students in a group

Graduate schemes vs graduate jobs

The different opportunities available

Through your research you may have come across slightly different opportunities depending on the nature of the role and/or sector you are looking to go into.

There are two main paths to getting into graduate employment. These are:

  • Graduate schemes – usually offered by larger companies
  • Graduate jobs – usually offered by small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs)

There are advantages to both paths and our Advisers can help you choose the right one for you. Remember, we offer support for graduates for up to 5 years after graduation.


So what is a graduate scheme?

You may have come across the idea of graduate schemes. For students or graduates from some subject areas these opportunities may have been discussed as part of their course, whereas for individuals from other subjects these may not be considered an obvious route.  

Graduate schemes are training programmes, typically offered by large employers, which last anywhere from 12 months to three years. The defined time frame of the scheme is the main thing that sets these opportunities apart from the wider definition of a ‘graduate job’. Whilst graduate schemes are offered across sectors, typical areas may include banking, finance, accounting, technology, engineering and broader business schemes. Unless the scheme is in a particularly technical and/or highly specialised area, the employer may consider candidates from any subject background. 

An advantage with the offer from graduate schemes is that, often, employees may have the opportunity to rotate between different departments and aspects of the business over the course of their training. Whilst it can be typical for graduates who have completed a scheme with an employer to go on to work with them permanently, you will also have the opportunity to apply to other graduate roles once your training is complete. 

The typical application and recruitment window for graduate schemes is from September onwards, with a start date of the following summer and/or September, however, some organisations will have a more flexible approach and some will have rolling application deadlines. 


Find out more

Explore more information about graduate schemes using the links below:

students at table

Graduate jobs at small to medium-sized enterprises (SME)

Graduate schemes aren't the only jobs available to you after graduation. You can also apply for graduate jobs with a range of companies and organisations. Graduate jobs are most commonly found with smaller companies, but a number of graduate jobs can be found with larger employers too, in addition to more targeted graduate schemes‘Graduate jobs’ typically refer to any entry-level roles with the requirement for graduate level education, i.e., recent graduates will not only be competing with their peers, but also with graduates from previous years. 

Small to medium-sized enterprises or businesses are companies where the number of employees or turnover falls below certain limits. The European Union defines companies with less than 50 employees as small, and those with less than 250 as medium-sized. If you're part of the growing number of entrepreneurial undergraduates on campus you should look at careers that offer early responsibility and the chance to stand out and become involved in all aspects of a growing business. This might suit you better than being 1 person in 1,000 graduate recruits and economic growth comes from small high-growth businesses as much as from the larger businesses.

You should start looking out for these vacancies a couple of months before the end of your course. Vacancies are advertised when the need arises and employers will normally want someone in post within a couple of months.





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