Graduate schemes: What you need to know

Not sure what a grad scheme is? You’re not alone…

With just over one in three graduates admitting that they didn’t know grad schemes were even an option, it seems that those not in the know might be missing out. The good news is, not only can they make your career choice easier, they also provide the practical skills you need to help fast-track you into your ideal job.

To make sure you’re clued up on exactly what they entail, here are a few key things you need to know about graduate schemes:


What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is a work-based training programme that allows recent graduates to gain practical experience with a company, giving them a head-start into the world of work.

The structure of the scheme could vary depending on the employer and industry, but it will usually involve training, mentoring, and hands-on work in different areas of the organisation.


How long will a graduate scheme last?

The exact length of a grad scheme will vary from company to company, but they typically last between one and three years.

Once completed, the majority of those on the scheme will continue working for the company in their chosen field – providing they’ve worked hard during their employment, and an opportunity is available.


Will I get paid?

All graduate schemes are paid positions, and although they involve a large amount of training and development, their salaries reflect a full-time job, rather than an internship or unpaid work experience.


What are the benefits of a graduate scheme?

Not only does a graduate scheme work as a great entry-level position for anyone recently out of university, the experience involved will also allow you to figure out what career path is right for you – whilst giving you the essential expertise you need to get there.

And, with schemes offering full training, development, and support, graduates also benefit from the ability to quickly progress onto more advanced roles within an organisation.

But it’s not just experience you could gain. Graduate schemes usually involve interactions with people from all areas of a business, meaning networking in the right way could also help you to go further in future opportunities.

Because sometimes ‘who you know’ really does help…


Who is eligible for a grad scheme?

Most organisations will look for graduates who have achieved a 2.1 or above when recruiting for their graduate schemes.

However, many companies may still consider applicants with a 2.2, providing they’re able to back up their skills with other relevant experience and/or qualifications.


When do I need to apply?

Deadlines will vary depending on the specific graduate scheme and organisation.

However, with many organisations requiring grads to submit their applications almost a year in advance of their start date, being ready to apply within the first term of your final year of university is usually a must.

Although some opportunities will work on an open-recruitment basis (meaning they’ll take applications all year round) – this may still mean the scheme is no longer available once all vacancies are filled.


What will the application process involve?

Due to their often generous salaries and career progression opportunities, graduate schemes are notoriously competitive amongst university leavers. So if you want to be accepted, putting the effort into your application is vital.

Although the steps following your application will vary from scheme to scheme, the high quantity of applicants usually means most graduate scheme processes include an initial phone interview followed by a group interview or an assessment day.

And as with any interview, preparation is the key to standing out.

Whether it’s through doing thorough research on the role and company, ensuring your relevant skills and education are foregrounded on your CV and cover letter, or boosting your experience with volunteer/freelance work, applying for a graduate scheme involves covering (and preparing for) all bases – from the early application process to the interview.

What graduate employers really want


What companies offer graduate schemes?

There are a range of opportunities on offer this year, with grad schemes available across a variety of sectors and organisations.

Here are just a few of the companies you could work for:

  • Aldi (retail)
  • Deloitte (banking & finance)
  • Compass Group (consumer goods)
  • Balfour Beauty (engineering)
  • Fuller’s (hospitality)
  • Argos (marketing & advertising)
  • com (technology)
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car (business management)
  • (this is in no way a biased entry)

The most in demand graduate employers 2016


Still searching for your perfect position? View all available graduate schemes now


Find a job