CONTENT AREAS: Advisory, Careers, Life Skills, English, Social Studies, CTE​​​​


  • Students will understand the difference between an apprentice and journeyman
  • Students will assess what they know about a career path of interest to them


  • C: B1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of the career planning process
  • C: C1.3 Identify personal preferences and interest influencing career choice and success
  • PS: A1.9 Demonstrate cooperative behavior in groups


No special prior knowledge necessary to complete a lesson, but students will likely be discussing specific details of career paths beyond the knowledge of the instructor.


  • Big pieces of paper and markers to draw concept maps
  • Notebook paper and pencils
  • (Optional) Access to the Internet


  • The first part of the lesson uses the reading to introduce vocabulary and the key concept of an apprenticeship.
  • The second part of the lesson is a small group activity where students self-evaluate what they know about career training.


The small group activity is an assessment of student understanding about career training, paths, apprenticeships, and other qualifications.

The activity challenges students to write down the stages of training to become a chosen profession.

This is intended to be an activity requiring no initial research. Students determine a potential career path, and then write down everything they know needs to be accomplished before becoming a qualified professional in their chosen field of career.

The key of learning for students is to write down everything they know about a career path; they may realize they know next to nothing off the top of their head. Then as homework, they will verify the accuracy of their proposed path with a professional who is currently working in the field.


Read the article and define key concepts in career training (20 minutes)

Divide students into groups of 2-3, distribute the article “The other four-year degree,” (Reproducible A) and instruct students to read the article as a small group. Groups should focus attention on understanding apprenticeships and the other information in the article.

Instruct each group to write a general definition for 5-10 vocabulary words used in the article. The groups should focus on words they think are important to know in their own career development.

The following words are likely to be familiar to students, but often require further clarification: local union, technical schools, community colleges, CPR, OSHA laws. The most important definition for students to explain is the difference between an apprentice and a journeyman.

After the small groups finish defining the key concepts, discuss these vocabulary words as a whole group. This discussion should build a common understanding of career paths, and lead into the activity of drawing a career map.

This is an opportunity to help students tie together concepts of unions, technical schools, and OSHA laws, and general qualifications for various professions. Students should generally understand that driving a large truck requires a special license and that a lawyer must be qualified to practice law within a given state; and that formal or informal apprenticeship is one step along many career paths.

Often students focus solely on college education, but forget about vocational training, internships, and other opportunities to learn on-the-job, outside the classroom.

Draw a concept map of a chosen career path (20-40 minutes)

Use the prospective career path of a teacher, career counselor, principal or something familiar to the instructor to transition into an activity on concept mapping for various career paths. Use a big piece of paper or chalkboard to model (with a conceptual map) how to draw the career plan and process for becoming a professional. After the whole group draws one career path together, the students may divide themselves into smaller interest groups to work on mapping the career paths of specific professions that catch their interest.

For example, a small group of students interested in becoming a teacher would write down all the steps along a prospective career path. At minimum, this would include graduating high school, completing a certain amount of hours with children, obtaining a college degree in a certain field, student teaching, passing qualifying exams, applying for a credential, and then there is tenure and professional development.

The process varies slightly by state, but the accuracy of a plan to become a teacher should be easy to confirm within the school.

Students interested in medicine, law, biotech, etc., may need to verify the accuracy of their proposed path with professionals in the respective fields.

This is a somewhat open-ended task because these qualifications and career paths vary significantly by field, but ultimately the task is a test of students’ knowledge about their chosen career path. Encourage students to think about the skills and knowledge required by a profession; this reflection goes beyond just going to college to earn a credential: What must you know to become a professional?

Conclude the activity by having students indicate where they think the transition from apprentice to journeyman occurs within their chosen career path. Of course, many fields do not formally make this distinction, but student teaching and tenure are examples within the field of education. This is likely the first time many students have thought about these formal processes of career development and apprentice, so it can be helpful to revisit it in following weeks.

Assign students to verify the accuracy of their career path (2 minutes)

After students write down everything they know about their chosen career path, they need to verify the accuracy of this information.

The instructor is not likely to know the specifics for the various career paths, and it is incredibly beneficial for students to talk to someone within the profession.

For homework, students should talk to a professional within their chosen career and verify the accuracy of this information. In the following week, students could report back to the class what they learned from the professional. A school counselor is a good resource for help with this verification process, but more importantly, students need to make sure they have the right information.

The Other 4-year Degree


About the Author

Matt Andrews