Graduate Schemes: The Beginner’s Guide

graduate holding tablet computer Shutterstock

There are many options available to graduates. From pursuing postgraduate degrees to taking a year off abroad, the opportunities are truly endless. However, if you are someone who’s interested in getting a job as soon as possible, then you need to consider what kind of employment opportunities there are available for graduates. Getting a graduate job is one option that will allow you to start earning and learning, but if you have high career aspirations, you may want to look into graduate schemes instead.

Essentially, graduate schemes are programmes specifically targeted to high-achieving graduates who want to enter the professional world on the right foot. Getting in one of these programmes is extremely difficult as the competition is high, but the rewards will definitely make it worth your while as you’ll be expected to work for one of the big players in your industry and your earning bar will be higher than the rest of your fellow graduates.


What Are Graduate Schemes?

Graduate schemes are highly structured programmes that target recent graduates. They generally combine work and training which is why they are such an ideal option for graduates. These schemes are extremely common in the finance, IT and retail sectors, and they are generally offered by large companies who can afford a long and complicated recruitment process as well as the costs that are involved in training a new employee. Successful completion generally leads to permanent positions, which typically come with increased responsibilities and duties. Of course, even if you are not offered a permanent position, you should know that graduate schemes will always look appealing on your CV and hiring managers will always hold you in high regard if you were chosen for one as a graduate.

It’s important to note that competition can be extremely fierce. There are only so many positions offered in each sector and the demand is quite high, which is why, according to data, only 15 per cent of applicants will manage to get selected for such programmes


Different programmes have different duration times, and the duration of your scheme will depend heavily on your employer and their needs. Generally speaking, it can take anything between three months and three years to complete a scheme. The key to extending your contract and receiving an offer for a permanent position with more duties and responsibilities is to showcase your skills. Excelling at your work, taking the initiative and demonstrating resourcefulness will guarantee a promotion.


The fact that these schemes are so competitive means that the requirements are quite demanding. Companies tend to choose the best of the best. Any previous work in the field will help you get a leg up on the competition but it’s not required. What is necessary, however, is a good degree. A 2:1 or above will get your application reviewed, although many organisations will also consider applicants with a 2:2.



  • High salary: Generally speaking, graduate schemes tend to pay well, especially when compared to entry-level positions that are also available to graduates.
  • Job security: Having secured a job for the next one to three years is a big deal, especially if you are someone who has a student loan to repay.
  • Training: One of the biggest perks of graduate schemes is that they’ll teach you the ins and outs of the industry from the start. Many programmes will allow you to gain further professional qualifications, which can mean a lot for your career.



  • No creativity: These programmes are known for their strict structure, which essentially means that an employee will never have room to show their innovative and creative spirit.
  • Only available to specific sectors: Not all sectors offer graduate schemes. In fact, they are more popular in the financial, IT and retail industries.
  • Highly competitive: Competition is fierce at every step, from entering the programme to showing your worth and getting a promotion or simply being assigned more responsibilities.


The Application Process

In order to ensure you’re accepted into a graduate scheme, you need to take the application process seriously. However, as many students suffer from stress and anxiety precisely due to the fact that this process is extremely long and stressful, you need to plan ahead to make things easier for you.

Step 1: Choose a few graduate schemes you are interested in. Either look by employer or by what fits your skills and interests.

Step 2: Update your CV and build a website: The same rules as with any other recruitment process apply here as well. You need to impress the hiring manager, so you need a space where you can demonstrate your skills.

Step 3: Update your online presence: Make sure that you have a professional online presence as this will help you win points with the recruiter.

Step 4: Keep within the deadlines: Generally, applications are between September and December a year before the starting date.

Step 5: Prepare for the job interview: The interview process for graduate schemes tends to be quite long. You will be called in for many interviews as candidates get eliminated from stage to stage, so it’s important to be prepared.


Where to Look for Graduate Schemes

It’s always a good idea to start looking into graduate schemes based on the employer of your choice. Some of the companies that offer these programmes are leaders in their industries, while they also have a great reputation as employers.

If searching by employer feels like you’re limiting your options, you can always check out job boards. Most job boards have a designated section for graduates. Below you’ll find the best employers as featured on The Times while you’ll also find a few suggestions for various job boards.

Top Employers

Top Job Boards

The job boards below specialise in graduate jobs, so you are likely to find more entry-level positions than graduate schemes. It is important, however, that you have a look at what you can find here as well, as you don’t want to miss on any opportunities.

  1. Milkround: A comprehensive website for all things graduate, Milkround offers one of the best job boards for graduate schemes. You can search either by location or industry, and you can even set up alerts to notify you whenever there’s a position available that matches your interests.
  2. This job board will do all the hard work for you. Signing up means receiving personalised job opportunities and news on the latest graduate schemes.
  3. Prospects: One of the most comprehensive websites for career information, Prospects also has a job board for graduate schemes.
  4. Reed: An extremely customisable job board, Reed offers you the opportunity to select any filter you want, including distance, money, job type, etc.
  5. Graduate Recruitment Bureau: This board will not only match you to opportunities at home and abroad but will also give you the opportunity to explore hidden job opportunities.


Finding a graduate scheme can be an excellent first step in the career world. But, to achieve the best results, you’ll need to put a lot of effort into it. Start early on and ensure that your application is spot on before you submit it. If you have any professional acquaintances that might help push things along, don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance.

Do you have any questions? If you do, please let me know in the comments section below.