How to find graduate schemes

From university to working life - develop your talent as a future leader on a graduate scheme.

Graduate schemes are entry level training programmes that help companies to attract and nurture new talent. They give you hands-on experience of different areas of a company and the chance to follow a structured training programme. They generally last from 1 to 4 years.

Some companies only recruit newly qualified graduates. Others will consider anyone with a degree. For most you will be expected to achieve at least a 2:1. If you show potential and have a good CV you might be considered for some schemes with a 2:2.

Sectors offering graduate schemes

Sectors where you can find graduate schemes include:

  • accounting and professional services
  • armed forces
  • banking and finance
  • civil service
  • engineering
  • law
  • media
  • retail
  • science and technology

There are schemes run by large multi-national companies, public and private sector organisations. You can also find graduate schemes with charities and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

You can look at the annual High Fliers Report for information on graduate vacancies and the starting salaries for some of the UK’s leading employers.

Finding a graduate scheme

Employers are often looking for your higher-level thinking skills rather than specific subject knowledge. Some schemes will be targeted at graduates of specific degree subjects but many are open to graduates of any discipline.

Competition in some sectors can be very tough. It will help you in the recruitment process to have done an internship. Some companies use internships as a way to test your fit for their organisation.

The recruitment cycle starts from the summer onwards. Many schemes are advertised between September and November. Some companies will recruit all year round and smaller employers will often recruit when a position becomes available.

For help finding and applying for 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

It can be stressful in your final year, having to juggle applications, coursework and exams so having a plan can help you to stay focused and not miss out on opportunities.

Applying for a graduate scheme

As part of the application process you can expect to have to do things like:

  • complete an online application form
  • take a series of online psychometric tests in timed conditions
  • have a telephone interview or video interview
  • do online tasks like e-tray exercises
  • attend an assessment day
  • have a face to face interview with at least one member of the company
  • some companies may ask you to prepare a presentation on a topic of their choice

You’ll need to plan and prepare along the way so it’s useful to:

  • research the company – use their website and read business articles and industry journals
  • find information from previous applicants, on sites like the Student Room and Glass Door
  • practice online applications – your university may run workshops
  • get a careers adviser to check your application before you submit it
  • get some psychometric test practice – there are free practice tests including verbal and numerical reasoning, situational judgement and personality tests available online
  • go to an assessment centre workshop to get some experience of the group exercises, tests and interview techniques that might be used
  • practice a ‘mock interview’ – with your careers service, a friend or family member