Graduate Scheme

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.

Latest graduate scheme jobs
What is a Graduate Scheme (And How Is It Different from a Graduate Job)?

Essentially, a graduate scheme is a structured training programme that helps you develop key skills as you work and study, perhaps with the offer of a permanent job with the company at the end.

Graduate schemes differ from graduate jobs, in that a graduate job is a permanent entry-level opportunity typically offered to those who have already graduated (so you skip the ‘scheme’ stage altogether!)

Training-wise, graduate jobs are far less structured, and you can probably expect a lower salary than you would if you were joining a scheme…

…though the upside of a graduate job is that you won’t be competing against other graduates for a permanent position at the end, since you’ll already have one!

If you’re unsure about your exact career path, or you want a more in-depth learning experience at a ‘big name’ company, graduate schemes are a great way to get your foot on that first rung of the career ladder.

They’ll help provide the support and confidence you’ll need to work your way up, and you’ll hone key skills that include leadership, communication, and problem-solving.

However, due to their many benefits, graduate schemes can be extremely competitive, both at application stage, and when you’re actually working on them.

This means you can expect a rigorous application process, then stiff competition from other graduates vying for a coveted permanent opportunity at the end.

(Translation: you have to be prepared to put the work in!)

Before you apply, be sure to check out our guide to find out which graduate scheme could be right for you.

When Do Graduate Schemes Open, and When Should You Apply?

Graduate schemes are available throughout the year, although companies officially open their applications between September and December.

In fact, assessment centres can kick off as early as October, with many employers also starting to send formal offers around this time.

This means that the earlier that you can get your foot in the door, the better, as places will usually be limited, particularly for large, high-profile companies.

Even if you think you’ve got ages, since the closing date isn’t for a couple of months, it’s important to get that application in as soon as you can, since some employers will close applications once they’re in a position to make final offers.

What Are the Top Graduate Schemes in the UK?

We’ve explained some more about graduate scheme structures, entry criteria, and graduate employer profiles below.

But if you can’t wait to apply, here are some of the very best graduate schemes currently on offer from some of the UK’s leading employers.

View Current Graduate Schemes

How are Graduate Schemes Structured?

Graduate scheme details will differ from one employer to the next, since they depend on individual priorities for both the industry and the company.

Typically, a graduate scheme runs from 12 to 36 months, and will usually involve a structured training plan that sees you spending time in different departments.

You’ll get to know the people who work for and with the company – graduate schemes are fantastic for making contacts that could set you up for life! – as well as gaining a greater understanding about the business.

Often, you’ll be assigned a mentor who will oversee your training and development, as well as being there to share ideas and answer questions.

(Now you can probably see why graduate scheme opportunities are so competitive!)

What Degree Classification Do You Need to Apply for A Graduate Scheme?

Many people think that you need a minimum of a 2:1 in your degree to be able to get onto a graduate scheme.

But while many employers do have rigorous education requirements, it’s also 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.

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

What Salary Can You Expect to Earn on a Graduate Scheme?

Ah, the golden question!

Salaries differ by industry, company, and location, though generally you’ll be offered a higher salary than you would for an entry-level graduate job.

Which Sectors Run Graduate Schemes?

With just about every sector offering a graduate scheme, let’s say you’ve got plenty of options!

Here’s an overview of the most popular graduate scheme sectors in the UK.

  • 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 alaw 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 Jobs and Schemes

With many of the country’s biggest organisations based in London, it’s hardly a surprise that lots of graduate schemes are based in the capital.

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 graduate jobs to found all around the country too. 

For example, if you’re based in the North, there are lots of opportunities to explore in the financial centre ofManchester, and in nearby Liverpool and Leeds.

In the Midlands, Birminghamis a major manufacturing and engineering hub, with giant automotive firms such as Jaguar Land Rover based there, whileNottingham 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, whileGlasgow’sshipbuilding 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 Graduate Scheme Employers

The good news is that there are lots of different graduate employers out there, across a wide range of industries and sectors… so you’re sure to find a company that suits you right down to the ground!

To give you an idea, here’s a quick rundown of some of the leading graduate scheme employers.

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 the marketing world.

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

When it comes to graduate schemes, skills and development potential will often be more important than experience.

However, particularly in competitive industries, experience will be a definite plus.  Here’s a quick guide to some things you can do to help boost your application.

  • 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.

Can You Apply for Graduate Schemes After Graduation?

The short answer here is yes, you may still be able to apply for graduate schemes after you’ve graduated.

However, you’ll have to wait until the next application cycle comes around, which will usually be in September.

Will You Get a Permanent Job at the End of Your Graduate Scheme?

Happily, it’s very common for graduates to be offered a full-time role with a company at the end of their scheme… since they’ve invested all that time in training you, why wouldn’t they want to hire you afterwards?

However, there is no guarantee.  Ultimately, the decision is down to the organisation which is why it’s super important that you use the scheme as an opportunity to learn, impress, and really perform at your best!

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

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