What is a graduate scheme?

At this time of year, you might be hearing a lot of people talking about graduate schemes; but what do you know about them?

A graduate scheme is a structured programme that combines working and training, targeted at recent graduates. They allow graduates to experience many aspects of both the role and the organisation as a whole, over a period of anything from 3 months to 3 years.

Things you need to know …

  • There are a limited number of spaces available on any graduate training scheme, so employers will set minimum requirements to qualify for entry, in a similar way to when you applied to university. It’s common for employers to expect a 2:1 degree or higher for most graduate schemes (see here for information on schemes available to graduates with a 2.2).
  • In some sectors, such as finance, retail management and surveying, graduate schemes are common in the large companies. Other industries such as the charity sector, journalism and NGO fields run very few graduate schemes.
  • Application deadlines are often from September to December, almost a year before the start date, so you’ll need to start looking now if you’re in your final year.
  • Graduate schemes are competitive and only 12-15% of students get a place on one.  They tend to have a longer and more formal recruitment process. 
  • Salaries tend to be relatively high for graduate roles.

The application process

Usually the process begins with an online application, where you will need to demonstrate your key skills and how you match what the employer is looking for. Applicants can expect to complete multiple rounds of interviews, psychometric tests and assessment days. Telephone and video interviews are now increasingly common as employers look for more efficient ways to filter out candidates in the early stages.

Work experience

Employers value work experience highly, so use your time at Queen Mary to seek out opportunities to develop the skills employers are looking for. You can find more information on this here: The Basics: Job Hunting

What other options are there?

  •  Although SMEs (small to medium enterprises) employ fewer than 250 staff each, they make up 99.9% of all businesses  in the UK, making them a great place to find graduate opportunities. Graduates often overlook smaller businesses and send applications to well-known companies where competition can be particularly fierce.
  • Smaller businesses tend to ONLY recruit graduates in entry-level roles, rather than running graduate schemes.  Employing graduates this way is more flexible, as you can recruit as and when positions are required by the business.
  • Positions suitable for graduates could include finance officer, research analyst, trainee community education officer, human resources assistant etc. These can also be found in large companies in sectors where graduate schemes aren’t common.
  • The selection process for a role in an SME is usually less than two months and vacancies become available throughout the year.
  • Career development and progression is based on applying for promotions, either inside the organisation or at another company.
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