Alternatives to graduate schemes

Uncertain if a graduate scheme is for you?

Find out all you need to know on graduate schemes and some of the many options available to university leavers. Discover how the graduate labour market works and the different types of graduate jobs available.




A graduate scheme is a structured programme that combines work with training, typically lasting one-two years. Deadlines are early, usually from September – November of the previous year.

Competition is fierce. Typically there are many stages in the recruitment process, including psychometric tests, assessment centres and several rounds of interviews.

Academic entry requirements for degrees result and UCAS points tend to be strict (and

Keep in mind these schemes tend to only exist in larger organisations and only in certain industries e.g. finance, consultancy and retail.



A graduate job is any role where a degree is required, for example a Marketing Officer, a Project Manager or a Graduate Analyst. The employer might require a particular degree subject, or a graduate from any discipline.

Entry-level jobs were historically positions where previous experience was not required, making them ideal for new graduates. Example job titles might include HR Assistant, Trainee Buyer or Account Executive.

However for both graduate and entry level jobs, employers will now expect candidates to have developed their skills in a work environment, whether this is through part-time work, internships or volunteering.


Don’t discount short term roles as a way to get your foot in the door. Graduate internships and temping (a series of temporary jobs in different organisations through an agency) are excellent ways of gaining skills and experience.

Use this experience to grow your network of valuable network of industry contacts, which could be the stepping stone to other opportunities or a permanent job.

If you're not sure which direction you want to take after your studies, this could be a good option.


It might sound obvious, but opportunities do not just exist in big companies. In 2014, 99.3% of private sector businesses in
the UK were SMEs and had fewer than 250 employees (FSB, 2014). This means a large number of opportunities are
available in smaller organisations.

SMEs cover all industries and include anything from a local high street law firm, to a niche media or publishing company, to a successful technology start-up, offering a diverse range of opportunities for

While the big names may be attractive, think carefully about which types of company might offer the best experience.