has rebranded! We're now! Read what this means for you here

Graduate schemes: All you need to know

Written on 28 August 2020

Bagging a graduate scheme can be a great way to kick start your career. Here’s everything you need to know!

Graduate schemes: All you need to know

What is a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes (or grad schemes) are structured training programmes. They’re designed to give graduates hands-on experience in the post-uni job world.

You’ll work and get trained at a real company. The aim is to develop your skills so you can climb to the top of the career ladder!

What do graduate schemes involve?

Every graduate scheme is structured differently. Usually you’ll move around and work in different departments to help you understand how the business works.

How long do graduate schemes last?

They vary in length but grad schemes normally last between one and three years (they can be shorter or longer).

Are they the same as graduate jobs?

No, they’re slightly different. Here’s how:

Graduate schemes:

  • They’re typically offered by large well known companies
  • They’re fixed (not permanent jobs)
  • Applications open a year in advance

Graduate jobs:

  • You’re employed from the start
  • You apply once you’ve graduated
  • They’re offered by firms of all sizes

Should I apply?

Graduate schemes can be a good way to get your foot in the door of a company or industry, but they’re not for everyone. It depends on your personal goals and aspirations.

Benefits of graduate schemes

Graduate schemes give you the chance to:

  • Develop your skills
  • Gain practical experience
  • Work for a big name
  • Earn money

Are there any drawbacks?

Graduate schemes can be great but:

  • They’re competitive
  • The application process can be lengthy
  • There’s no guarantee you’ll get hired permanently

Who can apply?

The clue is in the name, graduate schemes are for graduates. You’ll need a university degree to be eligible.

You might need a degree in a specific subject to be considered for certain schemes. For example, a computing degree for a programming scheme at an IT company.

What grade do I need?

Most schemes expect you to have a 2:1 or higher. But, some firms are flexible and will consider a 2.2, especially if you’ve got useful skills and experience.

Which companies offer graduate schemes?

Grad schemes come in different shapes and sizes. Businesses across a wide range of industries offer them.

You can find all UK graduate schemes on our graduate schemes page

Will I get paid?

Yes. Get your umbrellas out because grad schemes make it rain!

Salaries vary between industries. The Institute of Student Employers states the average graduate salary in the UK is £26,260 and £28,000 in London.

Will I get hired permanently?

It’s common to be offered a permanent job after completing your graduate scheme, but it’s not guaranteed.

Each company is different. Speak to them directly to work out how they decide on who they keep after a scheme.

What if they don’t keep me?

Don’t worry. Having a scheme on your CV is a big look! It can help you stand out when you apply for jobs.

What If I don’t get a graduate scheme?

Keep your chin up. We understand it’s disheartening but don’t give up. There are plenty of alternatives out there, from graduate jobs to development programmes.

How do I apply?

Normally the first step is to complete an online application, which may involve uploading a CV and cover letter. After this, you’re likely to face psychometric tests, assessment centres and interviews.

The application process can vary between firms, so prepare to adapt to whatever comes your way!

Practice makes perfect

Psychometric tests

You can try practice tests on websites like SHL Direct, which is a leading provider of psychometric tests. These tests give you a taste of what to expect.


Have a look at the practice interview questions online to get a feel of what you might get asked in an interview.

Some companies also give interview tips and guidance on the careers section of their website. Others have a section dedicated to graduates, make sure you check it out!

When do applications open?

Applications normally open around September, with start dates occurring a year later.

At the end of your second year, keep your eyes peeled and apply for schemes you’re interested in.

Apply as soon as possible

Competition is high, the sooner you apply, the better.

According to the Institute of Student Employers, there are 75 applications per vacancy on average. Once schemes have been filled, it could be at least 12 months before you get another chance to apply.

You may also like