“I want a graduate job”… but what is a graduate job?

What is a “graduate” job?

This might sound like a simple question on the surface, but actually it’s a lot more complicated than it looks.

A job for graduates

Traditionally, the term was used for jobs where a degree was required i.e. a job for graduates.

Are these just graduate schemes, then? No.  In fact, the term ‘graduate job’ covers a much broader remit. Many roles will be open to graduates from any degree background. However if the employer does require a certain degree subject, if you have a different degree but substantial experience in that field, it may still be worth applying – contact the employer to ask if you’re unsure.

Examples might be a Marketing Officer, a Project Manager or a Graduate Engineer. QM JobOnline is particularly useful for finding graduate jobs. You can also check the professional body for the industy you are looking to get in to for further advice.

  • Always read the job description, as job titles can often be interchangeable or misleading. For example, ‘assistant librarian’ jobs in academic libraries often have a higher level of pay and responsibility than ‘librarian’ jobs in public or college libraries.
  • The recruitment timelines for graduate jobs tend to vary more than those for graduate schemes. Generally speaking, the larger organisations will recruit earlier, but recruitment can take place anywhere from 1-4 months ahead of the start date.
  • Start dates crop up all year round, not just September. The New Year period, January-February, can be a common time for organisations to recruit.

Graduate schemes

Graduate schemes are formal training programmes generally run by larger employers. They usually last between one and two years, often with a rotational structure that allows the graduate to experience a variety of departments or functions. Normally this is liked to gaining a professional qualification e.g. CIMA, CIM or CIPD.

Most graduate schemes recruit in the autumn term and have lengthy and competitive application procedures. Make sure you give yourself time to plan and make a note of the deadlines well in advance. This type of roles makes up less than 15% of graduate vacancies, so  are less common than you might think.

QM Jobonline, Target, Prospects and Milkround are good websties to use to find graduate schemes. You can also visit the company website directly to find out about their specific programme.

  • Graduate schemes don’t exist in every industry.  They are more common in areas such as finance, consultancy and retail, for example, but are rare in sectors such as policy or the arts.
  • Think about how much you’d like to specialise. Would you suit a general graduate scheme, or a more specific stream such as Marketing or HR?
  • Most graduate schemes recruit in the autumn term and have lengthy and competitive application procedures. Make sure you give yourself time to plan and make a note of the deadlines well in advance.

Entry-level jobs

Historically, entry-level jobs were for candidates without experience and possibly without a degree (think of an office junior or trainee type role).  But in today’s  competitive job market, gradutes with work experience are applying for these jobs as a way to gain valuable work experience and to make contacts, making this an excellent stepping stone into more senior roles. Example job titles might include HR Assistant, Trainee Buyer or Account Executive.

  • Working your way up in an organisation is common, and not all entry-level roles will require a degree. These roles can give you an in-depth insight into how the organisation and wider industry works, while enabling you to build valuable networks.
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