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Your guide to work-study programs and apprenticeships in France

For any stage of education, there are loads of work study programs to choose from. Our guide to work-study programs will help you choose the right path for you.

5 min read

For any stage of education, there are loads of work study programs to choose from. If you’re getting lost in all the options for training that combine theory and practice, our guide to work-study programs will help you choose the right path for you.

What are work-study programs?

A work-study program is a training system combining periods of theory learning in a training center, and putting theory into practice with a company. You can follow work-study programs from CAP (vocational qualification) all the way to Master’s level.

The main difference between these programs and other forms of education is that you’ll have actual employee status, not uni or high school student status. To pursue one of these programs, you’ll find two types of contract options:

  • Apprenticeship contracts. This is a permanent or temporary employment contract drawn up as part of initial training, and it can last 1–3 years. Young people from 16 to 29 years old are eligible for apprenticeship contracts. At the end of your training, you’ll either receive a State diploma (BTS or advanced technician’s certificate, BUT or University Bachelor’s in Technology, vocational or Master’s degree, engineering degree, etc.), or certification registered with the French National Directory of Professional Certifications (Répertoire national des certifications professionnelles or RNCP).
  • Professional training contracts. This is a 6–12 month permanent or temporary employment contract drawn up as part of continuing education. Young people aged 16 to 25, or 26 and over for job seekers, and any age for benefit recipients (RSA, ASS, ASH) are eligible. This contract allows you to obtain a recognized professional qualification.

After your baccalaureate or high school diploma, you can choose from different work-study programs:

  • Work-study BTS
  • BUT, which replaces the DUT (University Diploma in Technology)
  • Vocational degree
  • Vocational Master’s
  • Engineering school
  • Business school

Where you get your apprenticeship training can vary and depends on which program you join. It can take place in an apprenticeship training center (Centre de formation en apprentissage or CFA), a high school, at university, or in a private school.

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What’s the difference between an apprenticeship and a work-study program? 

The “work-study program” is a general term used for any type of training that combines theory and practice. So there's no difference between an apprenticeship and work-study, because an apprenticeship is actually a type of work-study program. And there are two different work study program contracts you can pursue— an apprenticeship or professional training.

How to find a work-study program

To enroll in a work-study or post-baccalaureate apprenticeship, first you need to submit your choices (up to 10) for the courses you want to take via Parcoursup in January. You’ll usually receive a response in May. Alongside your course choices, we recommend that you also start looking for a company in January, because signing a contract with an employer is one of the prerequisites for finalizing your entry into a work-study program.

Here are some tips to increase your chances of finding a company:

  • Check the offers on Bourse à l’emploi (Job Exchange)
  • Go to work-study fairs and events
  • Get to know some training organizations that have partnerships with companies. You can find some via the Pôle Emploi website
  • Contact the chambers of commerce (CCI), or chambers of trade or agriculture
  • Look out for ads through Pôle Emploi (the Job Center)

Why choose a work-study program?

While joining the workforce may be tough for young graduates, work-study programs have a number of advantages, as they make it easier to stand out and get your first job. Work-study programs can help you:

  • Gain your first significant professional experience, which is often needed to apply for jobs
  • Put theory into practice from what you’ve been taught at school
  • Get a taste of working world, which can be very different from school
  • Finance your studies and gain financial independence.

The figures speak for themselves—70% of apprentices find a job within 7 months of completing their training. 

How do apprenticeships work? 

On an apprenticeship, you alternate between a few weeks in a training center and a few weeks with a company. The way your time is divided will depend on the type of contract:

  • For apprenticeship contracts, 25% of your time must be dedicated to training.
  • For professional training contracts, 150 hours must be dedicated to training, or 15–25% of the length of the contract.

Salaries for work-study programs

As part of an apprenticeship contract, pay changes based on your age and experience. For example, if you’re under age 18 and in your first year of apprenticing pay starts at 27% of the minimum wage (salaire minimum de croissance or Smic). Meanwhile, for people over the age of 26 pay goes up to 100% of the minimum wage. Find out more about exact pay percentages by age. Also, apprentice salaries aren’t taxable, as long as they don’t exceed the minimum wage amount.

For professional training contracts, post-baccalaureate pay varies from 65%–100% of the minimum wage depending on age. Unlike apprentices, working students employed under a professional training contract must declare their income to the tax authorities.

The distribution of training and working hours depends on your chosen course and establishment. For apprentices, working hours are 35 hours per week, including the hours spent in the training establishment. Like any other employee, apprentices are also entitled to 5 weeks of paid leave.

Managing your budget as a working student 

As a hybrid between work and student life, work-study programs give you greater financial independence. To help you get a grip on your finances and avoid being in the red at the end of the month, N26 has some advice:

  • Calculate all your income in advance (salary, social benefits, casual work, etc.) as well as your expenses (rent, bills, subscriptions, shopping, and leisure) so that you know exactly how much you need to cover your day-to-day costs.
  • Try to divide your money by following the 50/30/20 rule50% for fixed expenses, 30% for leisure activities, and 20% for savings.
  • If the 50/30/20 rule feels out of reach to you, don’t be discouraged. Adjust the percentages as you need to, so that you’re able to save at least a few euros per month. What matters most is that you get used to saving money.

Find out more about putting money aside with our tips for saving money as a student.

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