Graduate Schemes 2020

Debut pairs you with hundreds of top UK employers to find you the graduate scheme that suits you best. We’ll guide you through the whole process with everything you need to know about graduate schemes, highlight some of the best schemes available right now and tell you how you can turn that grad scheme into your dream job.

What is a Graduate Scheme?

A graduate scheme is essentially a structured training programme to help you develop your key skills while on the job.

They’re a great way to get your foot on that first rung of the career ladder, giving you the support to start to work your way up as you gain more experience at the company.

The specifics of how each scheme works will differ from one employer to the next, with some lasting longer than others and they’re also usually very competitive, especially at leading companies.

While they’re a great way to build your skills and get started in your career, graduate schemes are also a great networking opportunity.

Not only will you be mixing with fellow graduates, but also experts within your sector and some of the more senior members of the team and build up some contacts within the industry.

However, one downside that is sometimes noted is longer working hours, but all of that hard work will pay off in the long run, with a qualification in the bag, and in many cases, a full-time job!

Top Graduate Schemes

If you’re ready to start applying to graduate schemes, here are some of the very best that are on offer right now from some of the UK’s leading employers.

Which Sectors Run Graduate Schemes?

Graduate schemes are available across all kinds of different sectors, with many different careers and jobs available, meaning you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a graduate scheme.

  • Banking & Finance – All of the major banks offer banking/finance graduate schemes, but finance experts are in demand across all sectors. Careers in this sector are usually rewarded with high wages, with a high demand for skilled workers, making them an attractive proposition for graduates. However, there are also many roles within banks that don’t require a finance or numerical degree at all, with openings in tech, marketing and HR, to name a few!
  • Marketing & Media – This sector is proving increasingly popular with graduates, with a wide variety of roles available at organisations such as the BBC. Graduates in these schemes increasingly require applicants to have good digital skills, with technology playing a much bigger role in these creative industries.
  • HR – Graduates are particularly in demand in the busy human resources departments of some of the world’s largest companies as they seek to adapt to the changing demands of the modern workplace.
  • Consumer & Retail – You might be surprised by the variety of roles that are available in the consumer and retail sector, with some impressive opportunities to explore.
  • Automotive & Transport – Whether it’s as part of the country’s ever-growing transport infrastructure, or in automotive manufacturing, graduates are always in demand in the world of transport.
  • Charity & Public Sector – If you want to focus on helping people and working for good causes, there are plenty of graduate schemes available with charities and in the public sector too, which can be amongst the most rewarding graduate schemes out there.
  • Education – Education is another incredibly rewarding sector, with lots of routes to explore, such as the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). Whether your interest lies in early years, primary or secondary education, teachers are in high demand and you can enter it with most degrees and you may qualify for a bursary too.
  • Energy – Industries such as oil and gas, renewable energy and nuclear power are some of the country’s most innovative and vital sectors, with a wide range of roles available across the spectrum.
  • Engineering & Industrial – This exciting sector is always on the lookout for new graduates. It’s a very varied industry, with jobs ranging from construction work in your local community to working in big industries such as aerospace and aviation.
  • Hospitality – If you consider yourself a real people person and pride yourself on your organisation skills, then a graduate scheme in hospitality might be for you, including jobs in event management.
  • Law – The law sector is known for its rewarding salaries and varied career opportunities, but it’s also extremely competitive, so why not try and get your foot in the door with a graduate scheme? If you fancy getting into the legal profession but haven’t studied law, you may still be eligible for one of these schemes, which often actually welcome those from other degree backgrounds (there’s also the option of taking a law conversion course). Note that programmes in this sector are actually called ‘training contracts’ and most of the big law firms recruit for these at least two years in advance.
  • Pharmaceutical – From research and development to clinical trials, there are all kinds of exciting careers available in the science-focused world of pharmaceuticals.
  • Property & Construction – There are all kinds of careers in the property industry, from designing to building and selling, whether your interest like in architecture, engineering, development or town planning.
  • Technology – Tech is an exciting and creative sector, with high demand for graduates with degrees in subjects like IT, computing, software development and digital engineering, or even if you just have a talent for coding or are good with numbers. Going into this cutting edge sector will give you the perfect grounding in developing the tech of tomorrow.
  • Accountancy/Professional Services – Grad schemes in this sector cover things such as auditing, tax, consultancy and advisory services for major firms around the world. All major companies will have an accounting and finance department, meaning that you’ll have a wide choice of fields and industries to go into if you choose to go down this route. Some of the biggest employers in this sector include EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC.

