Graduate Schemes Guide 2022
Graduate schemes can be amazing opportunities for students, but what are they all about? Read on for the key info about them, including a rundown of the best graduate employers…
Graduate schemes (also known as training schemes) offer a whole host of benefits, making them one of the most popular career routes to take after uni.
This guide explains everything you need to know about graduate schemes, including the biggest perks and, alas, drawbacks of doing them.
By the end of this guide, you might even decide that they’re not right for you after all, and that’s totally fine. Remember that there are heaps of other paths you can take – we’ll be taking a look at some great alternative options for kick-starting your career, too.
Differences between grad schemes and grad jobs
This table highlights the typical characteristics of graduate schemes and graduate jobs, showing the main ways that they differ:
|Characteristics||Graduate schemes||Graduate jobs|
|When to apply||From September of your last year of uni||Towards the end of your degree/after you graduate|
|Which companies offer them||Generally (but not exclusively) large-scale companies||Most companies offer entry-level jobs for graduates|
|Structure of the training||Very structured, integrating training and work||More on-the-job training|
|Competitiveness||Highly competitive||Still competitive, but generally less so than graduate schemes|
|Salary||Good||Likely to be lower than graduate schemes|
Best graduate schemes in the UK
These companies are named as the top 25 graduate employers this year in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2020–21 list:
- Civil Service
- Teach First
- JP Morgan
- Goldman Sachs
- McKinsey & Company
- British Army
- Clifford Chance
Remember, these aren’t the only ways into your chosen career path.
Do some research into your industry and ask your friends and family how they worked their way up to their current roles. This might give you some insight into what you want your career to look like and where you want to be in five years’ time.
Graduate programmes for 2:2 degrees
A 2:2 degree or less is by no means the end of the world – there are loads of great opportunities open to you.
There’s no denying that having a 2:1 or first can make your life a bit easier when it comes to job hunting, but having said that, a few of the biggest employers have started focusing less on degree classification and more on the quality of grad-scheme applications.
Some have even started running their own internal assessments (meaning no CVs are required) to give more opportunities to those who are perhaps less academic but still have loads to offer.
Here are some top companies with graduate training programs open to applicants with 2:2 degrees:
8 tips on how to get a place on graduate schemes
Follow these steps to increase your chances of getting a place in a good graduate scheme:
- Know the best times to apply for a graduate scheme – The application periods usually run from September to January, with jobs starting in the following September.
- Apply for less competitive schemes – Graduate programs tend to be extremely competitive. But, in big companies that tend to take on a lot of graduates each year, you have a better chance of being successful.
- Find out how much you could earn – Salaries can vary widely depending on the company and industry, but graduate scheme salaries are generally around £27,000 (see expected salaries).
- Make your CV stand out – To improve your CV, have a read our guide to writing an outstanding CV.
- Take time to write your job applications – Remember that applications take time! Be selective and spend a good amount of time on a few applications to boost your chances. Read more on how to apply for a graduate scheme.
- Don’t miss the deadlines – See a full list of deadlines for grad schemes.
- Register with a specialist graduate recruiter – We’d recommend getting in touch with the Graduate Recruitment Bureau as they’re a free service and (as the name suggests) cater specifically to graduates. Find out more about recruitment agencies in our guide.
- Research your alternative options – Grad schemes are not for everyone, but there are lots of alternatives for you to consider.
Benefits of graduate training schemes
There’s no denying the huge benefits of securing a place on a decent graduate scheme, especially if it’s in a field that you want to forge a career in.
Here are some of the key benefits you can expect from a graduate training scheme:
- The training you’ll receive will be of the highest standard (and you get paid while you’re at it). Even if you decide not to stay with the company for your entire working life, it’s a great way to kick-start your career.
- You’ll have a great reference when applying for new positions in your industry.
- You’re likely to receive a starting income on the higher scale of graduate salaries (for example, Aldi starts management graduates off on a salary of £44,000 and gives them an Audi!).
- There may be opportunities to travel if the company’s global.
- You’ll be rubbing shoulders with influential people and making great contacts.
- You will develop important career skills in an environment that is designed to help graduates transition from uni to work.
- A graduate program is like a stepping stone into work, allowing you to build workplace confidence rather than being thrown into the deep end of the job market.
Downsides of graduate training schemes
As this guide is here to give you a balanced overview of the opportunities involved in training schemes, it’s only fair to mention some of the possible drawbacks involved in the whole process.
Here are some of the potential drawbacks of graduate schemes to consider before applying:
- Application processes can be really competitive.
- It can take up a lot of time to fill out applications, and they need to be high quality if you want to be in with a shot – focus your time on applying for the jobs you really want and have a good chance of getting.
- Some graduate schemes will require you to pay back some money if you leave early to cover “training costs”.
- Most training schemes require at least a 2:1 degree, but you still have good options if you’re on track for a 2.2.
- The variety of tasks involved in some graduate training schemes can be minimal, and you’ll often have to work your way up from the bottom. This requires patience and won’t suit everyone – particularly those keen to take on maximum responsibility as soon as they get through the door.
- You might be required to travel a lot, or even asked to relocate to a new city.
- A graduate program is rarely a 9–5 job. You may be expected to work late, from home and maybe even on weekends (if you’re really unlucky).