What is a graduate scheme and how do I apply?

What is a graduate scheme and how do I apply?

This article was written by the Great British Mag content team on 31 March 2021.

If you’re thinking about what to do after you graduate and have been considering graduate schemes in the UK, here’s what you need to know. 

What is a graduate scheme? 

Graduate schemes – which are also sometimes called graduate training schemes – are programmes designed especially for students who have recently finished university. They usually last one or two years and are offered by businesses as opposed to educational institutions. 

Think of a graduate scheme like a hybrid of a job and a training course – you’ll be working and earning money as you learn the key skills that are required to be successful in the industry you’re in. 

Yep, you read that right – you’re basically being paid to learn. Although don’t expect an easy ride; graduate schemes are full-time positions and can be really hard graft – not to mention difficult to get a place on.

What industries offer them?

Whatever field you’re thinking of starting a career in, there will likely be graduate schemes to suit: from HR to finance, marketing to journalism, law to retail. 

Many grad schemes give you the chance to work within different departments of the same company too, so that you can build up really well-rounded experience and start to figure out which niche you’d like to explore more in your career. 

You may notice that most of the programmes you come across are offered by very large corporations, such as well-known banks and other internationally recognisable brands. But there are plenty out there run by smaller companies too, so have a think about which would suit you the most. 

How much do they pay?

Grad scheme salaries vary hugely across industries and companies. Hiring platform Totaljobs puts the average pay packet at £26,000 a year (although in London it’s a little higher, at £29,000). 

Grad schemes in industries such as law and finance tend to pay the most, while programmes in publishing and retail offering much lower salaries on the whole. 

What are the benefits of graduate schemes?

As opposed to doing all your learning on the job – as you would if you took a graduate job after university – grad schemes offer much more structured and formal training. Some will even promise a formal qualification at the end of your time with the company. They’re essentially designed to continue the learning from your degree while also offering practical work experience. 

There should be a good level of support on a grad scheme and, as previously mentioned, you’ll get to try your hand at various different roles within the company, as opposed to being confined to one specific position. 

With graduate schemes usually offered on a fixed-term basis, you’ll have decent job security for the duration of your time on the programme. And once you leave, you’ll not only have relevant work experience to add to your CV but also specially honed skills and knowledge, making you an attractive candidate for other jobs in the sector. 

Will I be offered a job after the programme has ended?

It’s quite common for graduates to be offered a permanent role, but this isn’t always the case. The advert for the programme may say if there is a potential permanent position available at the end, but if nothing is mentioned it’s safest to assume there’s no guarantee.

That said, if the business is impressed with your work and a role becomes available, you might have favourable chances of being hired.

How do I search for schemes?

There isn’t one centralised place to search for grad schemes – like jobs, they’re advertised across different platforms as well as on individual company websites.

  • So have a look on job sites and make the most of any career fairs your university runs. It’s also worth getting in touch with the careers service at your university to see if they can help you with your search. And if you have a wish list of companies you would like to work for, get in touch with their HR departments.

When should I apply?

Graduate schemes often start in September, and some companies begin the recruitment process more than a year before. This means that you should start looking the summer before your final year at university. If you miss the application deadline, you may have to wait until the next intake a year later – so it’s better to start the hunt early. 

That said, some companies simply open applications as and when positions become available, and others you’ll find are continuously recruiting, all year round. So no matter what time of year is is when you start thinking about grad schemes, it’s worth having a look to see what’s out there and noting down deadlines.

How can I increase my chances of getting a place on a grad scheme?

As places on graduate training schemes are so competitive, it’s important to put time and attention into your applications. This probably means carefully selecting a few to apply for as opposed to sending out large numbers of applications, because applications can be very time consuming.

The earlier you start your prep the better – this means scoping out companies that you’re interested in as early as your first and second year at university. And if you know where you would like to work after you graduate find out if they have a summer internship programme. Being able to demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of an industry by having relevant work experience on your CV will be a real bonus for your grad scheme application.

Be sure to thoroughly research each business you apply to, so you get an idea of what they’re looking for in their candidates. Use this knowledge to carefully tailor your application to that specific company, highlighting your relevant skills and characteristics, and showing that you’ve taken the time to get to know the business and the role.

Make use of your university’s career service too – they will be able to help you with your CV, interview prep and other aspects of your application.

What grade will I need to be considered?

Of course, the higher pass grade you get for your degree the better – you want to impress recruiters after all. Most graduate training schemes require candidates to have a 2:1 or higher, but if you have or are expecting a 2:2 then all is not lost. Some employers will consider lower grades and some schemes only ask for a 2:2 to begin with, so check the requirements on the advert.

If you have a lower grade, it’s worth thinking about how you can bolster other parts of your CV. Having work experience, great soft skills and a demonstrable interest in the industry you’re looking to break into are also important and can help you to stand out from other applicants.

What visa will I need for a graduate scheme?

The post-study work visa – also known as The Graduate Route – should cover you for the duration of your grad scheme. This visa lasts for two years for an undergrad and three years for a postgrad, starting from when your university course ends. Just remember to apply for it before your student visa runs out and applications can be made from 1st July 2021.

If you are offered a permanent job, you may be eligible for a Skilled Worker visa, depending on the role and the field of work.

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