Top locations for Graduate Schemes

With many of the country’s biggest organisations based in London, it’s little surprise to see that lots of graduate schemes are based in the capital and you can check out all our London graduate jobs here, across all kinds of different sectors.

Home to numerous businesses and banks from around the world, London is one of the world’s leading financial and business centres, with loads of opportunities for recent graduates.

However, there are exciting jobs to found all around the country too. For example, if you’re based in the North, there are lots of opportunities to explore, with Manchester acting as the region’s financial centre, while nearby Liverpool and Leeds have many schemes with companies in finance and business too.

In the Midlands, Birmingham is a major manufacturing and engineering hub, with giant automotive firms such as Jaguar Land Rover based there, while Nottingham is also home to several notable graduate employers too.

Up in Scotland, the capital, Edinburgh, has a wide variety of openings, including many in the creative and health sectors, while https://debut.careers/locations/graduate-jobs-glasgow/Glasgow’s shipbuilding heritage has given way to a thriving financial and retail industry.

Finally, Cardiff is the centre for graduate schemes in Wales, where lots of businesses are based, as well as the Welsh hubs for both the BBC and ITV.

Top Employers for Graduate Schemes

There are so many different graduate employers out there, across many different industries and sectors, but here are some of the best if you’re looking to kick start your career.

Barclays – One of the nation’s leading banks for over 325 years, Barclays operate in over 40 countries around the world, with around 85,000 employees. If you want to help move, lend, invest and protect money for people and clients around the world, they have a wealth of opportunities, no matter what your degree background.

Capgemini – Headquartered in Paris, Capgemini are one of the world’s biggest providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services. They employ over 200,000 people in over 40 countries, including here in the UK.

Cisco – Headquartered in Silicon Valley, this conglomerate manufactures and sells networking hardware, software, telecommunications equipment and many other high-technology services and products. They’ve also acquired many subsidiaries over the years, such as OpenDNS, Webex, Jabber and Jasper.

EY – Ernst & Young (also known as EY) is a professional services based in London which is considered one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, primarily focusing on assurance, tax, consulting and advisory services, although they’ve also branched out into other markets, such as strategy, operations, HR, technology and financial services consulting. They’re consistently named as one of the best accounting firms to work for and currently employ over 270,000 people around the world.

J.P. Morgan – J.P. Morgan is the largest bank in the US, and currently ranked as the sixth-largest in the world by total assets, which are estimated to stand at $2.678 trillion. Their Europe, Middle East and Africa business is based in London, with lots of graduate scheme openings if you’re looking to make your way in the finance industry.

L’Oreal – The world’s largest cosmetics company, L’Oréal own over 30 leading brands in hair colour, skin care, sun protection, make-up, perfume, hair care and more, including the likes of Ralph Lauren, Diesel, Maybelline and the Body Shop.

Linklaters – This London-based law firm is a member of the ‘Magic Circle’ of British law firms, with over 2,800 lawyers employed across 30 offices in 20 countries. They specialise in many different practice areas, including corporate/M&A, capital markets, litigation, banking and finance, restructuring and insolvency, antitrust and tax, with many FTSE 100 clients on their books.

Newton Europe – Newton work with some of the world’s biggest organisations to ensure their financial and operational success, with functions across a number of different sectors, such as construction, beverages and health, so they welcome graduates from a number of different backgrounds.

