What Is A Graduate Scheme? Everything You Need To Know

Discover the benefits and drawbacks of taking up a graduate scheme after your university studies

Coming to the end of your studies? It can be an exciting yet tough time trying to figure out what comes next. Do you study for a master’s? Go traveling? Work at your local until you figure it all out? There are tons of ideas for what to do after graduating and it can all get a bit much.

We imagine you’ve taken to the job market before making a decision to do any of the above. If you have, you may have noticed something called a graduate scheme come up now and then. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Find out what a graduate scheme is, if a graduate scheme is worth it and all the benefits and drawbacks you need to be aware of before applying.

What is a graduate scheme?

All a graduate scheme is essentially an entry-level job with a training element to it. It gives you the opportunity to explore multiple areas of the company you work for, build up your experience working on a variety of different projects.

Graduate schemes last between one and two years and are mostly exclusive fresh-faced graduates. They still pay a full-time wage and graduates on these schemes will get most, if not all, the same workplace benefits as everyone else.

What’s the difference between a graduate scheme and a graduate job?

There are some similarities between graduate jobs and graduate schemes, without the clue in the name is a dead giveaway. Here are the differences you need to be aware of.

Graduate scheme

  • They’re extremely competitive and involve undertaking psychometric tests and going to assessment centres where you’ll compete with other candidates. This is because there are limited places on a graduate scheme
  • You have to have achieved a 2:1 or above, though some grad schemes are open to a 2:2
  • There’s usually a window of time to apply for graduate schemes. This is usually from the September of your final year onwards.
  • Graduate schemes are often at huge company names. If this matters to you, then a graduate scheme might be worth considering
  • Training in a graduate scheme is structured and provides variety across the business you work for.

Graduate job

  • You apply for a graduate job after you’ve graduated from university, though it’s not uncommon for those coming right up to the end of their studies to apply
  • In terms of turn-around, they’re quite quick and aren’t too different to applying for normal jobs. The process isn’t nearly as competitive as a graduate scheme
  • You’ll still be trained, but it may be more hands-on as opposed to a rigid training structure
  • Your time in a grad job is less structured. Your progression and focus within the company may be more dictated by your strengths and weaknesses, and how things develop as time goes on, rather than following a set program.
  • Wages are less competitive than a grad scheme
  • Grad jobs aren’t always available at the same company every year, whereas schemes guarantee a yearly intake of candidates.

Benefits of a graduate scheme

Graduate schemes are fantastic because they give you the chance to work for a large corporation. This means having the name of a prestigious company on your CV which can open doors for your future career.

Let’s look at the other benefits of a graduate scheme.

You learn as you earn a paycheck

Because grad schemes involve learning about all the different functions of a company, it means you get exposure to all sorts of roles, duties, and responsibilities while earning money for it.

Gain a competitive edge for future jobs

Having a big name on your CV means you’ll immediately stand out from the rest. Especially as graduate schemes are quite competitive to get into as well. Employers will definitely see you’re a go-getter!

Have a high chance of a permanent position

If you wow during your graduate scheme, the company may offer you a permanent position should one arise.

Drawbacks of a graduate scheme

Competition is fierce

Be prepared for rejections. There’s gonna be tons of hungry graduates after the same role as you. You’ll often be in the same room as them too in an assessment centre and the process can be quite draining.

You won’t interact with as many seniors as you’d hope

Large corporations mean less contact with senior management besides your own. If it’s a smaller company then you have more of a chance, but handle your expectations here.

Some companies can limit you to one department

We mentioned you move around and learn all about the roles within the business. While this is definitely true for most graduate schemes, some, unfortunately, do limit graduates to one department where resources are limited.

Is a graduate scheme right for you?

If you like the idea of working for a huge company and learning what there is to know about them, then a graduate scheme sounds right for you! If you’re not bothered about a big name on your CV and want to get on it with practical experience within your nice.

Graduate scheme alternatives

Work for a start-up

Start-ups can be a little riskier to start with, but they give you a chance to explore a lot more about the business than a large corporation ever will in the length of a graduate scheme. If you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit, you’re a fast learner, and a creative thinker, then this could be the path for you.


If you’ve got a little side-hustle going, why not scale it up now that you’re graduating? Freelancing can be a scary world to get into, but if a graduate job or graduate scheme just doesn’t sound appealing, then this could be great for your autonomy and career satisfaction.

Entry-level jobs

There’s no rule that says you have to apply for a job with “graduate†in the title! Look for entry-level jobs where you either need no experience or have just graduated with a relevant degree.

We hope this has clued you up on all things graduate scheme-related and given you a well-rounded view of what a graduate scheme entails.