The Starter Guide to Graduate Schemes

Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant at the Careers Service

Looking for a graduate job? Stumbled across graduate schemes but not entirely sure what they are or how to apply? This blog post tells you everything you need to know to get started.

So what is a graduate scheme?

Graduate schemes are training programmes offered by many large employers specifically for graduates. 

Graduate schemes typically last between one and three years. There is sometimes opportunities available with the employer at the end of the scheme, but do not assume this, as it varies in each role.

Some graduate schemes include rotational placements across different areas of the business (for example, four six-month placements across two years). This can provide you with experience working across multiple areas of the organisation, or a variety of aspects of the sector. Graduate schemes can give you an introduction to multiple areas of the organisation, or a variety of aspects of the sector, although you can expect to focus on a particular specialism or ‘stream’.

When do they open?

The majority of graduate schemes open in summer, between June and September, and close in October/November. However, some schemes have two or more intakes per year, or may hire at different times, so make sure to check the website of the scheme you are applying to. They typically recruit for the following year.

To ensure that your application is considered, we recommend that you apply early, as some schemes will close applications early when they reach their quota.

As graduate schemes tend to hire for the following year, the stages of the applications are often spread out across the year. If you progress to the next stage, you will receive an invite to complete the next step in your application.

How do I apply?

Generally, applications for graduate schemes involve multiple stages. These may include:

For more support, use the pathways on CareerConnect to help you get ready to apply for graduate jobs with confidence. Learn at your own speed, whenever and wherever you want. There is a range of resources and tasks to help you improve your CV writing, applications and cover letters, and assessment and interview skills.

Pros and Cons of Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes, along with graduate entry-level roles and graduate internships, are popular employment routes for graduates. It’s important to consider which route is best for you. Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of different routes can help. We’ve included a few general pros and cons of graduate schemes to help you consider if this route is right for you.


  • Training on the job, including management and leadership training
  • Often opportunities to gain further qualifications
  • Opportunities to work with senior staff
  • Opportunities to work across different departments and locations
  • Can have higher salaries
  • Opportunities for progression
  • Good career experience


  • Lengthy application process
  • Can require relocating
  • Competitive
  • Tend to open applications a year in advance
  • No guarantee of a job afterwards
  • Not every organisation has one

Examples of graduate schemes

Below are some examples of graduate schemes across different sectors. However, this is not an exhaustive list. Have a look at CareerConnect for live vacancies and use our Graduate Job Search pages for a list of over 200 targeted graduate job search websites by sector. Other websites like TargetJobs, Prospects, Bright Network, or Save the Student can be helpful when searching for schemes. Check the websites of individual organisations for more information the schemes available, and for deadlines and application instructions.

Arts and Culture: Christie’s Auction House, Ambassador Theatre Group

Business: KPMG, PwC, EY, Deloitte, GSK

Charity: Charityworks, Cancer Research UK, Wellcome Trust

Crime and Justice: Unlocked Graduates, Police Now

Education: Teach First, IntoUniversity

Engineering: NuclearGraduates, BAE Systems, Johnson Matthey, Jaguar Land Rover

Finance: HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds

Government: Civil Service Fast Stream, National Graduate Development Programme, MI5, GCHQ

Healthcare: NHS Scientist Training Programme, NHS General Management Training Scheme

Information technology: Google, Microsoft, FDM, Accenture, IBM, BT

Law: Linklaters, Clifford Chance

Marketing/media: BBC, Sky

Retail and Hospitality: Aldi, Red Bull, Whitbread

Science: AstraZeneca, Reckitt Benckiser

Social and Community: Frontline, ThinkAhead

Transport: British Airways, Network Rail

The Careers Service and different employers often run online events to promote opportunities, and to share application tips and advice. For example on Wednesday, 6 October we will be running a virtual lunchtime event, Meet the Employers: Graduate Schemes, where you can meet a variety of graduate scheme recruiters.  Have a look on CareerConnect’s Event Calendar to find out more.

You can also network with alumni on the graduate schemes you’re interested in to gain valuable insights. Look for Meet the Professionals events on CareerConnect, such as Meet the Professionals: Graduate Schemes on Tuesday, 19 October. You can find out more about connecting with alumni via LinkedIn on our website. Need more help applying for a graduate scheme? Have a look at our Grad Scheme FAQs, explore the Careers Service webpages, or book a 30 minute careers guidance appointment on CareerConnect with a Careers Consultant for support and guidance. Don’t forget that you can continue to use the Careers Service throughout your degree and for up to two years after you finish your course.

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