O2 – O2 are the UK’s second biggest mobile network operator, with 26 million subscribers and are a great option if you’re looking to get into the telecommunications sector. They offer the opportunity to specialise in a couple of different areas from strategy and operations to IT and networks.

Siemens – Siemens are a huge global enterprise, working across a large number of industries and sectors, making them the largest manufacturing company in Europe, at the forefront of connecting cities and communities. In the UK, they employ over 15,000 people in 25 major offices and 13 manufacturing sites, with opportunities all over the country. 

WPP – WPP is one of the world’s largest advertising companies, employing over 190,000 people across 112 countries. They work in everything from marketing strategy and communication to advertising, ensuring that during your time here, you’ll pick up a great all round experience of the world of marketing.

Why Apply for a Graduate Scheme?

So, why should you pursue a graduate scheme? One of the main benefits is that you’ll receive expert training while you’re on the job, but you’ll also be building up valuable experience of what it’s like to be in the workplace and it’s the ideal way to put your skills into real-world practice.

Another benefit is the networking opportunities that a graduate scheme offers. You’ll be meeting numerous clients and various industry professionals during your time on your graduate scheme, which will all help you to build up a network of contacts that will be invaluable further down the line in your career.

Something that many graduates also find, is that enrolling in a graduate scheme also opens up some exciting opportunities for travel.

This obviously depends on the type of career path that you’re following and the company that you’ll be working with, but you never know, a graduate scheme could give you a chance to fulfil that urge to travel that many people get immediately after graduating while furthering your career at the same time.

After all those years of living on a student budget, you’ll also be glad to know that even though you’re starting out at the bottom, graduate schemes offer a competitive salary.

Be sure to check out our guide to find out which graduate scheme is right for you.

What Work Experience Do I Need to Secure Employment in a Graduate Scheme?

It goes without saying that experience is one of the most important things that a potential employer will look at, but what exactly are they looking for? Here’s a quick guide to some of the types of things that will help you in different industries.

  • Law – Law is a very competitive field, so it can be tricky to get any experience under your belt. However, there are a couple of things that you can do, such as vacation schemes and mini-pupillages, which are short placements during your second or third year. You can also attend open days, ask to shadow someone at a firm, join your university’s law society and carry out some pro bono work for those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal advice.
  • Engineering – Your university course will probably include a year in industry, which is the best way to gain the necessary experience in this field, but if not, they should help you organise your own. You can also look into placements over the Christmas and Easter holidays. Again, these can be competitive, so be sure to keep trying if you’re struggling to get anywhere and maybe try to think outside of the box.
  • Media & Marketing – Work experience in these industries can be very informal, and while some of the bigger agencies will offer placements and internships, a lot of this comes down to who you know. Be persistent and don’t be afraid to go to smaller agencies and publications.
  • Finance & Banking – There are lots of internships and placements available in finance and banking, although they are competitive. There are also insight days and work shadowing which are easier to get into, as well as ‘first year programmes’, which are internships for a week or two at a firm which are designed specifically for first year students.
  • Consumer & Retail – A year in industry is very helpful when trying to secure a place on a retail grad scheme, but remember that this is a wide and varied sector, so be sure to select a placement that is going to be relevant to the kind of places that you’ll be applying to in future.
  • IT & Technology – While there are lots of placements and internships which will be very helpful in this industry, you should also look into temporary jobs that you can work around your studies, or even your own personal IT projects, including things you’ve done with university societies and volunteering projects.
  • Law – Law is a very competitive field, so it can be tricky to get any experience under your belt. However, there are a couple of things that you can do, such as vacation schemes and mini-pupillages, which are short placements during your second or third year. You can also attend open days, ask to shadow someone at a firm, join your university’s law society and carry out some pro bono work for those who would otherwise be unable to afford legal advice.
  • Engineering – Your university course will probably include a year in industry, which is the best way to gain the necessary experience in this field, but if not, they should help you organise your own. You can also look into placements over the Christmas and Easter holidays. Again, these can be competitive, so be sure to keep trying if you’re struggling to get anywhere and maybe try to think outside of the box.
  • Media & Marketing – Work experience in these industries can be very informal, and while some of the bigger agencies will offer placements and internships, a lot of this comes down to who you know. Be persistent and don’t be afraid to go to smaller agencies and publications.
  • Finance & Banking – There are lots of internships and placements available in finance and banking, although they are competitive. There are also insight days and work shadowing which are easier to get into, as well as ‘first year programmes’, which are internships for a week or two at a firm which are designed specifically for first year students.
  • Consumer & Retail – A year in industry is very helpful when trying to secure a place on a retail grad scheme, but remember that this is a wide and varied sector, so be sure to select a placement that is going to be relevant to the kind of places that you’ll be applying to in future.
  • IT & Technology – While there are lots of placements and internships which will be very helpful in this industry, you should also look into temporary jobs that you can work around your studies, or even your own personal IT projects, including things you’ve done with university societies and volunteering projects.

