An Introduction To Graduate Schemes

With their combination of training and work experience, Graduate Schemes are great opportunities for graduates to start building their careers. Every scheme is different, and requires a different approach to the application process - which is why we've assembled some of the most important factors for you to consider when preparing your application.

  • What is a graduate scheme?

    Graduate schemes, or rotational graduate schemes are employment contracts offered to recent University graduates, usually from large organisations. Typically the schemes last between 6 - 24 months often involving the graduate rotating between departments developing an understanding of each function.

  • What's the starting salary for a graduate scheme?

    The overall average salary for a UK graduate scheme was £23,714 over the last 12 months.

    Avg salary:


  • When do graduates schemes open?

    In the past 3 years the majority of graduate schemes opened during the final week in September.



  • When do graduate schemes close?

    In the past 3 years the majority of graduate schemes closed during the final week in January.



  • Do you need a 2.1 to get on a graduate scheme?

    In the majority of cases when graduates schemes are advertised on employers specify that candidates have a 2.1 (or above) award for their degree.

What do Graduate Schemes Offer?

Graduate schemes offer informal and formal training which can assist in easing graduates into the workplace. Graduate schemes also allow graduates to experivce in different functions of the business without having to choose a specialty too early on. Certain schemes also provide postgraduate qualifications in areas such as accounting (ACA), management accounting (CIMA), or marketing (CIM).

Combine this with a competitive starting salary, and many graduates rightly view graduate schemes as the ultimate opportunity - which means stiff competition for each spot. Of over four hundred students and graduates surveyed:

  • 73% prefer the idea of joining a formal graduate scheme,
  • 64% believe their career prospects will be better with a large company, and
  • 86% think larger companies offer more prestige.

Graduate Schemes:

How to Make a Successful Application

Firstly, it is important to start early. Applications begin at the start of third year, with a view to starting in September of the following year. Make sure you don't miss your window!

In the period between applications and commencement, you can expect a number of interviews, online tests, assessment days, and tasks to complete. These will help narrow down the competition until only the lucky few are left - so make sure you do your best at every stage.

Take a look at the tips below to make sure you're as successful as you can be:

  • Be smart with your applications.
    Companies screen their applications early on for predicted classifications, and rarely accept anything lower than a 2:1, so make sure your grades are on track.
  • Do your research.
    Make sure you know the company, know the details of the position, and that you have been thorough when filling out the application. Expect them to be extensive. Take your time and do it correctly.
  • Sell yourself... show you're passionate about the role
    There are few places it is acceptable to brag about yourself, and job applications are one of them. Remember, nobody can be impressed by what they don't know. They are looking for the best - show them why that might be you.
  • Stand out from the crowd.
    Pair a good academic record with a list of achievements and activities that show that you go beyond what is expected. Think about work placements and internships, work experience, academic achievements, roles in sports or student politics, and any other extracurricular activities that might make you shine.
  • Don't be afraid to try.
    Worried your course might not be applicable to the graduate scheme you are looking at? Take a shot - many schemes will take graduates from any degree as long as they have a high classification from a decent institution.
  • Be specific.
    When filling out endless application forms, the temptation is towards blanket answers, stock phrases, and clichés, which will never make you stand out. So be concise with your answers, and be specific.
  • Above all, be positive!
    The process may be tedious, but the payoff is worth the effort.

And if you are unable to secure one of the coveted positions, remember that many graduates go on to great success despite initial setbacks. There are plenty of opportunities out there!