10 Alternatives to graduate schemes

May 3, 2020

Whilst there are several benefits of doing a graduate scheme, they aren’t for everyone. Furthermore, graduate schemes are very competitive. Being aware of the alternatives to graduate schemes will help you to make the right career decisions after graduation. 

In this post, we will outline 10 alternatives to graduate schemes. We’ll also share useful resources to point you in the right direction if a traditional graduate scheme is not for you, or if your graduate scheme applications have been unsuccessful. 

#1: Get a graduate-level job

What are graduate-level jobs? Graduate-level jobs are positions that specifically state that candidates are educated to degree level in the job description. They are entry-level jobs for graduates. However, unlike graduate schemes, they aren’t as structured and do not end after a few years. 

Graduate-level jobs can be great alternatives to graduate schemes. They often have competitive salaries and allow graduates to gain hands-on experience within a particular role. 

A graduate job might be a good alternative for you if you already know what role is right for you, and therefore do not need to complete a graduate scheme that is rotational in nature. 

How to get a graduate-level job? 

Larger companies that offer graduate schemes generally have larger budgets for graduate recruitment and thus are able to advertise their graduate and early career opportunities better. You might find that graduate schemes are less well advertised, so you will need to remain proactive with your job search. 

Graduate jobs will be advertised on job boards, company websites, social media, graduate recruitment agencies and more. 

The application process for graduate jobs will be similar to graduate schemes. You’ll still need to submit your CV, and successfully navigate through a series of interviews

Some graduate-level jobs aren’t advertised at all, so do not hesitate to send speculative applications to the companies that you are interested in working for after university

Check out our post on how to search for a job online

Here at Graduate Coach, we can help you to land your dream graduate job regardless of what you studied or what university you attended. We offer career coaching programmes for students, graduates and career changers. 

Tips for getting a graduate job:

  • Be active on social media. Ensure that your profiles are optimised and be sure to look out for graduate job opportunities and connect with graduate recruiters. 
  • Attend networking events for students and graduates
  • Tailor every job application to the specification. 
  • Demonstrate your employability skills throughout the entire recruitment process. 
  • Improve your interview technique
  • remember, smaller companies won’t always advertise their jobs as much, so reach out to them an ask if they have any opportunities for graduates.

For more tips, check out our post on finding a graduate job

#2: Enrol on a graduate training programme

What are graduate training programmes? Graduate training schemes/ programmes are structured training programmes that are designed to upskill graduates in a highly specialised field, usually in technology or finance. Once you have been trained up, the company will help you to secure a full-time position where you will further develop your skills. 

Some graduate training programmes are free, and the training provider earns money from the company that offers you a full-time role. Other graduate training programmes and bootcamps are funded by candidates and are seen as an investment.

What companies offer training programmes for graduates?

There are several companies that offer graduate training programmes in specific fields to help to close skills gaps. 

Here are some examples of companies that offer these graduate training programmes:

  • FDM – The graduate opportunities at FDM are designed to help graduates to bridge the gap between academia and the workplace. They offer various training opportunities in technology and business. Once you have completed the training programme successfully, you’ll be deployed to work with one of their partner companies.
  • Mthree – the Alumni graduate programme at mthree upskills graduates in 8 weeks before they are deployed with one of their partner organisations for a 12-24 month placement. Candidates can choose the programme that is right for them from a wide range of disciplines including software development and anti-financial crime. 
  • QA – QA Academy has a 12-week programme that helps candidates to become a digital consultant. Once you have been trained the aim is that you will work for QA but you will work onsite with their customers. 

The above graduate training programmes can be good alternatives to graduate schemes as they provide you with a structured training programme and help you to become more employable in a particular field. They also combine the “book learning” with practical hands-on experience on successful completion of the programme. 

#3: Complete a Bootcamp

The companies below offer bootcamps that are designed to upskill candidates and prepare them for a job in a particular field. These fields are usually tech or digital related. 

Candidates have to pay for most bootcamps but some people see them as an investment or an alternative to doing a Master’s degree.

laptop with code on screen, a coffee mug and notepad and pen.

#4: Start-up your own company 

If you are entrepreneurial, starting up your own business might suit you more than completing a graduate scheme. 

There is a wealth of resources and support for entrepreneurs who are in the process of launching a business. 

Starting your own business straight out of university won’t be easy at all, and will be a steep learning curve. However, the rewards and payoff will be great if you have a great idea and persevere. 

Many people may advise you to work for a company first for many years before launching your own business, however, do not let this discourage you. Whilst you are young, it is a good idea to test your business ideas and rapidly learn and develop your skills. 



Regardless of whether your business fails or succeeds, you will gain work experience and transferable skills. 

Check out our guest post on how to market your first business

#5: Do a paid internships 

Like graduate schemes, good internship programmes are structured and are designed to give you hands-on experience in the working world. Therefore, internships can offer good alternatives to graduate schemes. 

If you perform highly during your internship, you may be offered a full-time position at the company you intern with. 