For more information, be sure to check out our guide to the work experience you need to secure a graduate job.

When Do Graduate Schemes Open & When Should You Apply?

Graduate schemes can be found right throughout the year, but lots of companies start opening applications between September and December, so this is when you’ll want to keep a particularly close eye on openings.

Assessment centres can start as early as October, with many employers starting to make offers around then too.

The earlier that you can get your foot in the door, the better, as places will usually be limited, especially with bigger companies and if you miss your chance, you probably won’t be able to apply again to that company until next year.

Even if the closing date isn’t for a couple of months, it’s important to get that application in ASAP, as employers may close applications earlier if they’ve already filled the role.

This being said, a small number of organisations might reopen for applications in the spring or summer if they haven’t filled all of their places.

As the name implies, these are programmes for graduates, so some will only accept those who have graduated in the last two or three years and many will specifically be looking for students who are in their final year at the time of application, ready to start the following September.

For a more in-depth guide, check out our guide to when to apply for graduate jobs.

Can You Apply for Graduate Schemes After Graduation?

As we’ve said, the majority of schemes will have a deadline between September and December of your final year and it’s advised that you apply as early as possible to ensure that you don’t miss out (some will also open up some more places around the time of your graduation the spring or summer though).

However, if you still haven’t secured a graduate scheme, don’t worry, because you can still apply for schemes after your graduation!

You’ll have to wait until the next wave of applications rolls around and you’ll still have to compete with all of the new graduates though.

What Degree Classification Do You Need to Get Onto a Grad Scheme?

Many people think that you need a minimum of a 2:1 in your degree to be able to get onto a grad scheme and while many employers do have requirements such as this, it’s important to remember that many will accept those who graduated with a 2:2.

Notable examples of graduate schemes that are more flexible include the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme, EY, Arcadia, Barclays, Capgemini and all of MBDA’s graduate programmes.

If the grad scheme of your dream won’t accept a 2:2 degree, then there will likely be others in your sector that will, but there are many different routes into a career, so don’t be disheartened!

For some more inspiration if you’re looking for a graduate scheme with a 2:2 degree, here are some of the best jobs that you can get with a 2:2.

How Long are Graduate Schemes?

Every grad scheme is different and the length of the programme will depend upon your employer and industry. 

For example, in accountancy and finance, schemes can last three to five years, while in law, you could be in a grad scheme for six years!

The majority though will last for around one to three years and you’ll likely spend a few months in each department as you work your way around the company, learning how things work and allowing you to settle on an area that you wish to specialise in.

Will You Get a Job at the End of It?

It is very common for graduates to be offered a full-time role with a company when they come to the end of their scheme, but ultimately, this is down to the organisation themselves and there are no guarantees, which is it’s super important that you use a grad scheme as an opportunity to impress and really perform to your best to give yourself the best possible chance to be offered a permanent position.

It’s important that you check all the finer details of the programme before you apply so that you’ve got an idea of where you’ll stand afterwards.

If you are lucky enough to receive a job offer at the end of your graduate scheme, be sure to consult our job offers guide for some advice before you accept.

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