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Graduate Advice
5 min read

Graduate Schemes: Are They Worth It?

Graduate schemes are a popular choice for those who are looking to receive further training while being employed. They are run by some of the country's top employers and are ideal for those looking to kick-start their careers and develop leadership skills.
Written by
Matthew Williams
Guest Post
Published on
June 28, 2023

After finishing university, graduates can often find themselves overwhelmed with choice and not know which direction to head next.

Graduate schemes are a popular choice for those who are looking to receive further training while being employed. They are run by some of the country's top employers and are ideal for those looking to kick-start their careers and develop leadership skills.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at graduate schemes and discuss who they’re suited for and how they can benefit you.

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is simply a job with plenty of structured training. It’s run by the employer and usually takes one to three years to complete.

There are graduate schemes run by a wide range of organisations and companies in a variety of different sectors. Each scheme is different and involves different responsibilities and duties. 

Some schemes train graduates in a specific role, while others will give trainees experience in various placements, working with different teams at different locations.

During a graduate scheme, however, you can expect to receive the following:

  • Hands-on experience
  • Employment
  • Training and mentoring
  • Professional development
  • A salary
  • (Typically) Job offer
Graduate scheme eligibility

Most companies look for graduates who finished university within one to three years, though exceptions do exist. These schemes typically focus on younger people rather than mature students.

Applicants usually need at least a 2:1 (upper second-class honours) degree to be offered a place on a graduate scheme. That said, there are some employers willing to consider those with a 2:2 (lower second-class honours) degree under certain conditions or if impressed by you application.

While a relevant degree subject is beneficial, it’s not always necessary. Many companies look to diversify their talent pool by receiving applications from graduates of all stripes.

After filling out an online application form, most schemes require applicants to complete a series of aptitude tests. The process also involves telephone or remote interviews, assessments, face-face interviews, and presentations.

It’s an involved process designed to distinguish the very best candidates. Applicants should ensure their CV is up to scratch and brush up on their interview skills.

Sectors that offer graduate schemes

There are graduate schemes for every sector and industry. Companies look to graduate schemes to help train the business leaders of tomorrow and help growth and innovation.

Both private and public companies offer graduate schemes. Some of the most popular sectors include:

  • Agriculture
  • Engineering
  • Charity
  • Armed forces
  • Banking
  • Accounting
  • Professional Services
  • Healthcare
  • Media
  • Finance
  • Law
  • Retail
  • Science and tech

You can find graduate schemes advertised at the following:

  • University careers service
  • Employer events and careers fairs
  • Networking opportunities
  • Company websites and social media
  • Direct communication

Most companies begin taking applications in October and November, ready with schemes starting the following September.

Is it hard to get into a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are highly competitive.

Each graduate scheme vacancy typically has 80 or more applicants, with the biggest companies receiving in excess of 600 per spot. Bigger firms in finance and professional services can even receive hundreds of thousands of applications each year.

While this does mean that it can be difficult to secure a place in a graduate scheme, it’s not impossible. Most companies offer several positions at any one time, and the average applicant applies to over 29 different companies, casting a wide net.

Are graduate schemes worth it?

Being so difficult to get into, some might ask whether a graduate scheme is worth the effort and frustration that applying may cause.

For most people who have completed a programme, the answer is yes: graduate schemes deliver highly focused training in relevant, real-life working environments that give you a real edge going forward with your career.

Some of the main benefits of a graduate scheme include the following:

Relevant training

Moving from university life to employment can take some adjusting. Graduate schemes give the best of both worlds with a highly structured training programme designed to complement a real working environment.

This means training is always highly relevant and pertains directly to real-world roles. The skills and experience acquired are, therefore, useful and desired by employers.

Competitive salary

Graduate schemes tend to offer generous entry-level salaries. These average from £25,000 per annum to in excess of £30,000 for some larger companies.

This is because those that run graduate schemes are looking to train and retain talented individuals that can become the company leaders of tomorrow.

Professional development

As well as soft skills and experience, graduate schemes also allow you to gain recognised qualifications. These can help advance your career and set you apart from those with a similar degree.

These are funded by companies looking to invest in individuals. This means graduate schemes are a way of furthering your education and skills without accruing further debt.

Permanent roles

Most graduate schemes offer formal employment for a fixed period, typically 12 to 36 months. 

After this time, however, most companies offer graduates a permanent role. This is based on your performance during your training and the terms of the graduate scheme contract.

Other perks

There are plenty of other perks too. These include the possibility to travel, try different roles, and receive employment benefits such as private health care, bonuses, memberships, and more.

A lot of graduate schemes also allow trainees to engage with senior employees and stakeholders of companies. This can be beneficial when it comes to promotions, applying for different responsibilities, and references.

Conclusion

While graduate schemes are highly competitive and can be difficult to enrol in, they are one of the very best ways to start your career. Consider a graduate scheme if you’re looking to become a business leader and are looking to gain valuable experience.

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