What is a graduate scheme? [Everything you need to know]

Sep 29, 2019

If you are currently at university or if you’ve recently graduated, you’ve probably been thinking about what your next steps are.

Over the past decade, we have helped over 500 students and graduates to secure places on highly competitive graduate schemes.

This post will explain what a graduate scheme is, what the benefits are, how to apply for them and more.

If you have any questions that we have missed, or if you’d like help securing a graduate scheme, get in touch with us.

What is a graduate scheme? 

In short, a graduate scheme is a structured training program that is specifically designed for graduates who are in the early stages of their careers.

How long does a graduate scheme last?

Graduate schemes vary in duration however they typically last between 1 and 4 years. 

What are the benefits of doing a graduate scheme?

The benefits that you will gain from a graduate scheme will vary depending on the company. Generally, graduate schemes will come with a competitive salary, a clear career path, resources for training and development and more.

Graduate schemes give graduates the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and take responsibility right from the start. 

Some graduate schemes operate on a rotational basis where graduates will gain experience across a range of departments within the company. This provides graduates with broad experience and a deeper understanding of how the company operates. 

The rotational element of graduate schemes can provide a great entry-level job for graduates who aren’t sure of what they would like to specialise in. 

What is the difference between a graduate scheme and a graduate job?

Here are the main differences between a graduate scheme and a graduate job:
Graduate schemes last for a certain period of time depending on the role and the company. After the graduate scheme has come to an end, you may or may not be offered a job within the company. 

Also, graduate schemes tend to be more structured than graduate jobs. They’ll have a structured training program and may include several rotations. 

Usually, larger companies with large graduate recruitment budgets run graduate schemes. Graduate jobs tend to be less advertised, so can be harder to find. Therefore, if you are looking for a graduate job, it is important that you conduct thorough research and be sure to network.

Which industries offer graduate schemes?

Companies from a wide range of industries offer graduate schemes including:

  • Accounting and professional services
  • Armed forces
  • Banking and finance
  • Charity
  • Chemistry and pharmaceuticals
  • Consulting
  • Consumer goods
  • Engineering
  • Human Resources (HR)
  • IT
  • Law
  • Media
  • Property
  • Public sector

Are graduate schemes paid?

All graduated recruited into a graduate scheme will be paid a salary. The salary will vary largely depending on the role, company and industry. Alongside the salary, the company will invest in your training and development.

How much do graduate schemes pay?

Generally, companies in the investment banking and legal sectors offer graduates the highest starting salary.

Target jobs have put together a comprehensive list of the median starting salaries for graduates across different business sectors. 

It is important to not base your decision solely on salary but on what your skills and interests are aligned to. 

When should I apply for graduate schemes? 

You can start applying for graduate schemes when you are in your final year of university or if you have already graduated.

If you have already graduate graduated, check out our post entitled: “Am I too old for graduate schemes“.

Generally, Graduate scheme applications open between September and February.

However, this will depend on the company. A few companies open their graduate applications from as early as august and others have theirs open after February. Some companies have rolling recruitment.

Regardless of the deadlines, it’s a good idea to apply as early as possible as places on graduate schemes are highly competitive. 

Here’s a video on Shell’s graduate scheme application process:

What should I do if I miss the deadline to apply for graduate schemes? 

If you are really interested in a particular company or industry, but you’ve missed the deadline, generally, you can apply the following year. 

In the meantime, it is a good idea to gain work experience in the form of taking a different graduate job, or doing internships. Doing so will help to strengthen your application. 

Are graduate schemes just for recent graduates? 

Some graduate recruiters specifically state that their schemes are designed for candidates who have graduated within the past year for example. 

However, many of the graduate schemes are open to all candidates with a degree. 

It is a misconception that you’ve missed the boat if you aren’t successful in getting a graduate scheme in your final year of university.

You can generally apply (or reapply) for graduate schemes once you have graduated.

If you are unsure about your suitability for a graduate scheme, speak to the graduate recruitment team for the company you are interested in. 

What are the entry requirements for graduate schemes? 

Typically, graduate recruiters ask for a minimum of a 2:1 degree. 

However, it is important to note that the entry requirements will vary depending on the company.

As well as asking for a certain degree classification, some graduate schemes require a specific degree. For example, some technical roles require a degree in a STEM-related subject. 

However, for a large number of graduate roles, a degree in a specific field isn’t required. For example, for graduate programs in law, investment banking and accounting you do not need a specific degree. 

This is because you’ll be supported to undertake training and professional qualifications on the job. 

Can I apply for graduate schemes if I got a 2:2 in my degree? 

Yes, there are a number of graduate schemes that do not have a 2:1 as a minimum requirement.

For example, the civil service and Tescos have a minimum requirement of a 2:2 classification. 

If you faced extenuating circumstances during your degree which resulted in you not achieving your academic potential, speak to the graduate recruitment team. 

Can I apply for a grad scheme if I’m an international student? 

International students can apply for a tier 2 visa.

A tier 2 visa allows a registered company to employ an international student in the UK for up to 5 years.

International students must secure employment before your tier 4 visa runs out.

If you are an international student hoping to secure work in the UK after your degree, get in touch with us as we may be able to give you some advice.

Do my A-level grades matter?

Some companies ask for specific A-levels or a certain number of UCAS points.

If there is an A-level requirement, it will ask for your top three A-levels completed within your first sitting. 

However, in recent years some companies have decided to drop their A-level requirements.

If you experienced extenuating circumstances during your A-levels, be sure to contact the graduate recruitment teams at the companies you are interested in applying to. 

What is the application process for graduate schemes like?

Generally, most graduate scheme applications follow this process:

Online application

The online application may require you to fill out your basic information and upload your CV and cover letter. Some companies will ask some questions to assess your motivations.

Online tests

Some graduate schemes ask candidates to complete online tests. These are traditionally psychometric tests however recently some companies have introduced Pymetric tests. 

Digital/video interview

Graduate recruiters are increasingly using video interviews as a part of their application process. 

There are two main types of video interviews: live video interviews and recorded video interviews.

Assessment centre

Assessment centres are usually held at the final stage of the application process. The candidates who are successful at this stage will be offered a place on the graduate scheme.

At an assessment centre, you can be expected to take part in group exercises and face-to-face interviews. 

Check out our post on when to apply for graduate schemes.

What happens if you decide that you don’t want to work there?

That’s fine, you won’t be obligated to take a job offer after the end of the graduate training scheme. 

Can Graduate Coach help me to get a graduate scheme?

Yes! We have helped over 500 final year students and graduates to get places on graduate schemes.

We have helped our coaching candidates to get into PwC, Deloitte, Facebook,  Google, Amazon, Goldmann Sachs, JP Morgan, Network Rail and many more. Find out more about our successes here.

As well as helping many graduates to secure places at the large companies above, we have also helped several grads to get jobs within smaller companies

We have created several resources designed to help graduates to get a grad scheme. These include:

Two published books: The Student Book and The Graduate Book
Online courses, for example, our Nail that interview course
One-to-one coaching programmeInterview training

The Seven Secrets of Success

Land your graduate job

Download your free copy of our guide that reveals the seven secrets of success when it comes to landing a graduate job.

  • Learn seven things you can implement today to enhance your job search strategy.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the graduate job market.
  • Find out how you can find your dream job with guidance from a graduate coach.

Please see our Jobs page for graduate jobs.

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