Are graduate schemes worth it?

Dec 31, 2019

When you come to your final year, you are likely to hear friends discussing grad schemes and application processes for them. For many, they are seen as the holy grail in terms of finding a successful and fulfilling career path – but are graduate schemes worth it?

Grad schemes have a lot to offer, which is why they are often highly sought after. However before you dive into a process of blindly sending off CVs to every employer advertising, you should examine whether a grad scheme fits with your career ambitions and preferred way of working. 

To date, at Graduate Coach we have helped hundreds of final year students and graduates to get offers for graduate scheme programmes. In this article, we’ll run through the strengths and drawbacks of graduate schemes and help you to decide whether they’re right for you. 

What is a graduate scheme?

Put simply, a grad scheme is a structured training programme that should lead to a full-time job, if successful. They are typically office-based however, they may be public or customer-facing depending on the company.

For example, The Metropolitan police offer a two-year ‘graduate leadership programme‘ That guides graduate through the process of becoming fully warranted police officers. As a part of the programme, graduates will be required to engage with their local community in public.

You should also note that the training element of the scheme is usually designed for a specific role. This set-up means they are generally more structured than a graduate job. This structure could be more familiar to your experience of education up to now and give a clearer sense of what you will be doing from day one.

We have written a post called: what is a graduate scheme, check it out for more information.

How long is a grad scheme?

Their length can vary but will typically be between one and four years. Their set length is a key distinction when comparing them to a graduate job.

You should also know that graduate schemes are often rotational meaning that you can be placed in various roles and departments during the scheme. This could help you to find an area of the industry or company you enjoy.  

Why is a graduate scheme worth my time?

One of the obvious pulls to grad schemes has often been that they are generally a well-paid option. To take one example, Aldi’s graduate Area Manager’s starting salary is £44,000 (check), rising to £73,450 after four years and the position also comes with an expensed Audi A4 company car.

You obviously shouldn’t base your decision purely on the salary offered and another advantage to be aware of is the fact that your employer will invest in your training and development, which will have a positive impact on your long term career progression.

Perhaps the greatest pull to graduate schemes is the practical hands-on training that will be given to you by a support network of people with significant experience in their field. 

Upon successful completion of your graduate scheme, you may be offered a full-time permanent job within the company, which is great if you are seeking job security. If however, you do not like your graduate scheme or the company, you can decide to leave. Either way, you will have gained valuable work experience and a variety of transferable skills.

Which employers offer grad schemes?

You should know that graduate schemes are available in a huge range of industries this includes (but is not limited to):

  • Accounting and professional services
  • Banking and finance / law
  • Chemistry and pharmaceuticals
  • Consulting
  • Engineering/tech/IT/Digital
  • Human resources (HR)
  • Public sector /charity

The wide range of sectors available means you have a good chance of finding one that fits with your ambitions. 

Some popular employers which offer them include KPMG, PWC, Saatchi and Saatchi, Marks and Spencers.

What are the advantages of a grad scheme? 

While graduate programmes typically train you for a specific role, you should know that you don’t necessarily need to have studied a degree directly related to the position. 

This flexibility is a great strength and examples include KPMG’s tax advisory and trainee accountancy programmes, which regularly recruit graduates in History or English. 

Many of the Civil Service Fast Stream’s programmes also don’t require you to have studied any particular area so are worth researching.

The entry requirements can also vary widely as the Civil Service and Tesco, for example, list their minimum degree requirement as a 2:2. Aldi’s sought after area management scheme also asks for a 2:1, meaning it is open to a large proportion of graduates. 

A graduate scheme can be a great way to kick start your career and gain professional qualifications and valuable experiences. They can help you to discover your career path and to learn what roles are right for you.

Are there any drawbacks to doing a grad scheme?

Some graduates may favour joining a small-to-medium enterprise as a recent study from Accenture found that only one in five university finalists are interested in working for a large company after graduation. However, this could be down to lack of knowledge about range available (find others) 

It is worth knowing that some contracts can include “lock-in” clauses which can mean you have to pay back training costs of up to £10,000 if you leave your job less than two to three years after starting. 

This shows the importance of reading the small print of your contract before you agree to the terms and conditions and aiming to make sure that your career path suits you. Graduate Coach’s typology

Graduate Scheme Application Process

You may already know that graduate schemes’ selection processes are often long, rigorous and competitive. The Civil Service’s recruitment involves numerous rounds of online exams and exercises before you are invited to face-to-face stages. 

Generally, before being accepted on to a graduate programme, you will need to:

  • Submit an online CV along with a copy of your CV and cover letter
  • Complete online tests such as psychometric tests or game-based tests
  • Submit a video interview or attend a video interview via Skype
  • Attend an assessment centre

So, are graduate schemes worth it?

Graduate schemes are highly competitive. Graduate employers are looking for extremely high calibre candidates who will bring a lot of value to the company.

If you are able to get a place on a graduate scheme, you will reap many rewards, financially and in terms of career progression and development.

However, graduate schemes are not the only option for graduates. There are several other routes that you can take if you do not want to complete a graduate scheme or if you are unsuccessful in getting a place on a graduate programme.

Alternatives to graduate schemes include:

  • Graduate entry-level jobs
  • Graduate training programmes/academies such as QA
  • Internships for graduates


Are graduate schemes only for recent graduates?

No, as long as you have a degree and meet the entry requirements for a graduate scheme, you can apply.

So if you graduated a few years ago and are wondering if a graduate scheme is worth it for you, don’t hesitate to send an application. Employers cannot discriminate against you based on age.

Read our post called Am I too old for a graduate scheme for more information.

Do you get paid for graduate schemes?

Yes. All graduate schemes are paid positions. As remuneration, graduates on these programmes are often entitled to other benefits which will depend on the company. They will also receive training and sometimes graduate employers will pay for graduates to get professional qualifications.

What can I do to increase my chances of getting a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are very competitive. Before you start your job search, it is vital that you take the time to assess your skills and attributes. This will help you to understand what you can offer the employer.

Also, before you apply for a graduate scheme, make sure that you have taken some time to research the company and role properly to ensure that you are the right fit.

Here at Graduate Coach, we offer a 6 stage 1-2-1 coaching programme for students and graduates who want to thrive in their graduate careers.

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