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