A User’s Guide to Graduate Schemes

With entry level recruitment still vital for employers, even during a pandemic, the latest cycle in graduate recruitment is in full swing and its peak time for graduate employers to open (and for some, to close) their vacancies. So, if you’re thinking of applying, you need to be starting now – but how do you know if Graduate Schemes are right for you, who is recruiting and when to apply?


We’ve put together a user’s guide to help.

So what is a Graduate Scheme?

A Graduate Scheme is an entry-level job that doubles up as a training programme, lasting anything from 1 to 4 years, offered by highly regarded employers from a vast range of industries and sectors.  Depending on the scheme and the organisation, you may work on multiple projects, undertake placements in different areas of the organisation or be put through a professional qualification if you are on a specialised route. A fast track into management level positions with robust training and mentoring, it will give you a fantastic start in your professional career.

Is a Graduate Scheme for you?


The Graduate scheme is often portrayed as the pinnacle of Graduate Recruitment – the ultimate goal for many students – but as with everything else, there are pros and cons.

Graduate Schemes are highly sought after because they offer:

  • High quality training
  • Competitive salaries
  • Possibility of travel
  • Opportunities to network with senior colleagues and/or clients
  • Chances to develop important life and career skills
  • Time to build workplace confidence
  • A social aspect – you will be one of a cohort, all starting at the same time and there will be plenty of chances for team building and peer support.

For all of these reasons and especially now, they are highly competitive:

  • The recruitment process is long and rigorous, with multiple stages including psychometric testingvideo interviews and assessment centres. Take note that for the foreseeable, employers have moved to virtual assessment centres.
  • Many schemes will ask for at least a 2:1 and some even specify a certain number of UCAS points
  • You may be expected to relocate, with many employers expecting their recruits to be geographically mobile
  • You will be expected to put in the hours as these are rarely 9-5 roles

However, for many graduates, the financial and career benefits are well worth the effort required to apply.

When to apply

download (1)

September – November is peak time for applications. Make sure you never miss a deadline by checking out Bright Network’s comprehensive timetable of Graduate Scheme deadlines.

Decided to apply?

Applying for Graduate Schemes requires a huge amount of resilience, knock-backs are to be expected. If you are going to succeed, you need to put in the hours and make full use of the resources and support available to you to ensure that your application stands out.

Make the most of your Student Development Team – book yourself in for a 1 to 1 application appointment to get your application checked or for help with interview and assessment centre preparation, book onto our workshops – The Graduate Series is specifically designed to take you through each stage of the recruitment process, explore our online resources on Careerhub+ and find informative posts on our blog.

CareerHub+ logo 714x570

Connect with other students in a similar position, establish a peer group, supporting each other through the process, sharing experiences both positive and negative so that you can learn from each other.

Not for you?

Graduate Schemes are not for everyone and are certainly not the only option. In fact, the majority of graduates will not end up on a Graduate Scheme, and for many this is by choice. You might decide to work within the fastest growing sector of the UK economy – SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises), take up a KTP role, continue with further study or even start your own business. There are many great alternatives to consider and we have information and support available for these choices too.

Silberrad 02

Access your Careers Services in 3 ways:

  1. A good place to start would be to attend our virtual drop-in sessions
  2. 24/7 online resources and appointment booking via CareerHub
  3. All other enquiries via The Hub (askthehub@essex.ac.uk)


Lydia Wynne-Jones is an Events and Information Officer within the Careers Service at The University of Essex

Image credit: JP Morgan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s