Regardless of whether you get a job at the company after your internship, you will have gained experience and developed employability skills that will make it much easier for you to get a job. 

The internship route might suit you if you:

  •  Are a university student in your second or penultimate year of study
  • Have graduated but do not have any work experience. 


Everything you need to know about doing an internship whilst at university 

How to get a summer internship 

#6: Work for a start-up 

Many graduates wonder if it is better to start their career at a small or large company. There are benefits and disadvantages to both, so it is important to work out what type and size company is right for you.

Have you considered working at a start-up company? Working at a start-up will allow you to “wear many hats” and gain experience in many different roles as you adapt to working for a growing business. 

One of the major benefits to working for a start-up is that the work culture tends to be less hierarchical and structured, giving you the opportunity to get really stuck in and build a name for yourself from day one. 

If you are interested in working at a start-up, you will need to be proactive in contacting them directly and sending a copy of your CV. 


  • Unicorn Hunt is a platform for finding and listing jobs in startups 

#7: Become self-employed 

You might decide that self-employment is the right path for you after university. 

Being self-employed will give you the opportunity to work flexibly and gain experience by working with numerous clients. 

Like starting up a company, freelancing straight out of university won’t be easy. You’ll need to take charge of your own learning to develop your skills and to serve your clients. 


  • The Dots is a diverse community of creative entrepreneurs & freelancers.

#8: Invest in further education 

Many final year students and recent graduates ask: “should I do a Master’s?” 

Here at Graduate Coach, we encourage our candidates to get experience as soon as possible and to only do a Master’s if they wish to in a specialised field after gaining significant experience. 

This is because doing a postgraduate degree will not necessarily boost your employability. Many graduates think that getting a Master’s will help them to stand out in the competitive graduate market, however, this is not the case. 

Employers expect graduates to have a good undergraduate degree. Beyond this, they are looking for graduates who have a broad range of skills that they can bring to the role. 

A candidate with a Bachelors degree, who has plenty of work experience and can confidently articulate their competencies and clearly demonstrate their skills will be seen more favourably than a candidate with an undergraduate and postgraduate degree without any experience. 

With this said, think very carefully before investing £10,000+ in a Masters as an alternative to doing a grad scheme. 

For some professions such as teaching (PGCE) and law (LPC or BPTC), it will be necessary to further your education. 

A good way to work out if your Master’s degree will be beneficial to employers is to see if the job descriptions that you are interested in mention that they are looking for candidates with a Masters degree in a specific subject. 

This may be the case if you are hoping to become an economic consultant for example. 

Wondering if postgraduate study is the right option for you? Get in contact with one of our graduate coaches. 


#9: Graduate apprenticeship  

An apprenticeship is a real job that offers hands-on experience, a salary and the opportunity to train and develop your skills. 

As apprenticeships give candidates hands-on experience whilst also training them in a particular field, apprenticeships are great alternatives to graduate schemes. 

Keep in mind that the minimum entry requirements for every apprenticeship varies. Some may deem you to be overqualified if you have completed your degree. 

If this is a route that you are keen to pursue, keep an eye out for Master’s apprenticeships. These programmes will give you the opportunity to gain work experience, get paid and earn a postgraduate qualification. 


#10: Do a placement abroad 

Gaining international experience will help you to broaden your horizons, whilst immersing yourself in different cultures. Working abroad will push you outside of your comfort zone and encourage you to engage with new people. 

All of these transferable skills and insights will be valued by your future employers wherever you work. 


  • Don’t limit yourself to doing a graduate scheme if it is not for you. There are several alternatives to graduate schemes. 
  • Get careers advice to help you to discover your career path
  • Conduct lots of research and consider all of your options. 
  • Focus on your development and work out what route will grow your skills the most.
Alternatives to graduate schemes

10 Alternatives to graduate schemes: summary 

The belief that a graduate scheme is the only route to success is far removed from reality. It results in thousands of graduates feeling lost after university if they are unable to secure a place on a graduate scheme. However, there are several routes that you can take after graduation. It is vital that you find the right path for you. 

We hope that you have enjoyed our post sharing alternatives to graduate schemes! The graduate job market is very competitive. however, strategically navigating your job search and working out what is best for you will help you to get your foot in the door and thrive in your career.

Once again, if you are struggling to work out what route is right for you, check out our career service and get in touch with us today! 

All the best with your job hunting!

Our latest posts

How to Develop a Growth Mindset
May 25, 2020

How to Develop a Growth Mindset

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” -  Henry Ford Ford is right, we are the ones who determine whether or...

Read post
Can I do a graduate scheme at 30?
May 24, 2020

Can I do a graduate scheme at 30?

There are a few reasons why you might be considering applying for graduate schemes in your thirties.  If you’re in this situation and are...

Read post
What to do if you are finding life after university hard
May 17, 2020

What to do if you are finding life after university hard

The university bubble has burst, and you’ve been propelled into adulthood seemingly overnight. All of a sudden, your level of responsibility has...

Read post
See All Blog Posts