Graduate schemes: getting a place

A graduate scheme is an entry level training programme you can apply for if you have a degree. Get advice on how to find the right one, and to secure your place.

What to expect

A graduate scheme gives you:

  • hands-on experience of different areas of a company
  • a chance for you to follow a structured training programme
  • a route to develop your talent as a future leader at a company

Graduate schemes generally last from 1 to 4 years.

Deadlines to apply

The recruitment cycle starts from the summer onwards each year. You'll find a lot of graduate schemes advertised between September and November.   

Some companies will recruit all year round. Smaller employers will often recruit when a position becomes available.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need at least a 2:1 (upper second-class honours) to get a place on a graduate scheme. Some will allow a 2:2 (lower second-class honours) if you show potential and have a good CV.

Some companies only recruit recent graduates. Others will consider anyone with a degree.

Where to find graduate schemes

For help finding graduate schemes, you could:

  • check student and graduate websites for vacancies and tips for applying
  • contact your university careers service
  • look for employer events or careers fairs at your university - meet the hiring teams and find out more
  • attend national recruitment exhibitions - network and build your professional reputation
  • follow companies on social media
  • speak to someone at a company you’re interested in

You can find current information on the jobs market in the High Fliers Graduate Market Report. Each year it looks at vacancies and starting salaries at a selection of UK employers.

Sectors you can go into

You can find graduate scheme opportunities in most employment sectors. 

You don’t have to go into an area related to your degree. Some graduate schemes may ask for a specific subject. Many employers are looking for your higher-level thinking skills, rather than subject knowledge.  

The sectors where you’re likely to find the most graduate jobs are:

  • accounting and professional services
  • armed forces
  • banking and finance
  • Civil Service
  • healthcare
  • engineering
  • law
  • media
  • retail
  • science and technology

It's not only private companies that offer graduate schemes. You'll find schemes in the public sector and also in charities. 

Applying for a graduate scheme

As part of the application process, you may have to:

Prepare a strong application

To strengthen your application for a graduate scheme:

  • research the company – use their website, and read business articles and industry journals
  • read up on experiences from previous applicants - on sites like the Student Room and Glass Door
  • practise online applications – your university may run workshops
  • ask a careers adviser to check your application before you submit it
  • take a free practice psychometric test
  • go to an assessment centre workshop. Get some experience of the group exercises, tests and interview techniques
  • practise a ‘mock interview’ - this can be with a friend or family member. University careers services can help you with practice interviews and doing presentations

Get some experience

Competition in some sectors can be very tough. Some companies use work experience schemes as a way to test you fit into their organisation. It may help if you’ve gained some experience by doing: 

  • an internship
  • a work experience placement
  • an insight day
  • a placement year

Related content

How to find a virtual internship

How to prepare for psychometric tests

Filling in an application form

Interview tips

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