Graduate training schemes guide

Graduate schemes are like the Holy Grail of opportunity for most students, but what are they all about? Bear with us and we’ll bare all…

There are a whole host of benefits involved in nabbing a place on a grad scheme, which is why they’re one of the most popular career routes for graduates to take.

But before we jump into the juicy details, it’s worth knowing that grad schemes come in all different shapes and sizes, from global blue-chips to local SMEs.

This guide will give you a balanced overview of what a graduate scheme is and what graduate schemes in the UK have to offer – the good, bad and the slightly ugly.

Come the end of this guide you might even decide that the graduate scheme road isn’t for you after all, and that’s just fine! Remember that there are heaps of alternative paths you can take – we’ll be taking a look at some great alternative options for kick-starting your career, too.

8 things you should know about grad schemes

Ok! Before you embark on applications in the race towards deadlines, there are a few key things you should know about the process and what graduate schemes have to offer:

  1. The application period normally runs from September to January, with jobs starting in the following September
  2. Grad schemes tend to be extremely competitive. However, for the really big employers who tend to take on a lot of graduates each year, you have around a 1-in-10 chance of being accepted
  3. Salaries can vary widely depending on company and industry, but graduate schemes average around £27,000 (see expected salaries)
  4. Your CV needs to be top-notch. Read our guide to writing an outstanding CV
  5. Remember that applications take time! Be selective, spend a good amount of time on a few applications to boost your chances. Read more on how to apply for a graduate scheme
  6. Don’t miss the deadlines, whatever you do! See a full list of deadlines for schemes starting in 2019
  7. You’ll boost your chances of success if you 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
  8. Grad schemes are not for everyone, but there are lots of alternatives for you to consider here.

The benefits of graduate training schemes

benefits of graduate 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’s just some of the key benefits you can expect if successfully placed:

  1. 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
  2. You’ll have a great reference when applying for new positions in your industry
  3. You’re likely to receive a starting salary in the higher scale of graduate salaries (for example, Aldi starts graduates off on a salary of £44,000 and gives them an Audi!)
  4. There may be opportunities to travel, depending on how international the company is
  5. You’ll be rubbing shoulders with influential people and making great contacts
  6. You’ll develop important career skills in an environment that caters to grads straight out of uni, which is a lot less scary than going out on your own
  7. Similarly, grad schemes are a stepping stone that will allow you to build workplace confidence rather than be thrown in the deep end of the job market.

The downsides of graduate training schemes

downside graduate schemes

As this guide is here to give you a balanced overview of the opportunities involved in grad schemes, it’s only fair to mention some of the possible drawbacks involved in the whole process.

Here is a list of some of the things that employers don’t shout about, which you might want to consider before applying:

  1. As we mentioned, application processes can be really competitive
  2. Applications can also take up a lot of time, and they need to be top class if you want to be in with a shot. Therefore, it’s worth thinking long and hard about what you want before taking the time to apply
  3. Most grad schemes require at least a 2:1 degree. On track for a 2:2? You still have options! See below for more details
  4. The variety of tasks involved in some grad 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
  5. You might be required to travel a lot, or even asked to relocate to a new city
  6. Grad schemes are rarely a 9–5 job. You may be required to work late, at home and maybe even weekends (if you’re really unlucky)

Which companies offer graduate schemes?

Like we said before, graduate schemes come in all shapes and sizes. They’re a great way for big-time employers to recruit new talent and for smaller companies to expand their reach if they are looking to recruit graduates from a specific area of study.

Whether it’s a career in health, finance, retail, politics or agriculture you’re after, chances are that there’s a scheme that could be the right fit.

Here’s a taster of companies offering schemes UK graduates can apply for:

But remember, these aren’t the only way 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 role. 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 schemes for 2:2 degrees

A 2.2 or less is not the end of the world! There’s no denying that having a 2:1 or higher will make your life a bit easier when it comes to this job hunt lark, but having said that, a few of the biggest employers have started focusing less on degree classification and more on the quality of applications for their grad schemes.

Some have even started running their own internal assessments (meaning no CVs are required) to give more opportunities to those are perhaps less academic but still have a lot to offer.

Some companies that offer places to 2:2 candidates are:

With a 2:2 under your belt, it’s perhaps a good idea to show you have some other great experience or skills to offer too.

Do something different so help you stand out from the crowd, like starting your own website or business, or getting a part-time job to show that you can juggle working and studying simultaneously – which is a feat in itself!

If you don’t get accepted onto a graduate programme then you should take comfort in the fact that 90% of other applicants are in the same boat!

Graduate scheme alternatives

alternatives graduate schemes

What if you don’t like your graduate scheme or you don’t get the one you applied for?

Although grad schemes are the perfect option for many students, it’s also important to remember that there are plenty of other opportunities that are open to you post-university.

In fact, we’ve got a whole guide dedicated to exploring the alternatives to graduate schemes here for you to check out!

Good luck with your applications, and don’t forget to triple check the deadlines!

For more advice on nailing applications, take a look at the wealth of guides available on our careers page.